Wife's murder exposes sordid tale of hit-men, mistresses and kinky sex
04/22/2016 11:18 am PDT
A twisted tale of a successful businessman, a handyman, an alleged mistress and a sex dungeon. Andrea Isom has the almost-unbelievable case of Bob Bashara and the murder of his wife.
Some people knew him as the "Mayor Of Middlesex," a nod to both the name of his street and his standing in the affluent community where he lived, in Grosse Point Park, Michigan, an affluent suburb of Detroit.
But others knew him as "Master Bob," a nod to his standing in a very different community: BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, Submission/Sado-masochism).
Two different names for two very different lives. And somewhere in the middle, Bob's other half wound up dead.
A sex dungeon and an erotic affair, a sensational made-for-TV trial, and an exclusive jailhouse interview with the man who may hold the key to solving it all.
Jane Bashara's body was found broken and stuffed in the back of her luxury SUV in an East Detroit alley on January 24, 2012.
It was only a few miles from where she had lived with her husband Bob, but may as well have been on another planet.
Bob, the son of an appellate judge, had lived in Grosse Point Park his whole life, and owned a number of properties around town.
Jane, a self-made marketing exec, had worked her way into high society, and by most accounts had become the real breadwinner in the family.
But then there was what people saw, and what went on behind closed doors.
"At some point Bob developed an affinity for the BDSM community, he got introduced to a sexually alternative lifestyle," said Steve Miller, author of Murder in Grosse Point Park: Privilege, Adultery and the Killing of Jane Bashara, a book about the case. "As Bob got into the lifestyle more and more, he really got into the lifestyle and he created his own dungeon in the basement of one of his properties."
Drug-fueled parties, sex slaves -- "Master Bob" did it all.
"I think she probably knew he had an interest, she probably chose to ignore it largely, and I don't think she ever knew the extent that he was into it," said Miller.
Bob would later claim that Jane had a medical condition which made sex painful, and that because of that, they had a sort of arrangement… Whether or not that's true, the one fact in this whole case that is indisputable: On January 24, 2012, an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, was the last time anyone saw Jane Bashara alive.
According to police reports, the mother of two got home from work around 6 that night.
"I got home about five after 8 and she wasn't around, and I relaxed and figured she was out running an errand, and as 9 and 9:30 approached, I became much more concerned," Bob told reporters at the time.
Bob called police later that night, but it was already too late. The next day, a tow-truck driver found the body. Jane was beaten, strangled, and according to the coroner, most likely suffered for several minutes before dying.
After the discovery, a shocked community rallies around the Basharas. In the days that follow, the Mayor of Middlesex goes public with his grief.
Then, in one telling moment, Bob speculates Jane may have fallen victim to a mysterious killer responsible for similar murders in the area.
"Please come forward," Bob says on TV. "The police need your help. In addition to those four women who have been put in trunks, terrible things."
There's just one problem with Bob's theory: Police still hadn't released the details of how Bob's wife was discovered. So how would he know that like the other women, Jane had been found in her trunk?
Two days later, Bob is asked to come into Grosse Point Park Police station for questioning. He claims he had nothing to do with the murder, and even agrees to a polygraph, which according to sources, he failed. By day's end, Bob Bashara is named as an official person of interest. In response, he once again calls in the cameras.
With his mother and son by his side, and emotional Bashara proclaims his innocence. But not everyone is buying the tears.
Still, investigators are missing the hard evidence they need to make an arrest. Until January 31, the day of Jane's funeral, while Bob is busy paying his final respects, a 6-foot-4-inch mountain of a man named Joseph Gentz walks into the police station, and to the shock of everyone, confesses to the crime.
What's more, the handyman says he did it at the behest of his occasional employer, Bob Bashara.
"According to Gentz, Bob began asking if he wanted to do something beyond just handyman work, and that including bumping off killing his wife," said Steve Miller. "Bob offered Joe $2,000 and a used Cadillac that may or may not run."
Joe reportedly goes on to tell police that after originally agreeing to the hit, he got cold feet, and that Bob then put a gun to his head and watched as he carried out the violent murder.
Prosecutors make a deal to reduce Joe's charge to second-degree murder in exchange for his testimony at Bob's trial.
But then, in what was just the beginning of a series of unbelievable twists, Bob Bashara gets caught trying to take out the hit-man.
The problem was, the guy Bob hired to do the job was wearing a wire. So before the trial for his wife's murder can even begin, Bob Bashara pleads guilty to conspiring to kill Joseph Gentz, and is sentenced to a minimum of six years behind bars.
The question was, Would he face justice for the death of his own wife?
Bob Bashara was accused of having his own wife murdered, but before he would stand trial for that crime, he got busted for ordering a hit on the hit-man.
But that wasn't even close to the biggest surprise to come. In court, prosecutors work quickly to establish a motive, and right away their most difficult task becomes narrowing it down to just one.
"There were insurance policies at play, money that would revert to him, so he stood to gain if Jane were to be murdered," said Miller.
But most people think it had less to do with money and more to do with Bob's obsession over a much different kind of bottom line. Bob was an active member of the BDSM community, even running his own underground sex dungeon, and prosecutors theorized he had Jane murdered so he could devote himself more fully to the lifestyle.
But that wasn't the only big news to come out at trial. Turns out, bob carried on a erotic love affair with a woman named Rachel Gillet for years. At the time of the murder, the two were even planning to buy a house together not far from the one Bob shared with Jane.
And Gillet wasn't even Bob's only "other woman." As more mistresses take the stand, Bob inadvertently acts as his own character witness, seductively licking his lips in full view of the bench.
"That was manipulating his slaves, sending them the message, 'I'm Master Bob,' I don't know, was he trying to send a sexual message or trying to send message that 'I'm in charge of you, I own you?'" said Jim Kiertzner, investigative reporter, Detroit's WXYZ-TV.
Either way, the judge took notice. And that was just the pre-trial hearing.
Bob's actual criminal trial lasts for roughly two months, during which time nearly 500 pieces of evidence are introduced and 70 witnesses take the stand, including Bob's own daughter, who testifies against her father.
But in a twist no one saw coming, when it comes time to hear from the prosecution's star witness, the hit-man whose confession put Bob behind bars in the first place, Joseph Gentz suddenly doesn't want to take the stand. Why the sudden change? Did someone get to him? Was he still rattled by the hit Bob attempted to put on his life?
There were too many questions unanswered. So in a Crime Watch Daily exclusive, Andrea Isom talks to the killer herself.
Why he was suddenly reneging on his deal?
"'Cause the prosecutor's office lied to me from the get-go," Joe says during a phone conversation from prison. "They didn't do what they were supposed to do. I did my thing when I said 'OK, I plead guilty. But I want five and out.' They said 'No problem.'"
Joe was ultimately sentenced to a minimum of 17 years, though without the plea deal he could be serving life.
Did Joe read the confession he signed that said he was the person who murdered Jane Bashara?
"No, because I couldn't see," Joe says from prison. "I didn't have my glasses. I didn't have any glasses."
It was a bombshell revelation.
While we've found no evidence to support the claim, Joe was essentially saying that he refused to take the stand because prosecutors didn't uphold their end of the bargain, and worse, because they had him sign a confession he didn't read. But that only leads to more questions.
So Joe is saying he confessed to a murder he didn't commit?
"No," says Joe.
So he did commit it?
"Yeah, I will admit to that part of it. The murder," says Joe.
And that part of the crime is in little dispute. Prosecutors even have DNA evidence proving Joe's involvement.
The evidence against Bob, however, is much more circumstantial. Even without Joe's testimony, Bob Bashara is convicted of five counts, including first-degree conspiracy to commit murder. He is sentenced to life without parole.
Though he never took the stand in his own defense, at sentencing Bob finally decides to speak. He went on to maintain his innocence.
But during her victim impact statement, Jane's sister says just what she thinks about that: "I'll hold Jane's grandchildren in my arms, and all of it, every moment, will be all the more sweet knowing that you are uncomfortable, miserable, alone and in prison where you belong for the rest of your pathetic life."
Case closed? Not even close.
Immediately after his conviction, Bob petitions for a new trial, claiming he wasn't properly represented. It's a common maneuver. But then, Bob suddenly gets help from the last person anyone suspected.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Joseph Gentz's entire story changes.
"Early 2016, Joe Gentz filed an affidavit claiming that he alone acted in the murder of Jane Bashara, and that Bob had nothing to do with it," said Steve Miller.
Is Joe protecting Bob?
"Nope. I'm protecting myself," Joe says from prison.
Did Bob have anything to do with murdering his wife?
"I'm not going to tell you," Joe says from prison.
In the brand-new affidavit Joe filed this year, contrary to his original confession, it says Bob had nothing to do with the murder.
Did Bob hire Joe to kill her?
"I'm not gonna tell you that neither," Joe says from prison.
So why is he changing that story?
"Ask the prosecutors," says Joe.
The affidavit says that on the night of the 24th, Joe broke into the Basharas' garage looking for items to steal as compensation for odd jobs he did for Bob.
Then, according to Joe's new statement, Jane walked in on him, and he "Hit her on the head. She lost consciousness, I thought she was faking, so I placed both of my hands around her neck and squeezed her neck until she no longer moved."
The affidavit also goes on to say that Joe's original statement against Bob was "the product of coercion and subornation" by police.
"I will say this much to you: I was put in a bad situation, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, me and my life was threatened, that's all I'm going to say about that," says Joe.
Once again, Joe's story seems to change. Did he kill Jane because she interrupted a robbery, or was he coerced into doing it?
And if not by Bob, as he now says, then who?
"Well, I'm going to tell you what: There was actually four people in the same place," Joe says.
Just when it seemed like the story couldn't get any more absurd, Joe suddenly alleges a grand conspiracy involving four never-before-mentioned people.
There was nothing in the affidavit about this.
Was Bob there?
"I'm not gonna say that," says Joe.
"I don't hate him," says Joe. "I dislike what he did, let's put it that way."
What did he do?
"I'm not gonna tell you," Joe says.
Is Joe protecting Bob?
"Nope, I'm protecting myself," Joe says.
In many ways, we're left with more questions than before we began.
So will these new statements help or hurt Bob's case for a new trial?
"The affidavit can help him if -- and a big if -- you can get Gentz on the stand to talk about the affidavit, the origins," said Steve Miller.
The day for that came on April 12, 2016. With a much more frail-looking Bob Bashara sitting behind him, Joe Gentz stands before the judge and changes the course of the entire case once again.
"He wishes to testify and be cross-examined about how he was treated and about how his testimony was shaped towards Mr. Bashara," Gentz's attorney says. "He will not testify about the death of Jane Bashara herself."
But Joe's own affidavit compels him to testify about its contents. After a brief recess, Joe agrees to speak about the affidavit. But that brings up a whole other issue.
By swearing under oath that the contents of the affidavit are true, and negating his original statement to police, he'll not only face perjury charges, but he also risks having his plea deal rescinded.
"You understand that by taking the stand, you subject yourself to those potential charges, you understand?" the judge asks Joe Gentz.
"Yep, that's correct," Joe says.
"And that's your decision," the judge says.
"That's my decision," says Joe.
But before prosecutors let Joe sign his life away and potentially set Bob free, they introduce one more new piece of information, one that brings the entire validity of the affidavit into question.
"It should be put on the record that it was conveyed to the people that if we would renegotiate and give him six years, that he would withdraw his affidavit and not testify at this hearing," the prosecutor says in court.
Judge Evans can hardly believe her ears.
After a quick conference with both sides, Judge Evans learns that Joe's lawyer has never even seen his original confession, and decides there are still too many questions left up in the air to proceed.
She moves to postpone the hearing for two weeks. At those proceedings, which began on April 21, Joe decided that even though he risks facing additional charges from the prosecution, he will take the stand.
On the stand, Joe once again surprises everyone when Judge Evans begins questioning him on the origins of the affidavit.
Joe claims most everything in the affidavit is false and that the only reason he filed the new affidavit clearing Bob of guilt was because he was worried for his own safety.
And then in a courtroom bombshell, for the first time under oath, Joseph Gentz testifies as to what really happened that night, which began when Bob called him over around 6. When Joe got there, he says he found Jane and Bob fighting.
"I went over there to move boxes," Joe says on the stand. "Next thing I know, he pulls a gun on me and says 'Shut her up.' They were still fighting and he said 'Do it now!' So I broke her neck, to be honest with you, yes I did do that. But meanwhile, after she was dead, he walks over, her top was open, he goes over to her and then he says 'I'm sorry baby, I didn't mean it.'"
After a case with more twists and turns than the Amazon, Joe goes back to the original statement he made to police, the one that locked Bob up in the first place.
So how will this affect Bob Bashara's fight for a new trial? Judge Evans plans to make a final ruling next week, and we'll be there with the very latest when it comes.
For his part, Bob did reach out to one of our producers. But his lawyer then advised against talking.
Even if Bashara gets a new trial in the murder case, he is still facing a minimum of 80 months, a maximum of 20 years in prison, for his conviction of trying to hire a hit-man to kill the handyman.