Thursday, March 25, 2010

Should We Doubt A Finding of Suicide in Major Bashinsky's Death?

Law-enforcement officials have ruled Major Bashinsky's death a suicide. But we see reasons to doubt that conclusion in the disappearance and death of the prominent Alabama attorney.

Particularly surprising is the officials' finding that Bashinsky died on March 3, the day he disappeared. That means his body remained in a shallow golf-course water hazard for 12 days, in a heavily trafficked area, without being noticed.

Will members of Bashinsky's family question the suicide finding? We suspect they will. Comments in the press about a week ago from Leslie Hewett Bashinsky, Major's widow, and her brother, Steve Hewett, indicate that they saw no signs pointing to suicide.

Sloan Y. Bashinsky Jr., Major's older brother, states in a post this morning that he accepts the suicide finding. But Sloan says he suspects someone pressured Major about something--perhaps disclosure that he had Peyroine's disease and was bisexual--and that drove Major to suicide.

Previously, Sloan had written that he thought Major might have felt business pressures, possibly from improper sales of securities. But Sloan quotes a business associate who says Major was fully licensed to sell securities. Via e-mail, the person wrote:

Good morning,

I have been following your blog since the whole story broke and I have enjoyed reading your past blogs.

I did want to comment on your blog today (3/24). Major did have all securities licenses needed to sell any kind of investment he wanted. Even though he was an attorney, his main business was an investment advisor practice thru First Protective, a subsidiary of Protective Life. Although I do not know for sure, his business seemed to be legit, so I would lean more towards his personal life for the reasons behind his suicide. I just thought you should know.

I hope you find closure and peace.

Because of that note, Sloan writes, he believes Major was pressured about something personal, not involving the law or business, that drove him to suicide.

We admire Sloan's efforts to sort out the truth about a painful chapter in his family's history, through his blog. But we're not sure we agree with either of his findings, so far. We have doubts about the suicide finding, and we suspect Major Bashinsky's concerns might have been more professional than personal.

This much is clear: Many questions remain about Major Bashinsky's disappearance and death, and we suspect many of those questions might never be answered now that his death has been ruled a suicide. Consider just a few questions that seemingly have not been properly addressed:

* If Major Bashinsky waded into the golf-course water hazard on March 3 and shot himself, how could his body go unnoticed for 12 days?

An article in the print version of today's Birmingham News provides the official account. (The same version does not appear to be available online.)

Authorities said they believe Bashinsky died March 3, the day he disappeared from his Mountain Brook office. His Toyota Camry was found in Southside, in the 2100 block of 11th Court, on March 7. His body was found March 15 in the golf course pond.

Here's what investigators believe happened:

The day he disappeared, Bashinsky went into a Southside coffee shop and bought coffee, then went to a nearby hardware store and purchased rope and duct tape.

A clerk at that store told The Birmingham News he sold duct tape and rope to a man that day. He said investigators visited him, showed him a picture of Bashinsky and asked if that was who he sold it to. The clerk said the picture, taken from a surveillance camera at the shop, was blurry and he would need to see a better photo.

Authorities say Bashinsky wrapped rope around parts of his body and attached a bottle that contained a copy of the note they found in his car. He stuck a label from a Golden Flake bag in the roof of his mouth and loosely bound his mouth with duct tape and his hands with rope. He then walked into the pond and shot himself.

If he waded into the water, obviously the water was shallow. Being in Alabama in early March, the water probably was not terribly cold. This was on a public golf course where many people come and go. And yet the body remained submerged and unnoticed for roughly 12 days?

I don't pretend to be a forensic pathologist, but this seems unlikely--and officials gave no indication that the body was weighted down by any object.

In a post dated March 23, Sloan Bashinsky shined light on this issue, quoting a relative named Charles "Bubba" Major, who is a well known golfer in the Birmingham area. In an e-mail, Bubba Major wrote:

You probably did not know that I ran Highland Golf Course for 15 yrs 83-98 and thought it was ironic that they found Major’s body at Highland Golf Course, still have not heard the cause of death, but guess it will come out soon. For the record there is no way the body could have been there several days, without being seen because Hooters had golf tourney there Sat and had over 120 people going by that pond every 3 minutes.

After disclosing that e-mail, Sloan Bashinsky writes:

Background note: Major’s body was spotted by golfers Monday following the Hooters tournament. He went missing 12 days before his body was found. He was alive most of that time. There was no ransom demand. There was no note to law enforcement or the family or the media. There was only silence.

But now law-enforcement officials are saying Major was not alive all that time. In fact, they are saying that 120 people could have been going by that pond every three minutes and not noticed his corpse.

* Has anyone checked for evidence that Major Bashinsky might have been abducted?

I've seen nothing in the press that indicates this question even has been asked. Major's office was in the Luckie Building, off Highway 280. It's a nice, modern-looking building. Does it have security cameras? Were there any signs of unexpected visitors to Major Bashinsky's office?

* Has anyone looked into circumstances surrounding a lawsuit, Estate of Sloan Bashinsky v. W & H Investments, which involved a dispute over money the late Sloan Bashinsky Sr. had invested in oil wells?

Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that the lawsuit was settled just a few days before Major Bashinsky disappeared. Was the settlement amicable and satisfactory to all parties involved? What about parties who were not directly involved? I know from personal experience that discovery in lawsuits can be wide ranging and can include information that might not be admissible in court. For example, in a lawsuit against an investment firm, plaintiff's might seek information about other accounts at the firm, not just the one in question--and a judge might be inclined to allow such an inquiry. That could unearth information that might make someone very uncomfortable.

* In a post dated March 14, Sloan Bashinsky Jr. wrote about an unnamed visitor who showed up in Key West, Florida, tracked him down, and talked with him for about an hour on matters related to the senior Bashinsky's business. Who was this person?

Here is how Sloan Bashinsky describes the encounter:

Five minutes after returning to Key West I received a phone call showing a 205 (Birmingham, Alabama) area code on my cell phone display. The caller asked if he had reached Sloan Bashinsky? Ascertaining he had, he identified himself as having given my father investment advice for twenty years. He was in Key West with a friend who was out fishing. Could we get together? I ascertained where he was, a coin toss from Sloppy Joes, and said to hang there and I’d be along shortly.

We left Sloppy Joe’s because of the noise, and found a quiet place in the shade to sit and talk for maybe an hour and a half. He told me a lot of things I didn’t know about my father’s business affairs and his dealings with my father’s widow, my father’s lawyer, my father’s accountant, and the fellow who had run my father’s company before he went into semi-retirment and then became ill. Maybe all I should say now is that my sentiments that my father had surrounded himself with somewhat less than the sharpest pencils on the block, and more than somewhat greedy, were confirmed.

Then Sloan writes:

Most interesting, I suppose, was how this fellow got my cell phone number. He went into Irish Kevin’s, a popular bar just up the street from Sloppy Joe’s, and asked the first man he saw if he knew Sloan Bashinsky? Yes. Did he know Sloan’s phone number? No, but he knew someone one who probably did, and called him and got my phone number.

It sounds like Sloan and the fellow from Birmingham had a pleasant visit. But the blog post indicates they met on March 13. That's 10 days after Major Bashinsky's disappearance and two days before his body would be discovered.

The fellow from Birmingham just happened to appear in Key West, Florida, at this time, looking for Sloan Bashinsky and wanting to discuss the senior Bashinsky's business affairs? This doesn't sound like a chance encounter. Who was this person and why did he go to considerable trouble to find Sloan Bashinsky Jr.?

There might be reasonable and logical answers to all of these questions--and more.

Perhaps the strongest sign pointing to suicide is a statement from officials that a computer flash drive recovered from Bashinsky's car had drafts of a letter that had been sent to Golden Enterprises just before he disappeared. The letter, like the copies in the car and the bottle, was critical of the Bashinsky family's business practices.

But here is our concern: Now that Major Bashinsky's death has been ruled a suicide, will many questions even be asked?


David in Dixie said...

Maybe someone can explain how this man was able to bind his hands together with rope?

Slick said...

You are asking the questions that have been on my mind. I feel that that BPD dropped the ball and slapped everyone in the face by ruling this a suicide. There are too many unanswered questions and the biggie is, "where was he for all those days." I'm hoping that what appears to be a closed case is not in fact actually closed. I've been following Sloan's blog too and have wondered about the guy who came to talk with him, the whole thing seems so odd - there is something not right and the police and/or FBI should be looking at this case with a fine tooth comb. Something is not right!

Robby Scott Hill said...

The best way to know whether this was truly a suicide is to follow the careers of the involved officials. Before Major Bashinsky died, Jeff Carr died & before Jeff Carr there was a Probate Judge in DeKalb County, before him a high profile Defense Attorney in Huntsville. The investigators in nearly all these cases eventually become Chiefs of Police... See More, County Sheriffs or ABI or FBI Agents despite a lack of advanced degrees, significant published works, knowledge, skills or abilities. The Mafia pulls the strings & the doll dances.

Unknown said...

I also find this hasty ruling of suicide to be very curious. The newspaper (Birmingham News) quoted the hardware store clerk as saying that he was only shown a sketchy photo from the security camera. He said that he said it sort of looked like Bashinsky but he would need a better picture. Hardly a firm identification.
That, along with the idea that he could be dead in a water hazard for DAYS without anyone seeing the body is rediculous.
Hopefully Birmingham police will do their job. However, this sounds like a case that the FBI should, at the very least, look into.

BhamAdGal said...

Actually, I recall getting lots of cold rainy weather during this time period in B'ham. Needs to be researched. So maybe the water was a bit murky and the cold temp kept the body from surfacing for a while.
Still, why would Major (Mr. B'ham CC)choose to walk into the middle of a pond on a PUBLIC golf course and kill himself?? Is there significance that Highland used to be called the B'ham CC?
How did he climb the fence? Were the clothes torn? What was he wearing to walk almost 2 miles from Hot & Hot FC area all the way to Highland GC on a cold night? So many questions.
His wife had to suspect something had already happened to go to the beach with a missing husband. I cannot imagine even considering that trip under the circuamtances unless she already knew something. That really confounds me.
Sloan's blog has been down for 2 days BTW.