Handyman again changes story about Jane Bashara killing
Handyman Joseph Gentz for the first time publicly described in detail Thursday how he killed Jane Bashara at the behest of her Grosse Pointe Park businessman husband.
It was the latest surprise bombshell in a case full of them.
During the continuation of a hearing to determine whether Bob Bashara will get a new trial after his first-degree murder conviction last year, Gentz was expected to testify Bashara had nothing to do with his wife’s Jan. 24, 2012, death.
Instead, he insisted: “Bob was there.”
“He pulls a gun on me and says, ‘Shut her up.’ So, I broke her neck.
“After she was dead, he pulls her top up and says, ‘I’m sorry, baby, I didn’t mean it.’ And pulls her top back down,” Gentz said.
During Gentz’ recounting of the events that led up to his wife’s killing, Bashara leaned forward in his chair in the court, his brow furrowed and his hand on his chin.
Days after Jane Bashara was strangled in her garage, Gentz walked into the Grosse Pointe Park police station and told detectives Bashara had forced him at gunpoint to commit the crime. In a plea agreement, Gentz later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 17-28 years in prison.
His testimony Thursday matched what he originally told police. At the last moment, he decided not to testify at Bashara’s trial.
But in December, Gentz recanted his story, saying in an affidavit he signed and that was filed in Wayne Circuit Court that he alone killed Jane Bashara because he was angry her husband hadn’t paid him for odd jobs he’d done.
After insisting during a hearing last week he didn’t want to testify — only to change his mind later in the hearing — Gentz, who is developmentally disabled, was expected Thursday to repeat what was in the affidavit.
But as he began reading the affidavit aloud, struggling with large words, Gentz stopped reading and said: “This whole thing is a lie.”
Bashara’s appellate attorney, Ronald Ambrose, asked Gentz: “Why did you sign this affidavit? What made you sign this?”
Gentz replied: “I’m mad. Why am I mad? No. 1, I was promised my safety. I got assaulted four times. What is my life worth? I’ve been called a rat. What do they do to rats in prison? They kill them.”
‘... Joe wanted to tell the truth’
Gentz said on the day of the murder, Bob and Jane Bashara had an argument in their garage.
“Jane Bashara told Bob to get all his (expletive) out of the garage: His signs, his golf clubs. ‘I want your (expletive) out now.’
“They got into an argument and I was in the middle. He pulls a gun on me and says ‘shut her up.’ ”
Ambrose asked: “What kind of gun?”
Gentz replied: “What kind of gun? What does it matter? He pulls (the gun). I couldn’t go nowhere. There was only three of us in the garage — except for God.
“He shows her breasts. She was still bleeding; there was blood on the garage floor. He goes over to her after she was dead, and says ‘baby, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.’ ”
Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans asked: “What did he do with her breasts?”
“He covered her up,” Gentz said. “Then we loaded up her body into the vehicle. Me and Bob.”
Gentz said Bashara then went into the house, got his wife’s purse, and emptied its contents inside her SUV.
Jane Bashara’s body was found inside her SUV in an alley on Detroit’s east side.
Evans asked: “Who drove her to the location?”
In a soft voice, Gentz answered, “I did.”
The handyman said Bashara told him, “If you ever tell anyone, I will kill you.”
Gentz said Bashara promised him a ring, $8,000 and a Cadillac as payment for the murder.
Prior to Gentz taking the stand, Evans allowed him to discuss his pending testimony in an anteroom with his attorney, John Holler, and his brother, Steven Gentz.
After the hearing, during a brief news conference in the courthouse hallway, Holler declined to say what was discussed in the anteroom, but said Gentz “just wanted the truth to come out.”
Holler said he had advised Gentz not to testify, and said his client may have changed his story from what was in the affidavit because he didn’t want to be labeled a snitch in prison.
When Holler was asked whether Gentz doubling back and again implicating Bashara in his wife’s death doesn’t make him more susceptible to being called a snitch, Holler said: “Mr. Gentz’s logic may not comport with yours or mine.”
Holler said he had no idea Gentz was going to veer from what was in the affidavit. “All I knew going in was that Joe wanted to tell the truth,” he said.
After prosecutors said they expected to take a long time questioning Gentz, Evans adjourned the hearing until May 10. After that, she said, she will allow no more testimony in the hearing.
“I’m going to wrap it up,” she said. “It’s time for the court to make a decision. I want that done no later than the first or second week in June.”
Bashara was granted the hearing on whether to get a new trial after his appellate attorney, Ambrose, filed a motion in September claiming prosecutors and the media portrayed Bashara as a monster.
Bashara also said his attorneys, Lillian Diallo and Michael McCarthy, erred by not trying hard enough to get the trial moved to another venue, and by failing to emphasize his charitable ventures with the Grosse Pointe Rotary Club and other organizations.
After Gentz was arrested for admitting to the killing, Bob Bashara tried to hire a furniture store owner to kill the handyman in jail.
The store owner cooperated with authorities and wore a wire, which recorded Bashara setting up the hit. Bashara pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder, and was sentenced to up to 20 years. He was serving that sentence when his murder trial began.
His often raucous trial lasted two months and featured 74 witnesses and 460 exhibits. Prosecutors said Bashara wanted his wife dead so he could immerse himself in a bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic lifestyle with his longtime mistress, Rachel Gillett.