Victim's mom to Bashara: Rot in jail, burn in hell

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Lorraine Engelbrecht had a scathing message for Robert Bashara, the man responsible for killing her daughter, Jane:

"You took Jane's life, but I want you to live awhile," she said during Bashara's sentencing hearing Thursday. "I'm not going to be here that long, but every day I live, I want to think about you ... rotting in jail, and you burning in hell."

Engelbrecht's remarks followed those of her daughter, Julie Rowe, who said she hopes Bashara has a long life.

Robert Bashara reacts to statements made during his sentencing hearing Thursday.

"Every minute you spend in your slab in your cell...I will come and go as I please," Rowe said. "And every moment will be all the more sweet knowing you are uncomfortable and miserable ... for the rest of your pathetic life."

Bashara was sentenced Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison for orchestrating the Jan. 24, 2012, killing of his wife. He paid his handyman, Joseph Gentz, to strangle her in their Grosse Pointe Park garage, dump her body in her SUV and leave it in a Detroit alley.

"What do you say to someone who doesn't have a heart?" Rowe asked before calling Bashara a "ridiculous failure as a man."

Robert Bashara addresses the court on Thursday ahead of his scheduled sentencing in the death of his wife.

"During the almost three-year long investigation, we've worked hard to stay healthy as a family, to stick together ... it's been a long road," Rowe said. ""Bob lied to all of us; Bob manipulated all of us; Bob utterly betrayed all of us."

Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans, who had been pleasant to Bashara during the trial, also had biting remarks before handing down her sentence.

"You once said you were living the dream, but you're now experiencing a nightmare that you created. I have no mercy for you." Evans said.

"You were a product of privilege," Evans said, referring to his upbringing as the son of a prominent Michigan Court of Appeals judge. She said his mother coddled him. "She loved you, but she didn't know how to train you to be a man. You were not allowed to fail."

Bashara also addressed the court before sentencing. "I had nothing to do with my wife's terrible, terrible death," he said.

He then said: "To my mother-in-law..." but Engelbrecht called out in the courtroom: "Forget it!"

Bashara continued: "I am reminded of the story of Job," to which someone in the courtroom muttered, "Oh, jeez."

His voice cracking, Bashara vowed to appeal his conviction. "I will never, ever stop fighting for justice...until my hands are raw..and I take my last breath," he said.

After the sentencing, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said she hoped the Bashara children "will be able to carry on with their lives knowing that justice has been served."

"I want to thank those involved in the three-year investigation and prosecution (that) would not have been possible without the tireless dedication of the Wayne County Assistant prosecutors, investigators, and staff; the federal and state agencies and the Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park Police departments," Worthy said.

Earlier Thursday, the trial, already marked by unexpected twists, took another bizarre turn when Bashara asked for a mistrial during his sentencing hearing, claiming prosecutors and the media compromised his right to a fair trial.

"The jury poisoning and media corruption of this trial ... blackened my eye and made me a monster," Bashara said, reading from a prepared statement.

Bashara, who was found guilty last month in connection with the slaying, filed an emergency motion for a mistrial, saying he had "ineffective counsel."

He said his attorneys refused to "pursue areas I felt were important."

Bashara said he prepared an eight-page document chronicling more than 40 years of community service, and said if his attorneys, Lillian Diallo and Michael McCarthy, had emphasized his charity work, it would have swayed the jury.

"In the final analysis, my character, or the deliberate destruction of it ... would have shown me innocent," Bashara said. "But the jury's contempt of who the prosecution painted me to be overshadowed all else."

Bashara also said the media, specifically video live-streaming, "compromised my right to a fair trial," and "affected the mindset of both family and jurors."

"My mother, God bless her heart, is a prime example as she was following," Bashara said.

He also said the proceedings were unfair because Joseph Gentz, the handyman whom Bashara paid to kill his wife, did not appear in court.

"He is the only one who has accused me in my Jane's death," Bashara said. "Allowing his words without having the opportunity to cross-examine him, and have him face me, is unfair and prejudicial."

Evans denied the motion for a new trial, although she expressed anger that the Wayne County Sheriff's Office ignored her order that Bashara not be transferred from the Wayne County Jail. He was transferred to the Oaks Correctional Facility while Evans was on vacation.

"They violated my order without letting me know," Evans said, adding that she would ensure Bashara stays in the local jail "if I have to contact (Wayne County Sheriff Benny) Napoleon myself."

After the judge denied Bashara's request for a mistrial, he said: "I wish to object to your ruling in regard to my motions."

The judge shot back: "That's enough of what you have to say. Sit down."

During Bashara's remarks, members of Jane Bashara's family shook their heads, while his attorneys grimaced.

After the hearing, Barbara Naeyaert, the victim's aunt through marriage, said she wasn't surprised.

"I expected something like that, but then again I didn't," she said. "He's so arrogant. In his own mind, he's really become a master: He wants to run the courtroom; he wants to pick the jury; he wants to control everything."

Naeyaert's reference was to the defendant's persona as Master Bob, the name he used while visiting sex dungeons.

The trial featured nine weeks of often salacious testimony, 74 witnesses and 460 exhibits. The trial had several twists and turns, including lurid testimony from Bashara's acquaintances from the bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic community.

Prosecutors said the Grosse Pointe Park businessman hired Gentz to kill his wife so he could live the BDSM lifestyle full time with his longtime girlfriend, Rachel Gillett.

Several people who knew Bashara, 57, through the BDSM lifestyle took the witness stand, offering sometimes graphic testimony about practices and implements used in the sex dungeons they frequented. Bashara operated his own dungeon beneath a Grosse Pointe Park building that housed two popular night spots, Dylan's Raw Bar & Grille and the Hard Luck Lounge. He also attended parties at other dungeons.

Jane Bashara was killed on Jan. 24, 2012, in her garage, prosecutors said, and her body was found in her Mercedes-Benz SUV in an alley on Detroit's east side.

Gentz pleaded guilty to killing her and is serving up to 28 years in prison. He did not testify during the trial. Bashara is serving up to 20 years in prison for solicitation of murder for trying to have Gentz killed in prison.

Jurors in the Bashara murder trial deliberated for less than three full days before reaching their verdict. The jury of nine men and three women found Bashara guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation for murder, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice.

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