(Corrected version posted on 3/25/12: The original version of this post contained an inaccurate quote in the 16th paragraph, which begins, "You would need access to his computer. . . . " Words in bold have been added to correct and clarify the quote.)
It was two years ago today that the body of prominent Alabama attorney Major Bashinsky was found floating in a golf-course pond in Birmingham. The Bashinsky case, including the official finding of suicide, has been emitting a foul odor for some time--and the stench is every bit as strong today as it was two years ago.
A nationally known private investigator has added to the equation by saying the case has the characteristics of a murder, not a suicide.
Paul Ciolino, a Chicago-based PI who has provided crime analysis for CBS News and other media outlets, said he read about the Bashinsky case here at Legal Schnauzer. Ciolino said that information he gleaned from our reports--plus his years of experience in fraud, abuse, and death investigations--led him to conclude that the official finding of suicide rests on shaky ground.
"I read through (your work) and thought to myself, 'You are probably on the money here,' Ciolino said. "I've gotten to the point where I specialize in these kinds of cases, and I get a lot of them. A lot of times I've got to go tell parents or friends that this guy probably did commit suicide; we'll never know, but I can't find anything to indicate that somebody would kill him. But it sounds to me like you are on the right path."
Bashinsky was reported missing on March 3, 2010, and his body was pulled from a water hazard at Highland Park Golf Course on March 15. Nine days after the body was recovered, officials ruled Bashinsky's death was a suicide. We have pointed out numerous reasons to question the suicide finding, and Ciolino is on the same page with us.
Ciolino first came to our attention with his work on the death of boxing great Arturo Gatti. A coroner in Montreal, where Gatti lived, announced that the boxer died violently by asphyxiation but could not determine whether another party was involved. Officials in Brazil, where Gatti died, announced they were reopening their official inquiry based on the work of several PIs, including Ciolino.
Several factors about the Bashinsky case--the deceased was from a wealthy family, he was married and had young children--stand out to Ciolino. "Rich guys--if they have a lot of mental health issues or they are going broke or they defrauded a company out of a few million dollars or a big scandal is about to hit--(suicide) can happen. But it doesn't sound like that was going on here.
"This guy was an estate attorney, and I think if he was inclined to commit suicide, he probably would have left a note, with details about how things were to be handled. One of the key things is that he had two young children and apparently an OK marriage. Guys who are rich, with little kids . . . everything I'm reading in this thing stinks."
Does Ciolino know what he's talking about? Here is a portion of the bio from his Web site:
[Ciolino] is licensed in Illinois. He has earned a number of professional designations such as: Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified International Investigator, and Board Certified Forensic Examiner (Fellow). He has given dozens of speeches on a diverse array of investigative topics ranging from debunking experts, to investigative ethics, to child homicide, sexual abuse, repressed memories, and death penalty investigations. A seven-year U.S. Army veteran, and the former chief investigator of the child homicide team for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, he is an adjunct lecturer at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and Columbia College, Journalism Department in Chicago. He has also been a guest lecturer at Yale Law School. He was also one of the co-founders and primary instructors on investigative tactics at the first Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty held at Northwestern Law School in Chicago, Illinois.
Ciolino was the primary investigative advisor to the Innocence Projects at: Northwestern Law School, The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and DePaul University, Center for Justice in Capitol Cases, College of Law, all in Chicago.
Ciolino is the author of "In The Company of Giants: The Ultimate Investigation Guide For Legal Professionals, Journalists And The Wrongly Convicted." He is the co-author of the best selling and critically acclaimed textbook "Advanced Forensic Civil Investigations," published by Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company. He is also the co-author of "Advanced Forensic Criminal Defense Investigations," which was published in November of 1999. His articles on investigative topics have been published worldwide. He is a three-time winner of NALI's annual Editor-Publisher Award for best articles published in their educational journal, The Legal Investigator. He appears regularly on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, as well as CBS, NBC, and ABC.
According to published reports, Bashinsky picked up his cholesterol medication shortly before his death and he apparently walked quite a distance from his car to the golf course where his body was found. Ciolino calls those "red flags."
"This is highly suspicious, at the very least," Ciolino says. "When someone commits suicide, there is a lot happening in his life usually. Going to pick up his medication is not the actions of guy who is getting ready to go dust himself. And rich guys don't walk to the suicide place . . . he would be more likely to pull up in a parking lot, go over to a nearby spot and shoot himself. I think he would have left a note, and he wouldn't have tied himself up. There are a lot of things I don't think he would have done if this was, indeed, a suicide."
Getting to the bottom of the Bashinsky case could prove difficult, Ciolino said. "Unless you have a family member who wants to take an aggressive stance and look at it, you will never know.
"You would need access to his computer, you've got to talk with his friends, people he golfed with and socialized with. The duct tape and rope thing is classic 'not suicide.' People don't tie themselves up when they commit suicide unless they want to make it look like it was not a natural death--they want it to look like a homicide.
"There are a lot of easier things this guy could have done if he wanted to kill himself. He could rent a boat, go out in the gulf, fall over the side, and everyone would call it an accident. No one would suspect suicide--and probably no one is going to find a body, if you are out far enough. A guy like this would know that."
Ciolino is featured in the following CBS News report about the Amanda Knox case: