Days after Major Bashinsky disappeared from his law office earlier this month, a letter turned up in his abandoned car that angrily accused his prosperous family of mistreating workers at the snack food company it founded.

When his body was later found in a Birmingham, Ala., golf course pond, it had all the markings of a sinister slaying: The 63-year-old father and husband had been shot in the head and bound loosely with a rope. The label from a Golden Flake chips bag was stuffed in his mouth like a cruel joke.