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.