DETROIT – A man accused of forcing a handyman to strangle his wife was charged with first-degree murder Wednesday, 15 months after the discovery of her body in a Detroit alley stirred fear that she was a victim of a random abduction from a comfortable suburb.
The charges against Robert Bashara were not unexpected. Nonetheless, it was another extraordinary turn in the death of Jane Bashara, a 56-year-old marketing executive from Grosse Pointe Park.
"I don't know if I'd use the word strange," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said when asked to sum up the investigation. "I would use the word different, and certainly a case that has a lot of tentacles."
The handyman, Joseph Gentz, is serving a 17-year prison sentence after admitting he killed Jane Bashara. But he insists he acted on the threats and orders of her husband.
Bashara, 55, was charged with murder, conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and other crimes. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
Worthy declined to discuss a motive or many other details but said Gentz would be a "strong and credible witness."
"He's not the only witness. We have many, many others. I would never call one person a star witness. I never do that," she said.
The prosecutor said Bashara encouraged witnesses to lie or call in false tips during the investigation and tried to get a witness to leave Michigan and avoid police.
Bashara won't be hard to find: He's already in custody, 260 miles away, serving a minimum prison sentence of 6 ½ years for trying to have Gentz killed in the county jail last year. He'll likely appear in court next week on the new charges.
"Mr. Bashara has steadfastly maintained he had no role in his wife's death and he continues to maintain he had no role in his wife's death," defense attorney Mark Kriger said.
Despite those denials, Bashara quickly was identified by police as a person of interest in January 2012. He attended a candlelight vigil in honor of Jane Bashara and told reporters the killing was an "unconceivable tragedy."
The body was found in her Mercedes-Benz in a Detroit neighborhood, miles from their home. The Basharas lived in a suburb on the city's eastern edge, and the death immediately caused speculation that she was plucked by violent strangers.
"This case is one we do not often experience in Grosse Pointe Park," Public Safety Director David Hiller said Wednesday.
In December, Gentz pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
"Bob Bashara offered me money to kill his wife," he told a judge. "He threatened he would kill me if I didn't kill his wife."
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