Heir to crisp empire 'faked his own murder'
Published 26/03/2010 | 05:00
The heir to an Alabama crisp fortune, who was found floating in a golf course pond after being bound, gagged and shot in the head, disguised his suicide as murder, police have said.
Major Bashinsky (63) was discovered with a threatening note attached to his body and a label from a bag of Golden Flake crisps, the brand owned by his family, stuffed in his mouth. An angry letter and a bag of crisps were found taped inside his abandoned car. The day after he vanished on March 3, a letter arrived at the family company's headquarters accusing it of "vampire" business practices.
Police investigated whether he was the victim of a killer with a grudge against the business, whose crisps have been sold across the southern United States for generations.
But detectives and a coroner concluded that Mr Bashinsky had loosely tied his own hands and taped his mouth before wading into the pond at the Highland Park Golf Course in Birmingham, Alabama, where he shot himself. The gun was found in the pond. Police have not found a motive for the elaborate suicide and are investigating whether he had a life insurance policy.
Golden Flake was founded in 1946 by Mr Bashinsky's grandfather, Leo, and his father, Sloan.
The company employs 800 workers and its products, including crisps, tortilla chips and pork rinds, are ubiquitous on grocery shelves in Alabama and 10 other states. It had net sales of $122m (€92m) last year. The family is the largest shareholder, through an investment company chaired by Mr Bashinsky's stepmother.
Mr Bashinsky was a tax lawyer and did not have any operational role in the crisp company. He was married with two children, and had two other children from a previous marriage. Pat Curry, the Jefferson County chief deputy coroner, said there had been no sign of a struggle, adding: "We take all the evidence in total and come to a ruling. That ruling supports our finding that this was a suicide. The piece of (crisp) bag and the notes make it appear as if he wanted investigators to assume this was murder by a person angry about the business."
Sergeant Johnny Williams, a spokesman for the Birmingham police department, said: "We believe right now that he drafted all of the notes himself."
Family spokesman Steve Hewett said it accepted the ruling of suicide but found it "hard to comprehend". He said Mr Bashinsky's reasons for killing himself remained a mystery. (© Daily Telegraph, London)