'Murder in Grosse Pointe Park'

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Author chronicles Bashara case in latest true crime book

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Steve Miller wasn’t planning to write “Murder in Grosse Pointe Park: Privilege, Adultery, and the Killing of Jane Bashara” – his fourth true crime book.

“I was doing interviews for Detroit Rock City when this was happening (in 2012). When I’d be talking to somebody and they’d be like, ‘What about that Bashara case?’ And I said, ‘What about that? That’s really something.’ The more I thought about it, the more I thought that it might make an interesting book. I wasn’t looking to do another true crime book, to be honest, but it worked out that way. I said to my publisher, ‘Let me write a quick proposal for it.’ It made perfect sense to do one. As it happened, it did turn out to be a good book,” recalled Miller, 58, a freelance journalist and author who lives outside Lansing.   

“Murder in Grosse Pointe Park” (Berkley MM $9.99) chronicles the murder of Grosse Pointe Park marketing executive Jane Bashara and the trial of her husband Bob Bashara, alias “Master Bob.”  Due to the numerous twists and turns of this case – including Bob Bashara’s BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) proclivities and extramarital affairs – it became sensationalized and received plenty of media attention, locally and nationally. It was even covered by “Dateline NBC.”

Jane Bashara was strangled to death in her own garage by mentally impaired handyman Joe Gentz on January 24, 2012. The next day, her body was discovered in the backseat of her luxury Mercedes SUV in an alley on Detroit’s east side. Gentz was hired by Bashara to kill her for $2,000 and a used Cadillac. Bob Bashara was named a person of interest in the investigation on January 27, 2012.

On January 31, 2012, Gentz confessed to the Grosse Pointe Police Department that he murdered Jane Bashara and helped dispose of her body. However, authorities dismissed Gentz’s confession because it was on record that he had an IQ of 67. Gentz was released on February 3, 2012 without being charged.

Also in February 2012, Bashara’s secret BDSM lifestyle was publicly revealed. It was reported that he had a “sex dungeon” – complete with hooks and whips – in the basement of the Hard Luck Lounge, a bar he owned in Grosse Pointe Park. Bashara had cheated on his wife. His mistress Rachel Gillett, who was also into BDSM, was unaware he was married; in fact, he reportedly lied to Gillett, saying he wasn’t.

“There was the BDSM angle, which the prosecution used as a motive. He was involved in the lifestyle, which on its own is nothing nefarious, of course, but people look askance at it. I thought it was interesting to explore that, explore their inclinations. I saw the online ad where Bob was looking for sexual partners – he was ‘Master Bob,’” said Miller.

David Griem, Bashara’s former lawyer, stated that his ex-client’s double-life as a BDSM enthusiast and as a philanderer did not incriminate him in his wife’s murder. Miller met Griem while writing “A Slaying in the Suburbs: The Tara Grant Murder,” another high-profile Michigan-based slaying that occurred in 2007 when Stephen Grant murdered his wife Tara. Griem stopped representing Grant for undisclosed reasons, which he cannot divulge due to attorney-client privilege. In July 2012, Griem filed an emergency motion to be removed as Bob Bashara’s attorney. With regards to no longer representing Bob Bashara, he and Griem reached a mutual parting of the ways, although Griem cannot divulge any details due to attorney-client privilege.

“David’s a well-rounded, entertaining guy. I liked him out of the gate. I don’t come into the legal community with any judgment at all. I like these people for being characters, for being outspoken, for being knowledgeable... We talked several times for this book,” said Miller. “(While working for The Dallas Morning News), I realized how great courtrooms could be and how dramatic they could be and the application of the law and watching lawyers on both sides argue a point. I was amazed you’d see a defense attorney who used to be a prosecutor… They weren’t arguing as much; they just wanted to apply the law. I thought it was an amazing concept; there were so many interpretations of the law and strategies, things like that. It was an intriguing culture.”

On March 2, 2012, Gentz was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Experts stated that Gentz, despite being developmentally disabled, was competent enough to stand trial.

Gentz accepted a plea deal and is currently serving 17-28 years in prison for second-degree murder. As part of the deal, Gentz agreed to testify against Bob Bashara, but later refused, demanding leniency.
When writing this book, Miller spoke to Gentz, as well as Gentz’s ex-wife, mother, and brother.

“Joe (Gentz) was an interesting character. He acknowledged that he committed the crime, but he recanted that he actually killed Jane even though it’s a little late… But when it came time to testify against Bob, he wouldn’t do it. The prosecution downplayed it, but he was gonna be a key witness. Some geniuses in the jailhouse told him it was a bad idea and he was getting a raw deal. He wanted more of a promise, but he wasn’t gonna get it, of course – he was a guy who committed murder. He confessed to it. When you do that, (the prosecution) isn’t gonna cut you many deals. He’s serving 17-28 years. Now, he’ll probably serve those 28 for sure,” explained Miller. “I’ll tell you what: He was a simple guy but just talking to him on the phone, his mental disability is not apparent; it’s not clear. I was surprised. I really was… He was a simple guy, but did not come across as disabled.”

Bashara began to worry about Gentz, despite reiterating again and again that he had nothing to do with his wife’s murder. However, on June 27, 2012, Bob Bashara was arrested for solicitation of murder. He spoke several times to Steven Tibaudo, a Detroit appliance storeowner. Tibaudo would hire a hitman to kill Gentz , who was incarcerated in the Wayne County Jail, in order to silence him for $20,000. This contract included a down payment of $2,000. However, Tibaudo wore a wire and secretly recorded these conversations with Bob Bashara, which were later turned over to the authorities who had him dead to rights.

Miller reportedly spoke to Bashara around this time via letters, e-mails, and phone calls. He even visited him once in jail. In fact, this book reprints Miller’s email correspondence with him.

“Any time I write a true crime book, one of my biggest goals is to be in touch with the accused. That really made a difference… He told me, ‘I’m sure you’ll find out when you dig in that I didn’t do it,’” said Miller. “I also knew I needed good background on him to tell a story about the guy, whether he’s guilty or not. A lot of it checked out, some of it didn’t. You don’t know what kind of tale you’re getting from somebody like that; this is a guy who tried to put a jailhouse hit on somebody, so I was weary about what I was told. Still, he wanted to talk.”

Bashara pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder on October 11, 2012. He was sentenced to 6-20 years on December 10, 2012.

“I know I absolutely did wrong, what I did was inexcusable, and I have no one to blame but myself,” he tearfully read in a statement at his sentencing. “I understand that I must pay before what I’ve done. I absolutely stand before you and my family and the world to take responsibility for my actions.”

On April 17, 2013, Bashara was charged in his wife’s murder. His trial began on October 7, 2014 and he was convicted of first-degree murder on December 18, 2014. On January 15, 2015, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans sentenced him to life in prison without parole. He is currently incarcerated at the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee.

It doesn’t stop there. Last year, Bashara filed a motion seeking a new trial through current attorney Ronald Ambrose. He felt that attorneys Lillian Diallo and Michael McCarthy didn’t do a good job defending him, that there should’ve been a change of venue, and his BDSM lifestyle shouldn’t have even been brought up at all. Further, Diallo even testified last September regarding Bashara’s accusation against her that she mounted a failed defense. During her testimony, Diallo said she would not be his “slave,” nor would she allow him to tell her how to do her job.

“The funny thing is everything he’s saying now in his bid for a new trial – he’s said this very publicly – pretty much a lot of it is the same stuff he told me,” explained Miller. “He continues to say that he had nothing to do with his wife’s murder, but the evidence clearly defies his insistence; however, he is consistent about it.”

Miller made no attempt to speak to the Basharas’ two children when writing this book.

“I did not think it would be proper. Can you imagine? That’s one of the worst possible things that could ever happen – your dad killed your mom,” said Miller.

Requests to speak to Evans and Bashara’s subsequent lawyers were denied. Miller tried to speak to Jane Bashara’s extended family through an intermediary but that request also was denied.

“A lot of these books are doing what you need to do to make a fair portrayal and a full portrayal,” he said. “Access to things is important, of course, because you want all the players. You make a checklist of who you want to talk to – some you’ll get and some you won’t.”  



 

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