COLUMBUS — Brian Lee Golsby faces three consecutive life sentences without any hope of ever being released for last year’s brutal slaying of a former Monclova Township woman who prosecutors said did everything asked of her in hopes of surviving her ordeal.
A Franklin County jury deadlocked 8-4 on the question of whether Golsby, 30, should be put to death and ultimately returned a unanimous life verdict for the murder of Reagan Tokes, and Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott then added two more for the kidnapping and rape that preceded it on the night of Feb. 8, 2017.
After deliberating for seven hours over two days, a jury decided that Brian Golsby’s life should be spared in the murder of Reagan Tokes. It recommended life in prison without parole. Golsby stands in the courtroom during sentencing on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.
FRED SQUILLANTE/COLUMBUS DISPATCH Enlarge
“It doesn’t change anything for us,” said Reagan’s mother, Lisa McCrary-Tokes, as she stood with her husband Toby. “We still walk away from here a family that has lost a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a grandchild. What it does give us today is closure from this portion. We can walk away knowing this is not looming over our heads.”
The Tokes family and friends wore ribbons of tiffany blue, Reagan’s favorite color.
Golsby showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
“No, your honor. Thank you,” he simply said when Judge Serrott asked if he wanted to comment before official sentencing.
The jury deliberated for more than six hours over two days.
A female juror who asked not to be identified said the jury decided to “sleep on it” Tuesday night when it became apparent they were stuck on the death sentence. She said she favored life from the beginning.
Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said he understood that the deadlock was eight in favor of the death penalty, two against, and two others were undecided.
After deliberating for seven hours over two days, a jury decided that Brian Golsby’s life should be spared in the murder of Reagan Tokes. It recommended life in prison without parole. Tokes' mother, Lisa McCrary-Tokes, listens to questions from the media after sentencing on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.
FRED SQUILLANTE/columbus dispatch Enlarge
Another female juror said she initially favored a life sentence, changed her mind to favor death, and then ultimately settled for life to get a unanimous verdict.
Defense attorneys made no effort to try to convince the jury to recommend lesser sentencing options available to them — as low as life in prison with a chance for parole after 25 years.
Attorney Diane Menashe said there were efforts to have Golsby plead guilty to the criminal charges early on as long as the death penalty would have been taken off the table.
“For the first time in his life, in particular the last three days, Brian has seen two individuals fight for him like no one’s ever fought for him before,” she said. “And I see a change in him... Each one of us needs someone in this world to stand up and fight for them.”
Ms. Tokes, 21, a graduate of Anthony Wayne High School and an Ohio State University senior three months from getting her psychology degree, was apparently selected at random by Golsby as she left work at a restaurant south of campus.
A registered sex offender recently released from prison after completing a nearly six-year sentence for attempted rape, Golsby was equipped with an ankle GPS monitor that kept track of everywhere he went.
The device was not monitored in real time. But once a DNA sample put Golsby on their radar, police used the data to retrace his steps and place him at or near Ms. Tokes’ known locations — from the Columbus street where she was abducted to the Grove City park where her nude body was discovered the next day.
She had been shot twice in the head.
All doubt had been erased as to whether Golsby pulled the trigger. After his conviction, Golsby and his attorneys admitted his guilt and turned to what had been their goal from the start, sparing him from Ohio’s lethal injection gurney.
“We tried this as a death penalty case... We're left with life without parole,” Mr. O’Brien said. “The good news, I think for us, is Golsby will die in prison. Secondly, we won't be mired in 20 years of post-conviction litigation that sometimes borders on the frivolous.”
In addition to the three consecutive life without parole sentences, Judge Serrott added decades more — all to be served consecutively — for tampering with evidence, aggravated robbery, weapons, and repeat offender charges. The loading on was designed to ensure Golsby will never again see the outside of a prison.
“Your life got spared because of your childhood, and yet Reagan did nothing wrong whatsoever,” the judge said. “And I find it ironic that she forfeited her life because of your background. You get spared because of your background, and yet she forfeited her life. She did nothing wrong except be at work.”
The defense attorneys argued that a multi-generational history in his family of domestic violence, mental health problems, and addiction; his rape at the hands of a stranger at the age of 12 or 13; and brain injuries that affected him intellectually set the stage for the choices he made that night that ended with Ms. Tokes’ death.
The prosecution, however, argued that Golsby made the choices that led that night to “every woman's nightmare.”
Despite his higher-risk and registered sex offender status, the Ohio Parole Authority did not track his GPS monitor in real time nor did it act quickly to take him back into custody when Golsby repeatedly violated minor restrictions placed on his release.
Judge Serrott praised the Tokeses’ effort to get the General Assembly to change Ohio sentencing parole supervision law.
Golsby still faces a separate trial for a series of robberies he committed in the Columbus neighborhood of German Village in the days immediately preceding Ms. Tokes’ murder.
“He had an ankle monitor on him, and his behavior did what? It escalated,” Judge Serrott said. “He beat some elderly women and robbed them. Had he been monitored this may never have happened.”
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.
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