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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bashinsky Autopsy Report Presents No Scientific Evidence of Suicide



Major Bashinsky
Editor's Note: This post is a joint reporting effort by Lori Alexander Moore of dothannewsfirst.com and Roger Shuler of Legal Schnauzer.

The autopsy report in the death of prominent Birmingham attorney Major Bashinsky presents no forensic evidence to support a finding of suicide.

Bashinsky was reported missing on March 3, 2010, and his body was recovered about two weeks later from a golf-course pond on Birmingham's Southside. Law enforcement officials announced on March 24 that Bashinsky's death had been ruled a suicide.

We have obtained a copy of the autopsy report, and it does not point to any scientific evidence in reaching its conclusion about Bashinsky's death. Instead, the two physicians who signed the report state that they based their findings on the investigation of police detectives.

In reading the case summary, it appears the suicide finding is based on the work of officers who are not qualified to determine manner of death. The 14-page report includes plenty of technical information. But based on the words of the two scientists who signed the report, none of that data points conclusively to suicide. That finding is based almost totally on the police investigation. (See the case summary from the autopsy report at the end of this post.)

Major Bashinsky, 63, was the son of one of Alabama's most renowned businessmen. The late Sloan Y. Bashinsky Sr. was the CEO of Golden Enterprises, the makers of Golden Flake potato chips and snack foods. The elder Bashinsky was long known for his association with University of Alabama football and its iconic coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant.

The disappearance and death of Major Bashinsky has been one of the biggest stories in Alabama so far this year. A prime source of information on the case has been goodmorningfloridakeys.com, a blog written by Sloan Bashinsky Jr., Major's older brother who also is a lawyer and lives in Key West, Florida. In fact, Sloan Bashinsky Jr. reported that his brother had died from a gunshot wound to the head almost a week before that was announced as the official cause of death.

Manner of death, suicide, has seemed suspect from the time it was announced. Sloan Bashinsky Jr. has written that he accepts the finding and believes his younger brother's bisexuality might have been a factor. But we have written several posts--here and here--that raise questions about the official finding. We also noted the sloppy, "trust me" journalism that has surrounded the case.

The quality of journalism on the story looks even worse now that we have seen the autopsy report. The case summary raises obvious questions about the findings, but no local mainstream reporters seem to have asked them. Did they bother looking at the autopsy report? Did they just not care to question authorities?

Gary T. Simmons, M.D., associate coroner/medical examiner for Jefferson County, and Diane C. Peterson, M.D., UAB pathology fellow, signed the report. The key findings come in the following lengthy paragraph:

The decedent was found in a golf course pond with ligatures as described. However, the ligatures were such that the decedent essentially had complete freedom of movement. As described, the decedent had a contact gunshot wound of his head consistent with causing this wound, car keys, duct tape similar to that used to bind on the decedent, and scissors being found in the ponder generally under the area where the decedent's body was found. Furthermore, the decedent was reportedly witnessed buying duct tape and rope similar to that found on the body at a hardware store with the decedent also being video taped the day he was reported missing in a coffee shop near this hardware store. At that time he was apparently dressed in the same clothes he was found in. The decedent appeared alone in this video. Taking these facts into consideration as well as the findings of the rest of the investigation it is our opinion that this was a self inflicted gunshot wound. It is therefore our opinion that the cause of death is best listed as contact gunshot wound to the head with the manner of death being suicide.

The key points in the 14-page report can be boiled down to the material in bold above--and none of it has to do with scientific findings. It revolves around alleged activities at a coffee shop and a hardware store, information that comes from police investigators.

We are not experts in the jargon of medical examiners, but the language here--"the cause of death is best listed as . . . "--is not terribly convincing. In fact, it appears that the medical examiners were faced with an inconclusive autopsy report, but listed suicide as the manner of death anyway.

An accidental death seems to be ruled out in the Major Bashinsky case--so that would leave only suicide or homicide. We see no conclusive evidence in the autopsy report to indicate Bashinsky was murdered. But we also see no conclusive evidence to indicate he killed himself--certainly none of a scientific variety.

A memorial service was held for Major Bashinsky on March 23, and the press reported the suicide findings the next day. Since then, mainstream reporters seemingly have lost interest in the case. But we have sensed for some time that the general public has many unanswered questions about the case.

Based on the autopsy report, we would say those questions are understandable.

(To be continued)

Bashinsky Autopsy1

3 comments:

MaxShelby said...

Dead bodies found with the hands or other parts of the body bound inevitably raise suspicion about causation.

Binding the wrists is generally an indicator of homicide.

Inquiry into the circumstances of death, examination of the scene and the dead body, both externally and through autopsy, in addition to performing toxicological analysis, usually indicates the cause and manner of death--suicide or murder.

Omitting any of these investigations, particularly those of the scene and toxicology may result in mistaken diagnosis of the cause and manner of death.
From the Journal of Forensic Science

Toxicology isn't just for the presence of drugs, it shows levels of elevated chemicals in the blood and tissue, such as CO2 and other indicators of one or more attempts to commit the act by other means, such as asphyxiation first.

That is a much slower and agonizing way to do one's self in than the swiftness of a gunshot.

Now, if you have a gun and you are intent on offing yourself, what do you need duct tape and rope for? How would those assist in committing an act that takes only a second to carry out?

You don't, it's nonsensical on its face and that seems to be the most glaring item in this whole sordid story.

Those items may be helpful in completing a contrived scene.

Or if there was more than one attempt as in the case of asphyxiation and the victim is worried about how it will look to the survivors and/or for appearances sake, then all the items make sense, but not really.

The gun does not because headshot wounds can be quite catastrophic depending on the caliber. The exit wound is extremely messy, so there goes the theory of appearances sake.

Hanging would be the swiftest way and it usually requires height like a chair, ladder or a tree.

Last time I checked there aren't any trees in the golf course pond where he was found. There weren't any ladders or chairs, that would have been prominently noted in the autopsy report.

The incidence of hanging by non-elevated means other than the strange practice of auto erotica is extremely uncommon.

Hanging victims rarely bind themselves I think the percentage is less that 2% and those cases are largely auto erotica deaths.

Please send me the full autopsy report Roger.

TR said...

MaxShelby:

The presence of life insurance changes everything. Most policies will only refund premiums - not pay benefits - in the case of suicide. It literally pays to make it look like a homicide. Remember the guy in Kentucky who hung himself and wrote "FED" on his chest? That was a suicide made to look like a homicide for the sake of insurance money.

Cause of death was a gunshot to the head. The bindings were loose enough that they allowed him to move around. Such bindings serve no purpose unless to make the suicide look like a homicide.

LS may be right that the evidence does not conclusively establish suicide, but it ain't that far away.

Robby Scott Hill said...

More strange deaths in Alabama: Three Generations of the Huffaker Family have died in less than three years.

1) Robert Huffaker (died in October 2008. He worked for US Army Intelligence & CBS News during the Kennedy Assassination & was the camera man when Ruby Shot Oswald.

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/russ/testimony/huffaker.htm

2) In 2009, Huffaker's 33 year old grandson, Alabama Lawyer Lee Huffaker who worked at Karl Rove's favorite law firm: Maynard, Cooper & Gale died suddenly. Before he died, Lee Huffaker was a frequent reader of my blog because I used to see his IP address of huffaker.maynardcooper.com in my logs.

http://www.alabar.org/publications/articles/Sept09/Memorials.pdf

3) On September 23rd, Robert A. Huffaker, also an Alabama Lawyer & the father of Lee & son of Robert
died of an undisclosed illness.

http://www.alabar.org/media/09242010_robert-huffaker.cfm

Perhaps the Huffaker Family knew too much about the Kennedy Assassination & the Doss Aviation/CIA Colombian drug racket owned by US Senator Richard Shelby & Federal Judge Mark Everett Fuller where several of the Kennedy Assassination figures including the infamous Flight from Dallas pilot, Barry Seal used to work.