Jane Bashara had unhappy marriage, sister testifies

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — When Julie Rowe went through the belongings of her sister, Jane Bashara, after she was murdered she found a spiral notebook that revealed marital problems.

A handwritten entry titled "Why we fight" said: "Bob makes plans — doesn't tell me. Bob says he says things he doesn't. Can't trust what he says. Bob says things w/o telling me. Selling house. Going on w/guys."

Rowe was one of five witnesses Tuesday in the murder-for-hire trial of Grosse Pointe Park businessman Robert Bashara. Also testifying were a sex offender who did odd jobs for Bashara; a drug dealer who sold him cocaine; and an attorney who drafted a letter to police days after the murder naming a man Bashara had fingered as a possible suspect.

Rowe said her sister told her she was unhappy in the marriage, but was reluctant to get a divorce for financial reasons.

"She said if she got a divorce, she'd lose her house, half her 401(k) ... and end up a 55-year-old single woman living in a condo with no savings and bad credit," Rowe said.

Earlier Tuesday, Paul Monroe, a convicted bank robber who rented a house and apartment from Bashara, testified he met with his landlord six months after Jane Bashara's death.

Monroe said Bashara picked him up in his Lincoln Navigator and gave him $2,300 for two ounces of cocaine. Then, he said, Bashara snorted some of the cocaine and made a confession.

"He started crying," Monroe testified. "He said he had his wife killed. I said, 'why would you do that?' He said ... he was going through a divorce and money."

During previous testimony at Bashara's preliminary examination in September 2013, Monroe said Bashara told him a divorce would've been like losing money.

Bashara's attorney Michael McCarthy pointed out Monroe lied during the preliminary exam when he said he'd given Bashara the cocaine as a favor, not sold it.

Monroe also admitted he lied and called "Ruth to the Rescue," a WDIV (Channel 4) hotline and blamed Jane Bashara's death on his ex-fiance and the man she ran off with, to get back at them.

"Of course, it was dishonest," Monroe said.

"So your word is questionable, correct?" McCarthy asked.

Monroe replied: "Yeah."

Bashara is accused of hiring his handyman, Joseph Gentz, to kill his wife. Gentz pleaded guilty to strangling her in her garage on Jan. 24, 2012, and moving her body to a Detroit alley.

John Brusstar, who was the first attorney to represent Bashara after the murder, said his client directed him to draft a letter naming "Joseph Goetz" — a misspelling of Gentz — as a possible suspect.

"Goetz ... has become disgruntled and aggravated with his relationship with Mr. Bashara," the Jan. 29, 2012, letter to Grosse Pointe Park Police Chief David Hiller reads. "Veiled threats were made by Mr. Goetz, but Mr. Bashara thought nothing of them until yesterday."

The letter, written less than a week after the murder, further stated "Goetz" phoned Bashara and "started into a rant about the death of Jane Bashara."

Tuesday's first witness was Ralph Lee, who spent 10 months in jail for second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2004.

Lee said Bashara asked to use his phone after the slaying.

"He said he was afraid of his being bugged," Lee said.

After Gentz was arrested for Jane Bashara's murder, Robert Bashara tried to get furniture store owner Steven Tibaudo to hire someone to kill Gentz in jail. Tibaudo told authorities about the effort, and agreed to wear a wire. Bashara pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder and is serving up to 20 years in prison.

If convicted of the current charges that include first-degree murder, Bashara could spend his life in prison.

Recordings from some conversations between Bashara and Tibaudo were played Monday.

On Tuesday, prosecutors played audio of a telephone call between Bashara and Lee while Bashara was in the Wayne County Jail after his arrest for trying to have Gentz killed.

"I'm going to get through this," Bashara said. "You know as well as I do: They walked me right into that. I was a damn fool. I should've just walked away from that guy. But I'm here serving my time."


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