The death and attempted suicide of Ginger and Frank Bass

Till death do us part. It's the only way we will.

When Ginger Bass filed for divorce from her husband Frank in November 2007, she hoped he would not contest the dissolution. She offered to buy out his interest in their Lakeside home so both could move on. For months, Frank stayed in their home. It ­wasn’t until the following April that he left and roomed with a buddy, who, after three days, asked him to go. Frank moved into a cheap motel, but he said it was “killing” him. Soon he was back, pleading with Ginger not to divorce him. He broke down and cried like a baby. He said ­he’d change. He said he was depressed and ­couldn’t live without her. He told her he wanted to return to their first love, trapshooting, which had brought them into marriage eight years before. And he said he was sorry about the other women. He promised that phase was ­over.

But if there was one thing that stuck in ­Ginger’s craw, it was the women. She was so embarrassed by his cheating — and his roughing her up when she complained about it — that very few friends or family members knew. Into the first several months of 2008, while their divorce proceeded, Frank was still in the Lakeside house, forcing her to have sex with him and believing this would win her back. As often as he got his way, Ginger got hers, which was to fight him off and flee the ­house.

Friends and family of Ginger Bass, who was 51 in 2008, describe her as a talented and independent woman. (No family members I contacted agreed to be interviewed, though some of their comments have appeared in other publications; several friends of ­Ginger’s and ­Frank’s did speak to me but on condition of anonymity.) One friend said Ginger could “do anything.” For 20 years, she lived in Alaska with her first husband. They adopted three siblings from Bogotá, Colombia. Ginger was a truck driver in Alaska during the construction of the pipeline. Her father, Kenneth “Rusty” Wolbers, who owned a large trucking company in California, had taught her to drive an 18-wheeler. Later, she designed and built two log cabins and worked with stained glass in her own ­business.

In 1996, after a divorce, Ginger moved to San Diego, and she became a real estate broker. Ten years later she was managing the Re/Max Associates branch in La ­Mesa.

In her business-card photo, Ginger exudes the sanguine vitality of a woman in love with the outdoors. She has medium-length straight brown hair showing a few traces of gray, a Cheshire grin, and smoky eyes (the blue eyeliner was tattooed on). She had one tattoo on her thigh, a multicolored flair of flowers. Ginger, who was 5 feet 8 and weighed 160 pounds, was “very fit, worked out a lot,” said a friend. Another called her “beautiful-model ­material.”

Frank Bass, a year older than Ginger, was 6 feet 6 and about 185 pounds, with hazel eyes and brown hair. He was a machinist and handyman. A fellow machinist wrote on a website, “I used to work with Frank and he was a really nice guy. He was even tempered and always great to be around.” Frank was “a lot of fun,” said another pal. He shot a “mean horseshoe.” One friend recalled him as “a normal-looking guy, a typical machinist, really kind of quiet.” His personality, though, could be “dark and standoffish. Like a lot of machinists, he was a perfectionist.” Other buddies noted ­Frank’s “short fuse. We all knew Frank was a little off.” Everybody liked Frank, said another, but he ­wasn’t “very warm with ­people.”

From 1982 to 1998, Frank was married to a woman named Vanessa. They had two children, Frank Jr., who works locally in corrections, and Erica, a La Mesa real estate agent. The divorce, on grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” was uncontested. But according to friends, ­Frank’s threats forced Vanessa to flee. She gave Frank the house and the kids. Still, Frank ­didn’t like being left: on the day their divorce was final, he allegedly told her that he was “going to get her.” The woman disappeared for a couple of ­years.

In 1999, Frank met Ginger when he was buying a home in Lakeside at 14038 Cheryl Lee Court, a quarter mile from the I-8 exit at Lake Jennings Park Road. As his agent, she brokered the deal. They discovered a love for the outdoors, biking, hiking, and trapshooting. Taught by her father Rusty, an Amateur Trapshooting Association senior champion, Ginger was an expert shot. She got Frank interested in the sport, and soon the couple had matching 12-gauge shotguns. They married not long after they ­met.

“They seemed like a strange pair,” said a man who shot with them and with ­Ginger’s father. “Ginger was outgoing, a people person. Frank ­wasn’t. It struck me as funny that they even got together because they were kind of opposite personalities.” Another friend disagreed, saying that early on, “They were pretty much happy, pretty much taken with each other.” They looked like the “ideal couple. They were fairly young, attractive, successful in their careers. They both liked shooting, going to the desert.” And it was clear that ­Frank’s kids “loved Ginger and she liked ­them.”

Since his early 20s, Frank had worked at Chem-tronics, an aerospace company in El Cajon. One work pal said he was always “professional and took his work very seriously.” He rose to the position of floor supervisor. But then, in 2006, he was laid off. Rather than mope, Frank decided to take it easy for a year and not work. Eventually, he and Ginger started a home-refurbishing business that used her resources at Re/Max. Bass Homes and Estates specialized in fixing up foreclosures and selling them for ­profit.

Behind the business front, their marriage was deteriorating. As early as 2004, Frank was sneaking off with women, one, a floor supervisor at Chem-tronics. Sometime in 2007, while Frank was tending to foreclosed properties, he met a woman, a renter in a home he intended to flip, and began a new affair. ­What’s more, Frank was picked up by police while soliciting a prostitute on El Cajon ­Boulevard.

He was also beating up on Ginger. The abuse happened when he was drinking. Friends who came over to the Basses to throw horseshoes noticed ­Frank’s volatility and ­Ginger’s bruises. Said one friend, Ginger periodically gave Frank an ultimatum: stop drinking and stop roughing her up or else ­she’d end the marriage. For a while, he would. And Ginger would tell concerned friends ­“he’s changed.” Divorced once, ­she’d say, “I really want to make it work.” But nothing, not even ­Ginger’s forgiveness, could alter his ­nature.

Said a longtime buddy, Frank was into three things: “Frank, making money, and getting laid.” And more and more, a fourth — getting blind ­drunk.

∗ ∗ ∗

­Frank’s son, Frank Jr., was living in the spare room at Cheryl Lee Court. Frank told a buddy in a January 2008 email that Ginger “asked me years ago to have him move out and move on.” He was still there after Ginger filed for divorce. Frank told his son that it “just might be a little bit better if he had his own place, soon — like real ­soon.”

Ginger wanted Frank Jr. out so her daughter Carolina, ­Carolina’s husband Charles Carstensen, and their child could stay with them. Frank described Carolina and her husband as “developmentally delayed,” a fact confirmed by several of the ­Basses’ friends. With Frank Jr. gone, Frank and Ginger bought a small motor home and moved it onto the property for the Carstensens to live in. Then Erica Bass moved into the spare bedroom in the ­house.

In November 2007, Ginger got busy harnessing the court system. She retained a lawyer, J.R. Givens of San Diego. The papers served, Frank got his own lawyer, James J. Albert of El Cajon. They were told to list their assets and concentrate on a fair division, so they could avoid a court ­battle.

In late 2007, the value of their Lakeside home was estimated at $650,000 with the mortgage at $445,000. They also owned another property in Lakeside as well as properties in Chandler, Arizona, and Austin, Texas. Subtracting the mortgages, their combined equity in these three places was about $200,000. The motor home on their lot was worth $15,000. ­Frank’s 2004 Toyota Tundra was valued at $16,000; he owed $6600 on it. ­Ginger’s 2004 Lexus was valued at $21,500; she owed $16,400 on it. They had individual retirement accounts worth almost $120,000 each. And they had about $10,000 in savings. The assets they would need to divide totaled $337,000, and Ginger proposed a settlement: she would write Frank a check for half of that. He would sign a quitclaim deed for the house, take the money and his tools, and move ­out.

Frank agreed. But he ­didn’t move out. He said that Ginger was allowing him to “continue living” at their Lakeside home until the fateful day, May 28. In a court document, Frank stated that “the reason for this agreement is that I work out of the home and it will take me time to find a new place to live and move my business.” He had “a large quantity of tools, spare parts and equipment in the home.… I need a residence with room for storage and room for a ­trailer.”

To friends, Frank was full of misgivings about ­Ginger’s decision. One email pal recalls that he and his buddies would exchange pictures of “scantily clad women,” with Frank lamenting “how much he loved Ginger and how much better looking she was than” the women in the photos. Evenings, he would drink. “He would come back the next day and apologize for being drunk the night before and ask us to forget his comments.” At one of ­Ginger’s Re/Max Christmas parties that December, Frank was so drunk he started dancing lewdly. Ginger asked a friend to drive her ­home.

A close friend of ­Frank’s described to me their many problems. The first misery, detailed by Ginger and Frank in separate emails, was ­Frank’s womanizing. Ginger said that each time Frank was caught having an affair, he would apologize and promise that was the last. Frank wrote that “I still love Ginger more than I will ever love another woman, and I know she still loves me but probably not as much anymore. But since I have betrayed her I cannot expect her to stay with ­me.”

The second misery was that a drunken Frank would, according to the friend, “force himself upon her against her will.” He asked Ginger several times, “ ‘Why do you allow that?’ Ginger said, ‘When he is drunk and he gets that look in his eye, he scares me to death and I dare not tell him no.’ ” The friend couldn’t believe it: “This is not the Frank I know,” he told her. “And she said, ‘I know. He’s a completely different person when he’s drinking.’ ”

According to Ginger, the bottom fell out on March 2, 2008. That Sunday, she and Frank “went out together for the evening,” she wrote in a chilling statement to the court. “Frank was intoxicated. My sister and her husband were staying with Frank and I and they were sleeping in the guest bedroom. I went to sleep on the couch. Frank got angry at me and began to yell at me. I went into the bedroom and shut the door. Frank pushed the door open and threw me up against a ­wall.

“A few days later I was getting out of the shower when Frank grabbed me and threw me on the bed. I told Frank no several times and asked him not to touch me. He took off my clothes and raped me. The following morning I asked Frank not to rape me ever again, and he said, ­‘It’s not rape. You enjoyed ­it.’

“Frank threatened to rape me several times after that. When I would ask Frank when we were going to discuss the divorce he would tell me that we could discuss it in bed. Frank went so far as to send me an email saying, ‘The covers are pulled ­back.’

“Frank also threatened to kill himself. He has said to me on several occasions, ‘Till death do us part and it is the only way that we will [part].’ I do not know if Frank means that he is going to kill me or ­himself.

“I am afraid that Frank will rape me again. I am also afraid that Frank will hurt or kill me. The terms of our divorce state that I am to get possession of the house and that Frank must leave. Frank has refused to do so. He has stated that he has no intention of leaving the house alive and that it would take a bomb to get him ­out.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Through his lawyer, Frank denied raping Ginger. He said that on March 15 she moved out of their Lakeside home, renting an apartment in Tierrasanta. She said, Frank wrote, that “she was leaving so that she could move on with her life and ‘get ­over’ me.” And, he noted, she was coming back periodically to the house for personal items or to see her daughter Carolina and her family. Then, the situation ­reversed.

According to a court document, Ginger was awarded the house around the first of April in exchange for a cash payment to Frank. She moved back in, and Frank was ordered to leave. Frank again complained that he needed his tools; he refused to sign the quitclaim deed or take money from Ginger. Frank was mad because, as he said, the day she asked the court “for a kick-out order,” she was not living in the house. He was. He was also irked that the work he was doing for Ginger through Re/Max Associates had stopped, so he was out of a job as ­well.

On April 15, Ginger was trying to fix her computer at home when Frank showed up. She wrote in another statement that “Frank grabbed me and said, ­‘Let’s go to the bedroom.’ I struggled to get away and hit the panic alarm on my ­car’s remote. Frank held on to me and started to drag me to the bedroom. I pulled away and tried to go to the living room. I continued to struggle to try and get ­away.

­“Frank’s behavior was scaring me and I was afraid that he was going to beat me or kill me. Frank started yelling at me and said, ‘Take off your clothes.’ I refused and Frank forcibly took off my clothes. Frank then pushed me off the couch onto the floor. Frank took off his clothes and forced me to give him oral sex. I tried to turn my head and get away from him. Frank then began to rape me. While he was raping me, Frank said, ‘You probably want this to be over quick, but I am going to make it last.’… He also said, ‘I love you, Ginger. I would never hurt you.’ I cried the entire ­time.

“After Frank finished he began to put my clothes back on. He put my socks on my feet and then tried to put my pants on. He stopped, told me to wait, then went into the bathroom and grabbed a paper towel and tried to wipe me clean. After he was done, Frank dressed me and then began to comb my hair with his ­fingers.

“I was confused, upset and in shock, so I went out to the garage. Frank followed me to the garage. I stood by the garage door for a while because I was shaking badly and in shock. While I was standing there ­Frank’s daughter [Erica] came home. After she went into the house Frank threatened to kill himself. He walked over to an electrical socket in the garage and said, ‘Come here. Do you want to see how easy it would be for me to kill myself?’ I refused and left the ­house.

“I got in my car and tried to call a friend who is a former deputy sheriff but I was unable to get a hold of him, so I called 911. The police met me and escorted me to a SART [sexual assault response team] examin[ation], where I met with a detective. The detective issued me an emergency protective ­order.”

The court served a restraining order on Frank. It stipulated that he had to stay 100 yards away from Ginger, whether at her home, her job, or in her vehicle, for the next six months. He must not “harass, attack, strike, threaten, assault (sexually or otherwise), hit, follow, stalk, molest, destroy personal property, disturb the peace, keep under surveillance, or block movements.” He was forbidden to have any direct or indirect contact with her via phone, mail, or email. And he could not contact any of ­Ginger’s “family members, caretakers, or guardians” to get information about her. Frank “must go to and pay for a 52-week batterer intervention program and show written proof of completion to the ­court.”

Rusty Wolbers, retired from the trucking business and living in Reno, Nevada, had heard from Ginger about the alleged rape. He learned that Frank had attempted to clean up the marks of his assault, dressing her to “appear as if it were consensual sex.” Wolbers said that his daughter told him, “Dad, he would have killed ­me.”

­Frank’s lawyer, James Albert, disputed one element of the restraining order. He said that Frank was “losing money” because, as his “application to rescind the move-out order” states, “I cannot get all the equipment and supplies” from the Lakeside home “necessary to perform my job for my clients.” His lawyer further argued that Ginger should “stay away from the residence until such time as the restraining order action is ­resolved.”

Ginger did not move out. She did agree that Frank could retrieve “personal items with law enforcement or with a mutually agreed-upon third party or may send third party to retrieve them.” She wanted it done “in one pick-up.” She also admitted to the court that “I let the respondent [Frank] live with me” during the six-month dissolution. He “will have to find another place to live. It is my home. I do not have another place to ­go.”

For much of their marriage, Ginger and Frank were members of the Lemon Grove Rod and Gun Club. Shooting together, they scored quite high, often side by side, in interclub tournaments. In 2004, Frank finished 24th and Ginger 29th. In 2006, Frank was 1st and Ginger ­2nd.

One friend recalls shooting regularly with the Basses. They were part of a league of shooters at P2K, a shooting range in El Cajon. He says the two were “inseparable,” “an admirably complete couple.” They shot matching guns and owned the same equipment. “Frank reloaded all their shells for them to use.” One of ­Ginger’s friends remembers, “She was pretty dang good herself, put many men to the bleachers during shoot-offs.”

What may have been tougher for Frank than Ginger was the requirement in the restraining order that both had to give up their guns. ­Ginger’s lawyer, J.R. Givens, told me that “when the police came” to serve the order on May 12, “they confiscated all the guns.” Frank signed the document “Firearms Turned In or Sold.” He wrote, “I do not possess any ­firearms.”

∗ ∗ ∗

The end date — May 28, 2008 — was fast approaching. Unable to speak directly with Ginger, Frank got messages to her through a pal at Chem-tronics. His buddy relayed an email in which Frank wrote, “The cheap motel stuff is killing me.” In addition, Frank, who apparently ­couldn’t stand the thought of being alone, made plans with Frank Jr. to buy a house after the divorce. By May, father and son had been preapproved for a ­loan.

Sometime that spring, Frank was hired back at Chem-tronics. One machinist friend let Frank move into his apartment, near Escondido. But just for a few days, he said. Frank was a mess, he told me. He broke down crying, saying, ­“There’s no hope for me. I ­can’t live without her.” He was haunted by his “failure” and thought about it obsessively, even while trapshooting. After a few days of sleeping on the couch, Frank was told that he had to go. That night, the friend said, “To tell you the truth, I slept with a loaded gun beside my bed. It ­wasn’t anything Frank said. It was a feeling I got that he was not in control of himself.” He said that he thought Frank “might ­snap.”

At this time, Ginger confided again to a friend in an email that Frank “is still implying that he will give up and kill himself to his daughter [Erica]. This is very stressful to her, he just ­doesn’t seem to understand how his actions wear on his ­family.”

Fearing ­Frank’s return, Ginger had a silent panic alarm, monitored 24/7 by a private company, installed on her bedroom wall, near the door. If alerted, the company would call the ­sheriff’s ­department.

She told her mother, Patty Collins, who lives in Mill Valley, California, where Ginger attended Tamalpais High School for two years, that she believed Frank was going to shoot her. On more than one occasion, Collins told her daughter to leave the ­house.

Ginger was also having trouble with her daughter Carolina. According to court documents, Carolina and her husband, who were living in the motor home, were not taking proper care of their child. ­Ginger’s mother called Carolina “abusive.” Ginger contacted social services, who “assumed care of the child.” Ginger also initiated procedures to evict her daughter and son-in-law. Ginger believed that Carolina was “spying” on her and reporting to Frank “when she was home, who she was seeing, and what she was doing.” Not only was Carolina, according to Collins, “very angry” about this allegation, claiming it ­wasn’t true, but she was also angry that Ginger had called social services. Part of ­Carolina’s anger may have been occasioned by ­Ginger’s choice of Teal Collins-Zee, her sister, to be the executor of her trust. (Collins-Zee is a member of the Mother Truckers rock band.) Apparently, Carolina was excluded from any assets in ­Ginger’s ­estate.

Around the middle of May, ­Ginger’s father, Rusty Wolbers, and his wife arrived on the day Frank showed up to remove his tools and equipment. Wolbers kept Frank from taking things in the garage that belonged to ­Ginger.

­Ginger’s growing dread was corroborated by Erica, ­Frank’s daughter, who worked with Ginger at Re/Max and was living at the Lakeside house. The two, read one court document, had a “very close relationship…despite the failed marriage.” Erica told ­Ginger’s mother that Frank had been harassing Ginger “relentlessly since the rape and the restraining ­order.”

Ginger then did something extraordinary, according to her lawyer, Givens. In the week before the divorce was final, she asked him to get her guns back. “I said to her, ‘I ­don’t like guns. ­I’m not a big gun fan. And ­I’m not comfortable doing this. If you want me to do it, ­I’ll do it. But ­I’m ­concerned.’

“She said, ‘No, no. ­He’s been pretty good lately. ­I’ll be fine. ­I’ll keep them locked up.’ ”

Against his better judgment, Givens said he got the guns released. Among them were ­Ginger’s guns, at least one gun a gift from her father, and ­Frank’s guns, which the restraining order prohibited Frank from possessing. Givens remembered that the guns came back into her home “either the Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday” of the last week of May. That Wednesday was the divorce date. Givens told Ginger to call him when she had the guns in her home and they were secured. She did, he said. “She said they were ­safe.”

According to a trapshooter who knew ­Ginger’s gun habits, the Basses had many shotguns, several 12-gauge and at least one .410 Beretta. They kept their guns locked either in their carrying cases, where they were stored disassembled, or in a glass long-gun cabinet in the bedroom ­closet.

During all this May chaos, guns removed and guns returned, and while Ginger was trying to quit smoking — she was taking Bupropion, a prescription medication for smoking cessation and for treating depression — Wednesday, May 28, came and went, and the Basses were at last ­divorced.

The split final, Ginger, who had borrowed a loaded handgun and kept it in a drawer beside her bed, gave the weapon back to its owner. In its place she had her guns in the house, which may have given her some peace of mind. She allowed herself a feminine touch — a French manicure for her toes and for her fingers, the latter with acrylic ­nails.

On the Friday after the Wednesday divorce date, one of ­Frank’s cohorts at Chem-tronics noted that he was almost unrecognizable. “He was always the picture of health,” he recalled. “But that day I ­couldn’t believe how bad he looked. Skinny and ­drawn.”

∗ ∗ ∗

The home on Cheryl Lee Court — which, postdivorce, belonged to Ginger Wolbers — is a single-family house with a curved driveway at the top of a hill. According to an investigator with the medical ­examiner’s office, the house was “neat, clean, and orderly.” Through the front door and to the right was a dining room and beyond that a kitchen. Off the kitchen was a door leading to a multivehicle garage. Behind the kitchen and outside was a patio, a patio table, and a swimming pool. Beside the kitchen was a living room with a sliding-glass door onto the patio, and on the far side of the living room, a hallway led to a bedroom, a bathroom, and ­Ginger’s master ­bedroom.

At 8:00 p.m., Saturday, May 31, Erica went out for the evening. She later said that she “did not see anyone around the house. All seemed ­well.”

Sometime after Erica left, Frank parked his truck a quarter mile from the home. He made his way to the house and the unlocked back patio ­door.

Inside the house, Ginger was wearing black stretch pants and a blue long-sleeved button-up shirt. Beneath that she had on a black camisole and a black brassiere with purple trim. She wore bracelets on both wrists, two rings on her right hand, and one ring on her ­left.

Earlier, ­she’d used a broiler pan to cook a chicken and, after eating, left the bones on a plate. On the living room table was a beer bottle, a drinking glass, a pen, paper, and other items scattered on the carpet around a soft ­chair.

On the kitchen table sat a bowl of popcorn and a measuring ­cup holding melted butter.

At some point, Frank entered the house, and at some later point Ginger punched the newly installed panic button. The dispatcher at the security company called ­Ginger’s phone number. There was no answer. The dispatcher called the ­sheriff’s department. The ­sheriff’s dispatcher contacted a deputy sheriff at 9:48, and ten minutes later he arrived at Cheryl Lee ­Court.

In the two hours between ­Erica’s leaving and ­deputies’ arriving, Frank attacked Ginger in her bedroom. He hit her with his fists or with a blunt object. He punched her in the chest and stomach. He caused abrasions to her scalp and neck. He scratched her chin. He pummeled her hands and arms, her legs and feet, where multiple contusions attest to ­Ginger’s defensive wounds, hitting and kicking back at ­him.

He pulled a Buck knife out of its sheath on his belt. He cut her near her right ear, on the right side of her nose, on her upper and lower lips. He stuck her 7 times in her shoulder, back, and flanks, 27 times in her right hand, and 21 times in her left hand, the musculature and bones of both hands receiving injuries. Her blue shirt, camisole, and brassiere were torn and ­cut.

The deepest stab wounds sank into her neck, her hands, and her face. There were punctures and incisions to her facial muscles. He gouged at the right side of her face, the slash one inch long and two and three-eighths inches deep, severing her retromandibular vein; on the right side of her neck, the knife cut one and three-eighths inches long and went in one and three-quarter inches deep, tearing into her thyroid gland. The front, sides, and back of her neck and areas on her scalp had multiple incised injuries and stab wounds. Her extremities had multiple cuts and ­stabs.

What seems clear is that Frank targeted her face and ­head.

The documented number of sharp-force injuries was 86 — 22 stab wounds and 64 incised ­injuries.

For most of the attack, Ginger was in her bedroom. Next to the bed, the wall was smeared and the carpet stained with blood. On the bedroom wall were the panic alarm and an intercom unit. Blood covered both devices. At one point, Ginger may have fled the bedroom and gotten as far as the bathroom. Streaks of blood ran on the carpet and walls between the two ­rooms.

Frank may or may not have known that the guns had been returned to her, but he knew where they were kept. Incredibly, the key to the gun cabinet was in the locking mechanism. Frank pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun. It was unloaded. He headed for the garage, where, in a locked cabinet, the ammunition was kept. Frank bent the key in the process of unlocking the cabinet. He grabbed a box of Federal ammunition, labeled “game load,” “lead,” and “25 shot shells/cartouches.” He took the box into the kitchen, placed it on the kitchen counter, and loaded the shotgun. Blood dripped from the bedroom through the living room and into the garage. Blood smeared the ammunition cabinet, the box of shells, and the kitchen ­counter.

It may have been while Frank was getting shells and loading the shotgun that Ginger pressed the panic ­button.

In the bedroom, Frank stood above Ginger. At close range, he shot her in her upper chest. The lead buckshot made a tight one-and-one-eighth-inch entrance wound, with pellets and wadding going in above her left breast. Some of the buckshot and wadding exited through her back. The gun blast caused “marked injury,” wrote a deputy medical examiner, “of her left lung and vascular, nerve, and skeletal structures of her left upper pleural cavity and ­shoulder.”

After shooting Ginger, Frank turned the gun on ­himself.

∗ ∗ ∗

When the deputy arrived, he looked through the front window and saw a drinking glass and bottle lying on the floor. He checked with the ­sheriff’s dispatcher, who told him that the resident had a restraining order out on her ex-husband, whom she had accused of rape. He called for backup, and ten minutes later he and another deputy found a sliding-glass door open at the rear of the house. Inside, they heard ­moaning.

Ginger and Frank were on the bedroom floor. Ginger was covered with blood and not moving. Frank was nearby with a 12-gauge shotgun wound to his upper abdomen. The gun was beside him, and he was moaning. The deputies called for an ambulance from Lakeside Fire Station No. 3. Within a half hour, the ambulance transported Frank to Sharp Memorial ­Hospital.

On the floor, Ginger was semiprone, her left leg under the bed. Her right arm and wrist were bent near her face. A deputy moved ­Ginger’s arm, which was draped over her face. No response. At 10:30 p.m., Ginger was confirmed dead. Beneath her body was the Buck knife, missing its ­tip.

During the investigation of the crime scene, from which the foregoing details come, police detectives and medical examiners concluded that after Frank had beaten, slashed, stabbed, and shot his ex-wife, he pressed the muzzle of the shotgun just below his breastbone and fired. Still, before he could be charged with murder, authorities needed to talk to Frank. As soon as he came ­around.

On Monday, June 2, the medical examiner completed the investigative report, concluding that Ginger had died of “multiple stab wounds and shotgun wound of the ­chest.”

Meanwhile, friends and family were shocked. ­Ginger’s lawyer, J.R. Givens, said that he had had a “kind of premonition” about ­Frank’s growing instability, which is why he worried about retrieving the guns. One friend said that though Ginger was afraid, he never thought Frank would kill her. And yet Ginger told a select few that Frank had changed “completely.” ­Ginger’s cousin, Sheryl Parsons, who lives in Utah, told the Union-Tribune: “I think more than anything we want to make sure [that] if he lives that he never sees daylight. She did not deserve this.” Erica expressed no interest in visiting her father in the hospital. She even refused to tell ­Frank’s friends where he ­was.

­Ginger’s mother, Patty Collins, said that “we were all trying to get Ginger away from him. He got her anyhow. ­There’s only so much you can ­do.”

At Sharp, the night of the shooting, Frank was taken to surgery. He underwent exploratory laparotomy. This procedure found that the xiphoid (the lowest part of the sternum), the lower portion of his ribcage, his stomach, the left lower portion of his liver, his transverse colon, and loops of small bowel were “all obliterated,” according to medical records. “Portions of his stomach, bowels and liver were removed.” The abdomen was “peppered with buckshot.” During that first month in the hospital, he was often returned to the operating room to drain fistulas that were inflamed or infected. Tubes running into his body resembled a freeway ­interchange.

Because of a blood infection and “multiple episodes of sepsis,” he developed gangrene in his lower legs and knees. Months after his suicide attempt, his legs were amputated, five to six inches below the knee. When gangrene developed in his fingers, nine of ten were cut off. For much of the time, Frank was in a drug-induced coma. He did speak to detectives, but he was never charged, a fact that perplexed many of ­Frank’s and ­Ginger’s ­friends.

Into 2009, Frank developed “severe cachexia,” a loss of body mass in which ­one’s muscles atrophy. He was wasting away. On top of that, according to medical records, Frank had a “scarred penis with urethral stricture from a pressor infection, recent Staphylococcus capitis bacteremia, chronic anemia, chronic pain, major depression and psychosis, and ­hypertension.”

Incredibly, despite these agonal events, Frank kept breathing throughout 2009. None of his friends had visited him in the hospital. Carolina hired a lawyer to represent her in a wrongful death suit against ­Frank.

Frank Jr. went to see his father infrequently, and the two spoke. Frank signed papers, apparently with an ­X.

On January 25 of this year, he was moved from Sharp Memorial Hospital to Edgemoor Hospital, where he continued to decline. About two hours after midnight, on February 13, Frank was “discovered unresponsive” in his bed. The nursing staff pronounced him ­dead.

The medical ­examiner’s description of a lifeless, friendless, shriveled, and wasted Frank Bass is grimly revealing: “On 2/13/10, the decedent was viewed lying supine on a hospital bed at Edgemoor Geriatric Hospital. He was dressed in a hospital gown and was noted to have multiple fistula drains coming from wounds in his abdomen. He was extremely cachectic and was noted to have healed bilateral BKA [below knee amputation] and amputation of all of his fingers except for a thumb. He was flaccid, warm to the touch and had forming posterior lividity present.” Two aides “placed the decedent in a new white vinyl pouch and blue seal #1175108 was ­affixed.”

The autopsy report said that Frank, who once weighed 185 pounds, had dropped to 97. A final X-ray showed that there were still “multiple small round pellets concentrated in the upper abdomen.” He was cremated. No memorial service was held. One of his shooter friends told me through tears that of the group of 30, not one “wanted to remember ­him.”

∗ ∗ ∗

One mystery that remained after the shooting was why Frank had shot himself in the abdomen. Several friends wondered whether ­he’d targeted his abdomen so that he ­wouldn’t die, at least, not right ­away.

A few weeks after the shooting, ­sheriff’s department detectives talked to Frank. Spokesman Dennis Brugos described their interview to me. He said Frank remembered little of that ­night’s mayhem. He ­didn’t remember their arguing or his beating, stabbing, and shooting Ginger. But he did recall taking her shotgun out of the cabinet in the closet and shooting himself. How? Frank put the shotgun on his shoulder. He grabbed the barrel with his left hand and, holding the butt with his right hand, aimed the muzzle at himself and pressed the trigger. The shot entered his upper abdomen and went down into his stomach at a steep angle. The detective on the case confirmed that “the shot pattern matches his statement.” The detectives wondered if Frank had intended to shoot himself in the gut; Frank told them he’d aimed for his heart.

During ­Frank’s hospitalization, friends and fellow shooters speculated about what had ­happened.

On a website, Alpine Forum, where people have commented about the death of Ginger and the attempted suicide of Frank, Dr. Julius Hempstead of La Jolla wrote, “To those of you who are wondering, this is exactly why there are ‘how-­to’ suicide websites. Never shoot yourself in the abdomen of all places. The pain is probably as bad as it gets, and it often fails to get the job done. Those sites are meant to minimize pain and the embarrassment of failing at suicide. He must have not really wanted to die. I mean nobody is that dumb to shoot themselves in the stomach for a ­suicide.”

One of ­Frank’s gun pals thinks that the barrel of a 12-gauge is so long that Frank ­couldn’t have reached the ­trigger.

“If he wanted to kill himself, he would put the gun under his chin. That way he could at least reach the trigger and do a proper job of killing ­himself.”

“Would he have known ­that?”

“Oh yeah. Oh ­yeah.”

But he ­didn’t do a “proper ­job.”

Another friend echoed the sentiment: “He should have had the balls to do it right. Besides, if you put a load of lead in your belly, ­you’ve got to know ­that’s going to poison your ­system.”

Still another pal believes Frank ­didn’t want to die: Why did he go back to work when Chem-tronics called? Why did he start the process of buying a house with his son? Such are not the plans of an irrational man. Because he imagined a future for himself, this man believes Ginger shot Frank before Frank shot her. The barrel of the shotgun, he told me, was too long for Frank to reach the trigger and shoot himself in the ­abdomen.

Detectives found no evidence that Ginger shot Frank. Brugos told me that the ­sheriff’s department is satisfied this was a murder-suicide with 20 months separating the two ­deaths.

Brugos said ­there’s no mystery to why Frank ­wasn’t charged. When a murder suspect is severely wounded, homicide detectives typically wait to see “how his condition plays out.” The ­sheriff’s department had no way to care for him, nor was he able to go to court, let alone stand trial. Brugos noted, Frank ­“wasn’t going ­anywhere.”

As traumatic as the knife assault was for Ginger, ­it’s possible that she never felt the gunshot blast. In the interim of the knife attack and ­Frank’s getting and loading the gun, she may have expired.

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Wow- How sad and depressing. This really came at a time when I have been so longing to fall in love and live happily ever after, but now I don't know if I even belive that it's possible anymore.

MOVE ON PEOPLE- take it from a first hand source much of this info is incorrect and the reporter contacted me for info and i denied, hence his lack of correct info as he took it from third party sources!! this is a domestic violence case which is beyond unfortunate, but it happens repeatedly around the county and this is where the story should be centered- in cases where they go on and on.. not something that happened once and two years ago where there was no mystery and this story hurts the true family over and over by printing mis-info years later!! focus your lives on yourselves and improving and current serious events!

While I can sympathize with elikas51 about this story being hurtful to the family members, stories will be told. Once again, it showed the empty promise of the restraining order, and the calloused attitude of law enforcement. But in a larger sense, it also shows how people marry strangers (Oh, they think they know the person, but often are clueless) and get into some truly terrifying situations.

What this story also shows is how you think you know someone and marry them. Sometimes people change. Or they are very moody. Such as what happened with Frank Bass. He, apparently was one of those "mean drunks." Not to mention a skirt-chaser too.

Falling in love and marrying another person is always a leap of faith. My own first marriage went south just like this one did.

In breaking up, I suffered the very same threats, physical abuse and fears as Ginger did. I would have advised her to head up north to her mother and try and get out of town. Make it difficult for the ex to find her and lay low for a while. I know this is hard to do when you have a job, friends, and family here but look at the alternative. She is dead now.

My heart goes out to the family but I hope some clueless women can get some knowledge that it is not always champagne and roses in a marriage. If you have the ill fortune to marry a man that you must tip toe on eggshells to live with-GET OUT NOW!

Here's something to think about, folks: "MARRAIGE VOWS ARE NOT A SUICIDE PACT!"

I, too, had the misfortune of dealing with a spouse who, though outwardly loving and kind, turned out to be a borderline sociopath. Though I never was physically struck by her, the constant browbeating and verbal abuse were warning signs...ones I chose not to heed. After all, I was raised on the belief that "'till Death do us part" meant exactly that. You only left the marraige when you left this life.

I was lucky to get out when I did--yet the pain still scars me. However, better to be alive and "Monday-morning critique" your actions, than it is to die horribly at the hands of a person you thought loved you.

Women can be just as abusive as men--and the results are just as tragic. If you are in such a situation, find the courage and clear out, post-haste. Your possessions can be replaced, but your life, once taken, can never be returned!



Women should always avoid men who exhibit working class values like he had. Men who are interested in sports, guns, and drink regularly are losers, and women who involve themselves with such men are going to wind up being beaten, or worse. Working class men have a tendency to get drunk and beat their wives and children without mercy. Most are bi-polar, or they would not be working class. While it might be acceptable to have a single glass of alcohol at a wedding or other occasion, working class men insist on living their lives in a drunken stupor, sitting in front of the TV every night watching sports and guzzling beer. It also appears that Ginger may have craved tall men. Most tall men have an extreme propensity to violence, and women should realize that choosing men solely for their height is not wise. I would also be willing to bet Frank was a smoker.

Oh come on Burwell! You've just spewed the most condensed pack of stereotypes (well, some of those things are yours and yours alone) I've ever seen, and that's saying a bunch. If working class men are such an bunch of losers, why are we worse off now than a few decades ago when MOST men were working class? My own observation is that your stereotypes fit one end of the male spectrum, and that you miss a huge slice of humanity that is nothing at all like you describe. In my extended family, there are gun hobbyists who are about the least violent guys you could ever meet. They don't drink much, have no history of spousal or child abuse, and are working class, but highly skilled.

It's a good thing for you that these comments are anonymous. I can think of a few working class WOMEN who would be in front of your house screaming for your blood, based on those comments. Notice I said women, not men. They know that social class has little to do with alcohol or drug abuse, violent behavior, and unstable home lives.

If working class men are such an bunch of losers, why are we worse off now than a few decades ago when MOST men were working class?

Until recently, working class violence directed against women and children was largely ignored by the police, primarily because most male police officers also beat up their wives and children and thought nothing of it. Drunkeness and domestic violence is so widespread among police officers that Congress passed a law that forbade officers convicted of spousal abuse from carrying firearms, which means convicted officers lose their jobs. This is as it should be. Police officers are now required to arrest working class men who brutalize their families, and in many states an officer who fails to make such an arrest can be charged with a felony. I don't know that we are worse off, its just that working class violence in the past was largely unreported.

I'm contacting the editor as this is absolutely so wrong on so many levels. To post these sorts of details is so painful for us to see! I certainly hope this is yanked before her mother sees this! What sort of animal would stoop to hurting us this way???? You are not a reporter you are a sensation seeker of the worst kind. Shame on you!

Burwell, that is the biggest bunch of crap I've ever seen you write in the comments section of the Reader. It is completely insulting, to me, my family, and the majority of Americans that have made it possible for you to live your miserable white-collar retired life.

I'm 6' 2", and I'm guessing you're quite small. Even at 50, if the world suddenly goes to hell in a handbasket, you're going to have to rely on tall people like me (who spent many early years of my life working in foundries) to track down your food and build you shelter. Didn't you learn anthropology in college?


Burwell, that is the biggest bunch of crap I've ever seen you write in the comments section of the Reader. It is completely insulting, to me, my family, and the majority of Americans that have made it possible for you to live your miserable white-collar retired life.


I was not directing my comments to you, refriedgringo. I am sure you are an honorable man who lives an honorable life. I know that you are a hard worker from your previous postings. I said most tall men have violent tendencies, not all. I am sure that you are the exception to the rule.

Burwell, I once worked for a company in Los Angeles, ethnicity omitted on purpose, because who knows if that had anything to do with it? Anyway, it was a contract job, I ran their warehouse for a summer until I shipped off elsewhere. The guy I reported to, I liked him, nice guy. We got on well, he appreciated my hard work and we thrived that summer, financially. One day we had a problem with one of the employees.

"I can tell by the way that guy looks, he's no good," he said.

And, of course, as his employee I said nothing. But. I know better. And, my friend, so do you. People are just people, they don't pick how they appear.

Much nonsense being spouted here amongst the comments, but I would like to second one opinion - you can indeed tell a lot about a person simply by how they look. Certain types of clothing, hair styles, and even body language can reveal a helluva lot about that person --- you see one guy wearing a cowboy hat, another wearing a hemp toque, and a third wearing a silk lined fedora, it's pretty safe to bet which one you're more likely to find at concerts featuring Travis Tritt, Ziggy Marley, and Leonard Cohen.

Sure, there are exceptions, but you get what I mean - we wear who we are in countless ways.

Even ignoring outward "signs" that people drape over themselves, someone's face can be even more revealing - as I've been quoted saying before, by the time we reach the age of forty, almost everyone pretty much has exactly the face they deserve.

Respectfully disagree Jay, on many levels. I mean, sure, you can tell a lot about a person by how they talk and how they act, but to say that based on how they dress or what they do for a living one can make assumptions, isn't accurate much of the time.

Here's a picture of one man that comes to mind:

I leave you to your impressions of anything, from what he does for a living, what he has done for a living, etc., and invite you to offer an opinion.

Brian Bilbray can tell if someone is illegal by their clothing.

My POV is that you can tell a lot by looking at a PERSON, not a photograph ---

Sure, not all outward signs are stereotypically accurate. Because I haven't had a haircut since Led Zep were still together, people frequently assume I'm some kind of hippie. And yet I can't stand being around (most) hippies, nor do I concur with (most) hippie "philosophies," and I detest (most) of the music (and recreational drugs!) that (most) hippies tend to champion -- see "Why I Don't Like Hippies" at http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/autobiography-channel/2010/mar/03/why-i-dont-like-hippies

I don't cut my hair simply because I like it, and I don't HAVE to cut it. No other statement intended - sometimes, it's just fun to be the exception to the rule. However, what you CAN tell about me by looking at my hair is that I'm not likely in the military or running a bank, so something about me IS still being indicated by my hair...just not something stereotypical like "he's a hippie."

Well, I'll attempt to make my point anyway, long-haired hippie and all ;)

The man in the photograph is named James Anthony Abbott. He was born in Flint, Michigan in 1967 (same city my mother was born in!), and attended Flint Central High School where he excelled in baseball and football playing the positions of pitcher and quarterback, respectively. Out of high school, he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays but instead played for the University of Michigan where he led them to two Big Ten championships.

He was then drafted in 1989 in the 1st round (8th pick overall) by the California Angels, where he never played a minor league game, instead being placed in the starting rotation of the Major League club as a rookie. He went 12-12 on a very poor club. Two years later, he won 18 games and placed third in Cy Young voting.

On September 4, 1993 while pitching for the New York Yankees, Abbott pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.

Abbott retired after the 1999 season with a career record of 87–108, with a 4.25 ERA.

While looking at the photograph it is conceivable to ponder that he might have been an athlete, most would never guess that he pitched a no-hitter. And then there's what you can't see in photograph, it's hidden by the podium. Well, really, it isn't hidden by the podium.

You see, Jim Abbott was born without a right hand.

i think what this blog shows so clearly is that people in general trust the system to solve their problems

and that's just so not right....the system is red tape based...phone calls that will be made by that responder of a panic button to a sheriff being called to an officer who eventually will be sent to the scene

just in time to find her dead stabbed beaten shot body on the floor

u know the way all of us watch a movie with a plot like this and we say...



i admit that Dr Phil gets on my last nerve sometime..but he has one saying that is so f***ing true


why didn't she leave????

why didn't she have him arrested and jailed for spousal abuse

why did this clear thinking successful woman in so many other ways not do the correct things that would have saved her life???????

and Jay...if u cut ur hair u'll break this hippies heart

forgive these peeps Refried...they got their brains in a twist homey

It's fine, nan, just a difference of opinion. That never hurt anyone.

I remember the same about Abbott. An amazing athlete. I grew up in Southern California; heck, my memories of the Angels go back to the Roger Repoz days.

Mine was likely '67 or '68 as a young kid. "One-swing" Repoz was out there in right field, he was one of those guys that the Yankees had originally touted as "the next Mantle". By the time he got to the Angels, everyone knew better.

I went to a lot of games up into the '80's. You could always get tickets to the Angels games, I remember my father at one point got season tickets through work to give to clients and no one wanted them. I would drive down to the Big A with my little brother with four tickets behind home plate and stand in the parking lot, it took a long time to give away the other two tickets sometimes.

@nan - She did leave. She did have him arrested. It didn't matter. He was determined, and a restraining order is only as good or strong as the paper it's written on. If someone is set on having their way, there is little that can be done to protect someone unless they go to a shelter. If you've ever spent time in a shelter you will know why she didn't choose that. Have you ever been attacked by a man? Beaten, raped? Before you pass judgment you better know what you are talking about.

I don't think nan was passing judgement. I am pretty sure she is expressing what everyone asks when they read again how a woman died at the hands of her spouse or boyfriend. You do not need to be attacked, beaten, raped to express frustration and outrage at something that should not ever happen to women but continues to happen every second of every day. We know that women do not get a fair shake when it comes to the justice system and we also know that these types of men will hunt you down and kill you if you try to leave them. Unfortunately, no one can predict their future behavior and are unaware of their past behavior when they first meet this type of man, and by then it is too late. They usually will stop at nothing.

He was determined, and a restraining order is only as good or strong as the paper it's written on.

A protection order is useless . . .

these types of men will hunt you down and kill you if you try to leave them

Very true, and this is why I think people need the right to carry a firearm, for situations like this, where your life is in danger and the only person that can protect you-is yourself. And although it happens less frequently, it is not limited to men (can you say Betty Broederick or Lorreta Bobbit)

charity4all...she waffled...came and went...never stuck to her guns about the abuse...sometime didn't even file a report...she did take the steps to make the problem go away but she didn't take all of the needed steps...she let him in to collect thing...it seems she didn't even have the locks changed...didn't put bars on the windows..she didn't buy an attack dog...she should have had someone in the house with her at all times

no i haven't ever been beaten or rape...and i had a rule


what about self defense classes...why was Frank able to enter the house

these kind of men being so dangerous absolutely all things must be done to make the environment safer...even right down to an electrified fence if needed

i spent many years working in a Emergency Room charity4all...i'm also a woman who is all to familiar with brutal people because i saw so much in the Emergency Room

i saw a 5th year Pediatric intern nearly kill a stepfather who rape and brutalized his 5 year old stepdaughter with her mother looking on but unable due fear to defend her...he tore thru her vaginal canal and her bowel and bladder wall...i cheered that DOC on!!!

hunny...i've seen everything

and to intimate shelters r in some ways to awful to spend time in just plain stupidity...the grave is much worse

i have been on the down side of civilized humanity...i have lots of experence and am not uninformed or too well off to understand or be sensitive to those less fortunate...i've been one of the less fortunate

i thought i was clear in my previous statement that sometimes one has to make sacrifices unexpected to save one life...his first wife ran and save her life...this gal should have too

if u depend on a slow flaky undependable system to save u...u'll be knee deep in s*** before noon!!

All said... still a VERY unfortunate story, and I can't help but feel like this could have happened to any of us, even you, nan. She had her guns and her emergency plan, but the guy didn't give up until he made sure that if he couldn't have her, no one would. "But for the grace of God, there, go I" Words to contemplate,in this judgmental world.

agreed aquarimary...but it makes me livid that it ended this way...i guess more then anything else it's the false assurance that these things can be manage in a civil lawful manner

cause in cases like these they can't...the only redeeming quality in this piece was that he died a slow excruciating death...i wish it had been more painful and lasted longer

really i hardly ever get like this...but this really got to me...reading it was like watching a train wreck and not being to take ur eyes away

i don't judge the lady...but i do judge a system that can't keep people safe

NAN- YOU POSTED "she let him in to collect thing...it seems she didn't even have the locks changed...didn't put bars on the windows..she didn't buy an attack dog...she should have had someone in the house with her at all times"

TAKE IT FROM THE SOURCE. She had a supervisor watching over while he collected his things! SHE DID CHANGE THE LOCKS. I WAS THERE WITH HER. I understand you are just a reader and these questions are hard not to ask, but just a reminder to not pass judgement when sick reporters like these write half ass stories. How sad for the family. While I strongly agree how important it is for domestic violence awareness, posting unnecessary repetitive details on one story is ridiculous! Perhaps this brilliant reporter should've used a collection of stories instead of one that just created a huge thread of speculation comments.

I awoke this morning at 4:45am because I had a dream of Ginger. With warm tears running on the side of my cheeks I wondered what ever happened to Frank. I worked under her Brokerage. She was an amazing caring woman whom I respected and looked upto and was even intimidated from her strong and intelligent character. My father abused my mother and as young as my siblings and I were we remember my mother moving again and again trying to run from him. I was only 3 when one morning he drove her to work and in the parking lot he beat her. She ran out of the car he chased her and dragged her from her hair back into his car and shot her knees so that she could not run from him. After 6 calls for them to show up. Unfortunately he had alredy soved a gun in her mouth. He then turned the gun on himself. I can't. Imagine the agonizing death such as my mother and Ginger and so many others. I pray that both families heal and understand and accept that unity and forgiveness is necessary to release the pain. As for the individual that produced tgis story, I wish they would have had more heart and sympathy to spare unnecessary hurtful details that didnt need to be entailed to publish a story. Seems as if you were trying to write a script. May God forgive and understand your inexperience in life. May he grant you Compassion, Intelligence and Integrity. To the Families my respect and prayers will be

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