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Bashara's cellmate says he admitted to having wife killed

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Robert Bashara was playing cards with his cellmate in the Oaks Correctional Facility last year when he confessed to paying his handyman to kill his wife, Jane, according to testimony Monday in Bashara's murder-for-hire trial.

The witness, whose name is being withheld on the order of Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans because he was retaliated against after testifying in Bashara's preliminary examination last year, said Bashara approached him about having people killed, including his former handyman, Joseph Gentz, who was incarcerated in another facility after admitting to killing Jane Bashara.

He was among four witnesses who took the stand Monday in the trial, which is in its seventh week. There have been 50 witnesses so far. Earlier Monday, prosecutors waived the testimony of more than 27 witnesses.

Bashara's cellmate said he told Bashara he was once a Moor, a subset of Islam, and that they were well-connected in the Michigan prison system. He said that prompted Bashara to ask him if he knew someone who could "reach out and touch" Gentz -- slang for having someone killed.

The 56-year-old witness said he told Bashara during a card game: "You killed your (expletive) wife, man."

When Bashara denied the accusation, the cellmate said: "I told him he paid Joseph Gentz to kill his wife; he said, 'that's why I need that (expletive) dead.'" The witness also said Bashara told him Gentz was "the only witness."

The cellmate testified Bashara asked about having three other people killed: A plumber named Thomas or Timothy Ramsey, whom Bashara said "keeps talking a lot of mess about him"; Steve Tibaudo, who wore a wire that recorded Bashara discussing having Gentz killed in jail, which landed Bashara in prison; and Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey, the lead prosecutor on his case.

Bashara often wrote notes to his cellmate when discussing having someone killed, the man testified. "He thought the room was bugged; he said he had a high-profile case," he said. "He would write it down, then tear it up and flush it."

The cellmate first told Bashara it would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to have someone killed, but when Bashara explained that the state had frozen his assets, he told his cellmate he'd give him a house in exchange for the hits.

Under cross-examination, Bashara's cellmate said he was lying when he told him the Moors could have people killed. "That was the old Moors...that was in the '70s," he said.

Earlier Monday, one of Bashara's friends from the bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic lifestyle testified.

Prosecutors say Bashara paid Gentz to kill his wife, Jane Bashara, in 2012 in order to immerse himself in the BDSM lifestyle with his girlfriend, Rachel Gillett.

During the testimony of Bashara's friend from BDSM parties, Laurence Wolf, cross-examination by Bashara's attorney Lillian Diallo became testy.

Diallo asked Wolf how he could be certain he'd met Bashara at an S&M party, and the witness replied: "Well, I didn't meet him at a bar mitzvah!"

At one point, Diallo said, "This S&M is the freaky little stuff you're into," and she was admonished by Judge Vonda Evans, who said: "That's argumentative."

Diallo asked Wolf if he was introduced to Gillett and another woman from the BDSM scene, Venita Porter, by his "fantasy name," and Wolf answered: "I don't have a fantasy name. I prefer Larry. I dislike lordly titles."

After Wolf heard about Jane Bashara's Jan. 24, 2012, slaying, he offered Bashara some advice: "I told Bob to get an attorney immediately," he said.

Monday's testimony began with Michael Skaff, Bashara's second cousin, taking the witness stand. He said after Jane Bashara's candlelight vigil at Grosse Pointe South High School, Bashara offered an alibi about his whereabouts when Jane was killed: ""He told me…he was at his commercial building on Mack Ave."

During a second conversation a few days later, Bashara added to his story: "He said that he'd forgotten but he had to run home and get his keys," Skaff said.

After the slaying, Bashara also mentioned Gentz to Skaff.

"He told me that there was this handyman...that he thought he was a likely suspect," Skaff said. "The reason that he might have done it was that he owed him some money...Jane was unlikely to have given him money, so there might have been an argument."

The last witness Monday was Richard Falcinelli, known as "Sir Rick" or "Midnight Ryder" in the BDSM community. He said Bashara gave him power of attorney, and that he sold the Bashara house in Grosse Pointe Park.