DETROIT (AP) — A handyman pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the strangulation of a Detroit-area marketing executive and implicated the victim's husband in the crime.
Joseph Gentz made clear that he had faced consequences if he didn't follow the demands of Robert Bashara, who had occasionally hired Gentz for odd jobs.
"Bob Bashara offered me money to kill his wife," Gentz told a judge. "He threatened he would kill me if I didn't kill his wife."
Jane Bashara's body was found in her Mercedes-Benz in a decrepit Detroit neighborhood nearly a year ago. The Basharas lived in Grosse Pointe Park, a comfortable suburb on Detroit's border, and her death caused fright and speculation that the 56-year-old woman was plucked at random.
But police soon focused on Gentz and Robert Bashara, who hasn't been charged but has been called a person of interest.
The case took another strange turn last summer when Bashara was charged with trying to have Gentz killed in jail after an associate secretly recorded the plot. Robert Bashara pleaded guilty and was sentenced last week to at least 6 ½ years in prison.
The murder investigation remains open, although additional charges are not expected "at this time," said Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for Wayne County prosecutors.
Gentz was also charged with conspiracy in Jane Bashara's death, but that charge was dropped in his plea deal, which calls for a minimum of 17 years in prison. He returns to court to be sentenced Jan. 29.
"Mr. Bashara tries to get what he wants," Gentz defense attorney Susan Reed told reporters. "Unfortunately, my client was the person he chose."