December 27, 2012DETROIT — "I killed Jane Bashara because Bob Bashara promised me money and threatened to kill me."
With those chilling words, handyman Joe Gentz admitted his role in the January 2012 murder of Grosse Pointe Park resident Jane Bashara.
The confession was part of a plea deal Gentz and his attorney worked out with Wayne County prosecutors that would allow him to plead guilty to second degree murder and allow for the dismissal of a second charge, conspiracy to commit murder. Gentz had been charged with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, charges that both carry a sentence of mandatory life in prison without parole if convicted.
Gentz appeared Friday before Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans, where the following statement was entered on his behalf:
"Bob Bashara offered me money to kill his wife. He threatened me if I did not kill her. I killed Jane Bashara because Bob Bashara promised me money and threatened to kill me.
"This happened in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, on January 24, 2012."
Under the plea deal, Gentz will face no less than 17 years in prison and no more than 28. He will be back in Evans' courtroom Jan. 29 for sentencing.
The focus may now shift to possible charges against Bob Bashara in the death of his wife.
Gentz's attorney, Susan Reed, declined to comment on whether charges would be brought against Bashara, directing questions to the Wayne County Prosecutor's office. In a written statement, Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Kym Worthy, said, "The Jane Bashara homicide case remains under investigation, no other charges are expected at this time."
Reed said both she and her client felt the plea was in Gentz's "best interest."
"I believe Mr. Gentz was taken advantage of by Bob Bashara," she said after the hearing. "You can see that Bob Bashara always tries to get what he wants. He is used to using people that way. My client felt that he has to pay for what he did, but without Bob Bashara, we wouldn't be here today."
Bashara has maintained he had nothing to do with the death of his wife. Her body was found the morning of Jan. 25 in the backseat of her SUV that had been parked in an alley on the eastside of Detroit. She had been strangled.
Within days of the discovery of Jane Bashara's body, Bob Bashara was named as a person of interest in the case, but the case turned when Gentz turned himself in to police in early February, admitting he had killed Jane Bashara. He was arrested in March and while he was charged with both first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, prosecutors never named who he might have conspired with.
Even with Gentz being held in the Dickerson Correctional Facility in Hamtramck, police and prosecutors maintained the investigation was ongoing and the case remained active. Then June 25, Bob Bashara was arrested and charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill Gentz.
Bashara pleaded guilty in October to those charges, and was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. He is currently being housed in the Michigan Department of Corrections reception facility in Jackson, undergoing evaluation before permanent placement is made.
Reed said even with Bashara in prison, her client is still afraid, but will testify against him if Bashara is charged in his wife's murder.
"He has agreed to give details about the crime," she said, "but he is still afraid for his life."
Reed acknowledged this was a very unusual case.
"I've never seen a case like this one," she said, "and I've been doing this for 30 years."