It's a murder mystery that's rocked America's auto capitol. A Detroit marketing executive was found strangled to death in her car, and a family acquaintance reportedly confessed to committing the crime — alleging he was paid by the victim’s husband.
In late January, Jane Bashara, 56, who lived with her husband in the tony Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Park, was found dead in her Mercedes SUV in a downtown Detroit alley. While police named her husband Bob Bashara as a person of interest, handyman Joe Gentz was charged with murder after reportedly telling police that Bashara paid him $2,000 and an old Cadillac to kill his wife. Police did not confirm the confession, and reports suggest that Gentz, 48, is mentally disabled.
Authorities continue to probe the case with an eye toward possibly charging Bashara for involvement in the slaying. A report from NBC's Craig Melvin that aired on TODAY Tuesday examined claims that Bashara had lived a dark double-life that may ultimately end up in charges for his wife's death.
Contacted by NBC, prosecutors would neither confirm nor deny potential charges against the 54-year-old, saying, "The investigation into the murder is continuing." But the Detroit-area newspaper The Macomb Daily reported Sunday that Bashara may be charged within the next 10 days.
Meanwhile, Bashara's attorney told NBC’s Detroit affiliate WDIV-TV that the cloud of suspicion hanging over his client's head has been hard to bear for the family, which includes two children.
"Robert Bashara, his children and I are treading water in a lake full of sharks," attorney David Griem said.
Reports from Detroit surfaced that Bashara may have been having an affair with a woman employed at neighboring Wayne State University and that she, along with another woman, may have been involved in the underground world of sadomasochism, laying bare possible motivations for his wife's murder.
But Bashara told WDIV while his 26-year marriage to Jane wasn't perfect, it's beyond the imagination to believe he was responsible for her murder.
"The fact that they've named me the person of interest is unthinkable to me," he said. "That they think I could have harmed my sweetheart.
'We...we...loved each other."
Bashara has denied allegations he engaged in an S&M lifestyle, and told WDIV, "I don't want to get into that, I have my children to worry about."
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But authorities in Detroit have been examining evidence and building their case for more than two months. Gentz was charged with Bashara's murder on March 2, but reports that he is mentally disabled are throwing a cloud over the case. Legal analyst Beth Karas told NBC News Lentz's mental capacity could complicate the murder case.
"It's definitely a hurdle for the prosecution to deal with a handyman who has psychological issues," she said.
And the case could well come down to whether Gentz's story that Bashara hired him to murder his wife is believable, criminologist Casey Jordan told NBC. "There's a number of ways prosecutors can look at this, but the point is they don't have direct evidence."
Still, being a focus of his wife's murder investigation has taken its toll on Bashara and his family, his attorney, Griem, said. "He's not doing well...he's got two children that are devastated."
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