The Rotary Club president accused of killing his wife had a secret no one suspected

By Hilary Shenfeld
Updated December 10, 2014 06:35 PM
Credit: AP Photo

Most people in his upscale community knew Robert Bashara as a successful businessman, prolific charity fundraiser, Rotary Club president, church usher and married father of two who volunteered at his kids’ volleyball and soccer games.

And that upstanding image might have remained intact – if his wife hadn’t been killed. The spotlight of suspicion turned to Bashara, revealing what prosecutors say was a murder-for-hire scheme and what witnesses describe as a secret double life of meeting other women for bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic sexual encounters, some in a basement “sex dungeon,” and snorting cocaine on a private golf course.

The two wildly contrasting sides of Bashara, 56, emerged during a two-month trial in a Detroit courthouse, where jurors this week are slated to begin deciding his fate. He’s charged with first-degree murder and related charges after prosecutors say he hired his handyman to kill his wife of 26 years, Jane, 56. The marketing executive at an energy consulting company and mother of the couple’s two children, now in their 20s, was found strangled and beaten on Jan. 25, 2012, in her Mercedes-Benz SUV in a Detroit alley.

Bashara wanted her out of the way, prosecutors allege, so he could “continue his BDSM (bondage dominance sadomasochism) lifestyle with his mistress, Rachel Gillett, and potentially other ‘slaves,’ as well as tap into Jane Bashara’s retirement funds,” according to the Macomb Daily.

Bashara has denied any involvement in his wife’s death.

During the trial, jurors heard all about that fetish lifestyle in scenes that sounded like they could have come from Fifty Shades of Grey or another lurid tale from the kinky world of BDSM, where Bashara was known as “Big Bob.”

One woman told of going with Bashara to a sex dungeon in the basement of a building he owned, where she was tied to a cross and flogged, according to the Detroit Free-Press.

Another described a sexual encounter with Bashara that included a “thrashing” so rough that “it left marks for three months” and a choking so severe that it caused her to lose consciousness, The Detroit News reports.

Illicit drugs were also part of Bashara’s underground life, according to one friend who said the pair often snorted cocaine and smoked marijuana while on the posh Lochmoor Country Club in Grosse Pointe Woods, according to the News.

They were all shocking revelations in the Basharas’ hometown of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, an affluent community about seven miles northeast of Detroit that had not seen a homicide case since last century.

Until then, Bashara, the son of a state appellate court judge, appeared to live a more staid existence as a successful property owner and community-minded man who raised millions for charity and participated in his kids’ lives.

But that facade began to unravel after prosecutors accused Bashara of hiring his handyman, Joseph Gentz, to kill his wife. Gentz, 50, who has a low IQ, later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the crime and is currently serving 17-28 years in prison, the Free Press reports.

Bashara is also in prison after admitting he tried to hire a hit man to kill Gentz in jail. He is serving 80 months to 20 years in prison for solicitation of murder in that case.