|Charles "Bubba" Major
For the fourth time in roughly a year, a person with ties to Alabama's corporate/political elites has committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. This time, the deceased had family ties to a man who committed a most public "suicide" in March 2010.
Charles "Bubba" Major died on Monday at age 59, and his funeral will be at 3 p.m. today at Mountain Brook Baptist Church. Bubba Major was a first cousin of prominent Birmingham attorney Major Bashinsky, whose body was found floating in a golf-course pond last March and later was ruled a suicide, a finding we have reported is dubious, at best.
Bubba Major was quoted publicly as saying the story of Major Basinsky's death did not add up. Now, sources are telling Legal Schnauzer this morning that Bubba Major's death has been ruled a suicide--and that has been confirmed with today's post from goodmorningfloridakeys.com, a blog written by Sloan Bashinsky Jr., Major's older brother.
This brings to four the number of curious suicides in roughly the past year in Alabama, all involving individuals with ties to the state's conservative ruling elites? We know about Major Bashinsky and Bubba Major. The others are Ralph Stacy, an executive with the Business Council of Alabama, and Bob Caviness, an investigator in the office of former Attorney General Troy King. That list doesn't include Zoa White, a woman who worked in the Riley administration and was found beaten to death in her Mobile home. That has been ruled a homicide.
Both Major Bashinsky and Bubba Major had roundabout ties to a lawsuit brought by the estate of Sloan Bashinsky Sr. against the Birmingham firm W and H Investments. The "H" stands for William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, an entrepreneur with ties to the Alabama gaming community. Hazelrig is a partner in Paragon Gaming, a company headed by Robert Sigler, of Tuscaloosa. Paragon is pursuing a major gambling resort in Canada, and Rob Riley, the son of former Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley, used to be involved in Paragon.
Bubba Major was known as one of the finest golfers in Alabama and was a long-time member of the prestigious Country Club of Birmingham. And how is this for irony? An Internet search reveals that Bubba Major worked in sales at Southline Steel, a company based in Bessemer, Alabama. Who has a prominent interest in Southline Steel? None other than Chip Hazelrig.
People with ties to the lawsuit styled Estate of Sloan Bashinsky v. W and H Investments have a curious way of turning up as suicide victims. Is that because Chip Hazelrig has ties to Alabama's Republican machine, built largely by Karl Rove in the 1990s and run by the Riley family in the 2000s? And is this ugliness driven partly because of the GOP's under-the-table ties to the gambling industry?
We know for sure that Chip Hazelrig took some curious actions last March, while Major Bashinsky was missing. Why would he show up for a visit with Sloan Bashinsky Jr. in Key West, Florida?
What about Hazelrig's ties to the Alabama GOP? Rob Riley distanced himself from Paragon Gaming only after a contribution from Hazelrig to Bob Riley's gubernatorial campaign was revealed to have come from someone with ties to gambling. Bob Riley returned the contribution, claiming that he was staunchly anti-gambling, and he went on to launch a crusade against electronic bingo in the last year of his reign as governor.
The Riley family's public stance on gambling, of course, represents breath-taking hypocrisy. Bob Riley, it has been widely reported, was elected with massive financial assistance from Mississippi Choctaw gaming interests funneled through convicted GOP felon Jack Abramoff. And it has been well documented that Rob Riley has ties to Chip Hazelrig, Robert Sigler, and their gaming interests.
Now, two people with ties to the Bashinsky family, which was seeking an accounting of $37 million invested with Chip Hazelrig's company, have turned up dead. Both have been ruled a suicide, but we have shown there are significant reasons to doubt the finding in the Major Bashinsky case. The Bubba Major story is in its early stages, but we've seen signs that he was concerned about what had happened to his cousin. Did that concern cost him his life? We would not be surprised if the answer is yes.
Consider this from a Legal Schnauzer post dated March 25, 2010: Should We Doubt a Finding of Suicide in Major Bashinsky's Death?
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.
It seems clear that Bubba Major did not buy the official story about his cousin's death. In his post today about Bubba Major's suicide, Sloan Bashinsky Jr. writes:
Tuesday brought terrible news from my oldest Bashinsky first cousin that my youngest first cousin on my mother’s side had killed himself. I wrote back that Bubba had told me he was under strain and things didn’t seem to be working out in Birmingham, but I never considered this outcome. Probably, I didn’t want to consider it.
I told my brother’s first wife yesterday that Bubba probably felt like a total failure after he didn’t make it on the pro tour. She agreed. She knew all too well the problems caused by a father living through his son’s sports achievements. She said yesterday that she felt Major’s suicide, which left so many unanswered questions, must have really affected Bubba, because he left a suicide note explaining he had been depressed and thinking of killing himself for some time.
Sloan Bashinsky Jr. has written that he accepts the suicide finding in his brother's death--and he apparently accepts, without question, the notion that Bubba Major now has killed himself.
We certainly respect Sloan's take on issues connected to his family. But I have reviewed the court file in the Estate of Sloan Bashinsky v. W and H Investments, and I have reviewed the autopsy report in the death of Major Bashinsky. I also have reported on the "suicides" of Ralph Stacy and Bob Caviness.
Taken together, I suspect something incredibly ugly is going on in Alabama--and it has ties to our corrupt, dysfunctional and pathological political system.