Bashara case: Audio details hit request
Detroit — Lorraine Engelbrecht, grieving over the murder of her daughter, said she became angry when her son-in-law tried to explain his infidelities to a national television audience.
Engelbrecht, whose daughter Jane Bashara was fatally strangled in her Grosse Pointe Park garage in January, 2012, was the last of three witnesses Monday in a sometimes-bizarre day of testimony in the murder-for-hire trial of Robert Bashara.
Bashara is accused of hiring his handyman, Joseph Gentz, to kill Jane. Prosecutors say Bashara wanted her dead so he could collect her sizeable 401(k) and life insurance money and pursue a bondage, discipline, sadomasochistic lifestyle with his girlfriend, Rachel Gillett.
Shortly after the slaying, as media stories about Bashara's relationship with Gillett began to surface, he appeared on Dateline NBC and claimed he and Jane had an open marriage.
"That upset me," said Engelbrecht, 82. "So I called him, and I said, 'please don't bring Jane down to your level. You did not have an open marriage.' He said, 'do you know what Jane told me? I can go out and do anything I want, as long as it makes me happy.' "
"I said, 'Oh, so she allowed slaves and dungeons?' He said she didn't know anything about that."
According to Engelbrecht, Bashara later called and said his former attorney, David Griem, had told him to say he and Jane had an open marriage.
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey read an earlier statement Engelbrecht had made about Bashara's sexual preference: "I don't know why he wanted a slave. He had one in Jane. She was the one who made the money and provided for the family."
Most of Monday's proceedings involved audio recorded from devices secretly worn by furniture store owner Steve Tibaudo, who agreed to wear the wires after Bashara asked him if he knew anyone he could pay to run someone over with a car.
Bashara pleaded guilty to trying to pay Tibaudo to have Gentz killed in jail, after the handyman was arrested for strangling Jane Bashara. Bashara is serving up to 20 years in prison, and faces life if convicted of the current charges.
Tibaudo said Monday that Michigan State Police hooked him up with a recording device, which he wore in his pocket during a conversation June 19, 2012.
Tibaudo said Bashara patted him down. "He asked me if I was wearing a wire," he said. "I said, 'It's against my religion to wear a wire; I'm Sicilian.' "
On one section of audio, Bashara is heard saying: "So are we set … about getting this thing, um, taken care of?"
Tibaudo asked: "Who, Gentz?"
Bashara replied: "Yeah ... you arrange it ... Steve, I'm serious. Something's gotta happen in the next two weeks."
During his testimony, Tibaudo broke down in tears while talking about his dead terrier, Mr. Doodles. The furniture store owner also cried when he heard audio of him calling his dog.
A second piece of audio, lasting about an hour, was also playedfor the jury Monday. It was recorded during a car trip Tibaudo and his dog took to Romeo, and consisted of the witness flatulating, burping, coughing, singing and telling people during cellphone calls about his gall bladder problems. Jurors, media and other onlookers did their best to stifle giggles.
Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans, who ordered the audio played after mistakenly thinking it contained pertinent information, called it "a complete waste of time."
Evans ordered Tibaudo to continue testifying after attorneys can figure out which audio files they want to play in court. After he stepped down from the witness stand, Evans called another witness, whose full name was not read into the record.
As the slight man with a bushy salt-and-pepper beard stepped toward the bench, Evans admonished him: "Mr. Lee, you cannot be coming in here drinking. I smell it on you."
The man replied, "I promise you, Your Honor, I did not drink." Evans answered, "Well, someone's been drinking wearing that outfit then."
The man was excused, and as he walked from the courtroom, apparently puzzled, he smelled the left arm of his jacket. Seconds after he exited, Evans huddled with attorneys and then said: "Oh, that's hand sanitizer?"
As it turned out, a television news reporter had given the man a squirt of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the hallway, and the judge mistook it for booze.