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General News    H3'ed 3/17/10

Missing Lawyer's Body Is Found on Golf Course

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Message Roger Shuler
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
That headline might sound like something out of The Onion. But it is deadly serious, and it accurately describes what appears to be a classic whodunit in Alabama. Given that the lawyer in question was the son of one of our state's most renowned businessmen, the case figures to rivet the Birmingham area for months.

Ironically, the case has a roundabout connection to our Legal Schnauzer story.

Major Bashinsky, son of the late Sloan Y. Bashinsky, was reported missing on March 3 when he did not return home from work at his law practice, where he specialized in wills, estates, trusts and financial planning. Golfers noticed an object floating in a water hazard on Monday at the Highland Park Golf Course in Birmingham, and a call went out to law-enforcement officials. The object proved to be a body, and it was recovered and positively identified as Bashinsky.

In published reports today, officials say they do not know how Bashinsky died--and they have not ruled out suicide.

Sloan Bashinsky was CEO of Golden Enterprises, makers of Golden Flake potato chips and other snacks. The elder Bashinsky was known for his longtime association with University of Alabama football and the late Hall of Fame coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant.

The Bashinsky family name came up on this blog during our reporting about William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, a Birmingham businessman with interests in real estate, oil, gaming, and investments. We described Hazelrig as a "person of interest" in my unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) because of his financial ties to prominent Alabama Republicans--including Governor Bob Riley and first son Rob Riley--and a $5 million donation he gave for a new radiation-oncology facility at UAB.

Here is how we described Hazelrig's business and political affiliations:

Hazelrig remains a person of interest here at Legal Schnauzer. He gave a $5 million to UAB for construction of a new radiation oncology facility, and it's believed to be the largest individual donation in school history. Hazelrig has substantial business and political connections to Republican figures who almost certainly are not pleased to read the uncomfortable truths presented on this blog.

A $5 million gift will buy a lot of influence at most any university. And we know that Republicans in the Age of Rove have a proclivity for going after the jobs of people who cause them angst.

We also noted that Hazelrig's personal life had shown signs of spinning out of control. He has a horrific driving record, which includes some 20 traffic offenses and six suspensions of his license. In 2007, he was found guilty of DUI and speeding after being clocked driving 112 mph in a 55 zone on Highway 280.
Hazelrig's wife, Lynn S. Hazelrig, filed for divorce in 2005--and it figured to involve substantial assets. The case file was mysteriously sealed, and records indicate the parties worked out a divorce arrangement on their own.

One of Hazelrig's companies, W&H Investments, is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Estate of Sloan Bashinsky. Here is how we described the case:

The lawsuit, Estate of Sloan Bashinsky v. W&H Investments, involves heirs of one of Birmingham's most well-known business figures, Sloan Bashinsky. As CEO of Golden Enterprises, Bashinsky helped turn Golden Flake potato chips, and other assorted goodies, into snack-time favorites around the South.

Bashinsky died on August 2, 2005, and you can check out business filings related to his Last Will and Testament.

M. Owen Sims, John S. Stein, and John P. McElroy, all representatives of the Bashinsky Estate and Testamentary Trust, brought the lawsuit against W&H Investments, led by Hazelrig and his partner, Fred Wedell.

The case is complicated, and I am still examining the documents. But the main issue seems to be this: Bashinsky held interests in some 280-plus oil wells through a partnership involving W&H Investments, and the plaintiffs are seeking a proper accounting of those funds.

When I last checked the case file, it had become voluminous, appearing to include more than 100 documents. I saw no indication that Major Bashinsky was directly involved in the case, although it stands to reason that an estate/trust lawyer would have more than a passing interest in a lawsuit involving his father's estate.

From my inspection of the case file, I had the impression that the case was moving along, slowly, toward a normal resolution in such a dispute. I have no indication that anyone involved with the lawsuit was in any way connected to Major Bashinsky's disappearance and death.

I do suspect, however, that this will prove to be a criminal case. The possibility of suicide seems remote to me. Throwing yourself into a shallow body of water on a golf course? Seems to be an unlikely way for a 63-year-old man to commit suicide.

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Roger Shuler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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