In early March 2010, my younger brother Major went missing. Maybe two weeks later, his body was found in a pond on the first hole of Highland Golf Course, maybe 300 yards below the parking area. Next to and just above the parking area is the Highland Racket Club (tennis), where Major had met both of his wives, who were Alabama State Women’s Tennis Champions.
With the help of the angels who run me, one of whom I claim is Jesus, about a week before Major’s body was found, I arrived at some conclusions:
It was Major’s time to leave because he was using sports to live through though his young son, Holt, which he had done with is older son, Brooks, which had caused Brooks a great deal of trouble in life and it could not be allowed to happen to Holt.
The mechanism for Major leaving was someone was going to out Major for being bisexual, which sexual orientation I had known for a long time was the case. Major was unable to prevent being outed and was unwilling to endure the publicity in the prominent society in which he lived in Birmingham. So, he killed himself and tried to make it look like someone else did it.
Maybe two weeks after Major’s body was found, the Jefferson County Coroner and the Birmingham Police Department, who had not spoken with me, concluded Major had killed himself and had tried to make it look like someone else had done it.
According to the Coroner’s report, Major’s wrists were loosely-tied by a rope, which was tied to a rope around his waist. There was some range of motion for his hands. His mouth was duct-taped by several wraps around the back of the head. Inside his mouth was a cellophane Golden Flake label. Attached to the rope by string, or rope, was a plastic bottle, in which was a typed letter criticizing the hording and squandering of Golden Flake dividends needed by the company and its employees, by greedy management and the Bashinsky family. The letter indicated further action might be taken if the dividend situation was not corrected. A draft of the same letter was found on a flash drive in Major’s car, after it was discovered by his oldest child/daughter Sloan near Five Points South a few days after he went missing. The car was found about about a two-mile drive on Highland Avenue to the Highland Golf Course. The same letter was found in the mailbox at Major’s home, I think on the day he went missing. The same letter was hand-put into Major’s and my sister’s mail box, at her home, maybe two days before Major went missing. She took it to her lawyer, who also represented Golden Flake and its holding company, Golden Enterprises, and my father’s estate and trusts. The same letter was delivered to Golden Flake. It was written by an educated person, who obviously knew something about Golden Flake and Golden Enterprises. The letter expressed my own long-held sentiments about how the company’s dividends were being misused. Sentiments Major and I had discussed many years before and were in agreement, I felt. The letter clearly was aimed at our father’s widow, who had voting control of the corporate stock and called the shots at the company and received the lion’s share of the dividends. Major, our sister and I had no say-so at the company, and they didn’t get much in dividends. I received no dividends, not owning any company stock.
Major’s wallet with ID were found in his trousers, or perhaps at the bottom of the pond. A vintage Browning automatic pistol was found near the body in the pond. The gun was determined to be the weapon used to shoot Major. There was a contact wound to the left side of the head. There was no stippling, which is a pattern that forms on the skin when a person is shot at close range, but not when the gun is pressed against the skin and fired. The corpse condition was consistent with being in water since the date Major went missing. Dental records confirmed it was Major’s body. In the FBI records, which I obtained by Freedom of Information Act request, it was noted that an identical Browning automatic, same vintage, was in a plastic display container at the home of my father’s widow, where they both had lived and which she had inherited from him. First I’d heard of my father owning a pistol.
Major apparently had sufficient range of motion of his hands to shoot himself. I figured if right-handed Major really wanted to muddy the pond, he was smart enough to figure out shooting himself left-handed. I felt there were all sort of encoded messages in the theatrical scene at the pond, all relating to Major’s relationship with his father, Golden Flake, his two tennis champion wives, and his young son, who was a golf and swimming whiz, and whose sports achievements were touted on a page at Major’s law firm website, which I saw.
The other day, I learned from a national news network that legalschnauzer.blogspot.com, published out of Birmingham by Roger Shuler, had put up another article challenging the Jefferson County Coroner and Birmingham Police Department’s joint conclusion that Major killed himself and tried to make it look like someone else had done it. Shuler had published maybe six or more prior articles to same effect. Lori Moore, a Dothan journalist, also did not believe Major killed himself. She and I had many email conversations, and she co-authored with Shuler one of the Legal Schnauzer articles challenging the Coroner and BPD’s conclusion it was suicide.
Here is the most recent Schnauzer article, followed by the text of a number of emails between Shuler and me, which I initiated after reading his article. His emails are in italics, to distinguish his from mine.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
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 a natural death.
“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 …
Again, Shuler’s emails are in italics, to distinguish his from mine.
From all I have read about and heard of Roy Moore, I am not surprised he is back, and I agree it’s a joke, albeit not funny to me. Don’t know anything about the Democrat candidate.
Please tell Paul Ciolino I am happy to speak with him, tell him all I know about Major, his family, Golden Flake, the circumstances surrounding his death, the stress he immediately was under the day he disappeared (his son had posted suicide threats online), and the water hazard and that area of Birmingham, with which I am very familiar from having lived in that area off and on for quite a few years. I can be reached at (305) 872-1705.
I remain convinced the crime scene was too improbable for murder site, or to dump a body in the middle of the hazard, after being hauled there from somewhere else and dragged from a vehicle over the low wall adjacent to the sidewalk, next to a busy road, across from a subdivision on a bluff. Then dragged up the incline, over a low chain link fence, across the cart path, into the hazard, and then pushed into the middle of it. I imagine the perp would have wanted to get caught, to choose that site for murder or body disposal.
I remain convinced Major wrote the Golden Flake threat letter and did himself in and tried to make it look like someone else did it. However, I never ruled out he might have had a helper at the golf course.
I especially would like to know what Ciolino meant by this in your article:
“People don’t tie themselves up when they commit suicide unless they want to make it look like a natural death.”
I don’t understand how could someone make it look like a natural death by tying himself up.
I have other unanswered questions/wonderings, which do not, so far, seem relevant to cause of death.
Major apparently was close to Don Siegelman, according to Lori Moore, who is close to Don, she told me, and that Don had told her he would not talk to her about Major. [Moore is a journalist living in Dothan, who did not believe Major killed himself. I exchanged many emails with her. She co-authored one article with Shuler at Legal Schnauzer, challenging the suicide finding.]
I told Lori, in the late fall of 2001 and early winter of 2002, I had worked inside, sub rosa, a Birmingham law firm, which Siegleman and his advisers approached about helping him get reelected and keeping him out of prison. It was accepted as fact in the law firm, Siegleman was bi-sexual. We did not tell him that, but we felt it might be used against him in his bid for reelection. I was very concerned about keeping Don out of prison, and told the firm to advise him not to run again, and perhaps his political enemies would stop trying to put him in prison.
Don never knew I was involved, as far as I know. Perhaps I breached the canon of ethics, telling Lori all of that. She seemed thrown for a serious loop by it.
I knew Don somewhat from years past at the karate dojo in Homewood, and from having met him when he came to my home in Forest Park, circa 1974?, campaigning during his first run for office, I think for the State Legislature? Fuzzy on exact year and office.
You are welcome to contact Mr. Ciolino through his Web site, to which I link in the post.
For what it’s worth, your memories about the layout of the Highland Park Golf Course are off target. Anyone can pull a vehicle into the parking lot and then walk directly onto the hole that features the water hazard. I’ve done it myself. There is no wall or fence to cross, and it’s maybe 250-300 yards from the lot to the water, downhill all the way. It would be extremely easy to put a body (or any number of other objects) into a cart and roll it on the paved path down to the water. The parking lot is open 24/7, so it would be no problem to accomplish this task after dark.
This doesn’t prove what happened, of course, one way or another. But I’ve read your comments before about this being an unlikely place to drop off a body because of the layout. In fact, it’s a very convenient place to do such a thing. Couldn’t be easier.
What I described, Roger, was the short way to get to the pond, perhaps 20 yards from just below the pond on Highland Avenue. What you describe is the long way, from the parking lot area up the hill, above the first T. Either way you slice it, lousy choice of site to kill someone, or dump a body. The back side of Lake Purdy, off Grant’s Mill Road, much better site, for example. Many much better sites, thousands probably, than the golf course pond.
I figured Ciolino might be interested in contacting me, who knew Major better than anyone, I suspect, since he offered his opinion. I guess I figured wrong.
I still wonder how someone wanting it to look natural would tie himself up.
What I describe is the easy way, and it would be easy, any way you slice it. It’s a perfect place to kill someone, or dump a body, if you want the body to be found–to send a message.
To my knowledge, Ciolino doesn’t know of you, so he would have no reason to contact you. As noted, you certainly are free to contact him. He seems easy to reach.
And easiest way to get caught. Still don’t know how someone wanting it to look natural would tie himself up.
Easiest way to get caught? Are you serious? Your vehicle is in a parking lot, off the street and out of the way. If you do it in the middle of the night, the chances of getting caught are almost nil.
You admit, in your previous e-mail, that your scenario involves a vehicle parked “on a busy street.” Yours is the scenario that would be hard to pull off and easy to get caught. Anyone familiar with that golf course would know not to do it that way.
As for what Ciolino meant, I would suggest you contact him. I thought he was referring to cases where people tie themselves up for various forms of a high–sexual or otherwise. You read every now and then of someone accidentally killing himself from this sort of thing, cutting off an airway, etc. This probably would be more of an accidental death than a true natural death, but at least there is a somewhat natural explanation–as opposed to murder or suicide. It would be one way to disguise the true cause of death.
This is what I took him to mean, but you might want to clarify.
What’s natural about tying yourself up and strangling? It’s your article. Leave it like it is. Maybe I am the only person it occurred to.
When Lori told me she had ascertained from Starbucks in Five Points South that Major had been in there the afternoon he went missing, with his son, who mostly likely was Brooks, since Brooks had texted about killing himself earlier that day, and when Major had learned of it from Brooks’ sister, Sloan, instead of from Brooks’ mother, Gail [Major's first wife], he blew up with Sloan because Gail had not called him. She had told Sloan to call Major, while she was seeking professional counsel re Brooks.
Anyway, the point is, Major’s entire day and routine were wrecked by Brooks’ own suicide talk. Hard to imagine a hit planned for that day playing out, since Major was totally off his regular schedule. It appeared Major was seen in the Five Points Hardware shortly after being at the Starbucks, buying duct tape and rope, according to what I read in the Bham News. Lori said she talked with the hardware store, as well, and she did not tell me anything that caused me to think Major was not there.
Who, but Major, would pack a relic Browning automatic identical to one in a plastic display in his father’s home? Major had a fatal attraction to his father. Desperately wanted his father’s approval, but really disliked him. I know this for fact, out of Major’s own mouth, many times. It would be just like him to get a collector’s pistol just like the one in his father’s home, which I never even knew about until I read the FBI records, which I obtained pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act Request.
Weird to me, people who never knew Major, or hardly knew him, or who felt they knew him, know him better than the three people who really knew him: Gail, Sloan and me. We knew he was fully capable of killing himself if he thought it was the only way to protect his image, which was the most important thing to him. We knew he was fully capable of doing what the coroner and sheriff office [should be BPD] concluded he did.
I seem to have been the only one, though, who knew what pushed Major to do it. I will never be able to prove it, though. Nor, I don’t imagine, will anyone be able to prove he was murdered, unless they were there and confess.
I understand your intent to pursue the murder angle, and that is your prerogative. I imagine Lesley [Major's second wife] and her family would pursue it, if they really believed it was murder. Especially, Lesley’s mother, whom I got to know somewhat when I moved back to Birmingham from Colorado in late 1995. I got to know Lesley’s father, too. We had a few lunches together. I really liked him, he seemed to really like me.
I can’t imagine what it was like for Lesley and her and Major’s young children. I don’t see how they will ever get over it.
I certainly agree that it must be awful for Lesley, her parents, and the children. Please know that my intent is not to pursue the murder angle, or any other angle. My intent is to get at the truth. And the coroner’s report leaves significant doubt about the suicide finding. A plain reading of the report tells a reasonable person that cause of death should have been “undetermined” or “unclassified,” followed by a genuine investigation. Too bad it wasn’t handled that way.
Doesn’t look like they had much to work with, Roger, which they did not explore.
My criticism was of the Birmingham News, for reporting the case hard up to the coroner and sheriff [should be BPD] reported their conclusions, and then the News folded, in my view. I remain of the view the News was told to stay away from me, after the initial interviews their award-winning journalist did one day, as part of an article he would write on Golden Flake and the threat letter and Major’s disappearance. That was before Major’s body was found in the water hazard.
After introductions and a small amount of talk, the journalist asked me what I thought might have happened? I said, well, Major was an expert in computers, Internet, telephone systems, and he was a tax, estate and financial adviser lawyer, and he was really smart, and he easily could have disappeared off shore without a trace, in my opinion.
Then, I said, funny, just before he called me for the interview, the thought came out of the blue that Major had killed himself and tried to make it look like somebody else did it. The journalist said cold chills ran up his spine when I said that. I asked why? He said because the same thought had come to him out of the blue. I said cold chills now were on my spine. Again, this was before Major’s body was found in the water hazard. The journalist read the article to me, said it would be in the next morning’s edition. Later, he said higher ups had overridden him.
In my line of work, the journalist and me arriving at the same theory, out of the blue, and us both getting cold chills, was pretty much all the proof I needed that Major had killed himself and had tried to make it look like murder. I had quite a few dreams afterward reinforcing that view. Then, whenever another challenge came, I would have more dreams telling me to stick to my position.
I get a great deal of information in dreams about stuff going on around me, personal and not personal – usually stuff in which I am actively engaged, or will be shortly.
Sometimes it’s about more remote stuff, say something about President Obama. I hardly shit for a month after he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize – unconscionable to accept it, regardless of it being awarded to him. I wrote many posts about him, and finally I was able to shit again.
I was told in dreams Casey Anthony did not kill Caylee. I was not told how Caylee died. I published that and caught a great deal of bad flack from people who did not sit on the jury.
I was told in dreams a man down here everyone but his mother believed had gone off into the mangroves and chained himself to an anchor in a deep hole and shot himself with a Glock, which he had – Glocks can shoot underwater – did not kill himself to disappear forever, but was murdered. I got very sick during that time, and caught serious flack from the widow’s second husband, whom I knew. It was so bad inside of me that I was sent to Birmingham, by dreams, for a few days, so I could recover. Then, via dreams, I was sent back to Key West, where I then lived. Now I’m back at my little farm in the jungle on Little Torch Key. Two years back here.
Later, the second husband came to me in a dream and said something in the basement of his home smelled fishy. I understood that to mean I had it sized up, and that he was not involved, as I had maintained all along. I also had posited the missing man’s wife and/or their children knew something, which had never been made public.
That one never resolved, either, in a human way.
I have lots of “cases” end like that – unresolved in a human way. I got used to it going that way.
Today, I was put (following dreams) to publish to goodmorningbirmingham.com a post in which I said I am not comfortable with the Rutgers gay-hate-crime jury verdict, and why. The post is about more than just that, but that is a big part of it. Here’s the link: Rutgers gay hate crime.
Might be some of what you get involved in, I might dream about, if you were interested in hearing what I might get in dreams about it. Would be up to you to believe it, or not. Might save you some time, going off in directions that end up empty. Would be up to you to tell anyone I was around.
That’s how it was with the law firm in Bham in 2001/2002. Seldom did any of the clients know I was involved in their cases. The fellow whose firm it was had known me a long time, we were very good friends. He knew what I did. Lots of times, what I got was a stretch for him, but he listened.
I did not hear back from Roger.
People who do not get the input from beyond that I get, cannot possibly make the leaps I make. They cannot possibly accept what I say I am being shown. I live with that onging, since late August 1988, when I was given an entirely new set of eyes and ears and other sensors, which, along with my dreams, turned me pretty much into a hybrid spirit x-ray-sonar device, which so far operates in any weather conditions that come my way, on land, air and sea, and beneath the sea. When I mis-read the weather, which happens sometimes, a dream shows me the correct read. None of that can I prove, though, anymore than I can prove Major did himself in.
I was grateful the Jefferson County Coroner and Birmingham Police Department, who never interviewed me, ruled it was suicide. For just me saying it had almost zero effect, whereas their saying it put the truth squarely in public view, and then it was out of their hands and in the laps of the people who read or heard of it do accept, or reject, what sure looked to me like a very loud AMEN from God that Major indeed killed himself, and tried to make it look like somone else did it.
A good friend of mine down here in the Keys, who ran for Sheriff in 2008, told me the other day, if someone killed Major and wanted it to look like murder and not suicide, there would be no doubt whatsoever it was murder.
To that I add, if someone wanted to send a message to the Bashinskys, there would be no doubt whatsover it was murder.
I was, still am, Major’s brother and his keeper. I hope he is in a more peaceful place now, but I fear he still has a way to go before he gets there. I could make some suggestions re what he might do, but have not been asked by him to do so.