The man who kidnapped 21-year-old Reagan Tokes last year as she was leaving work, who terrorized her at gunpoint for hours, who brutally raped her, shot her twice in the head, and left her lifeless, naked body to freeze in a Grove City park has been sentenced to die in prison with a life sentence.
The act of raping someone steals their dignity and humanity. It leaves life-lasting trauma. Golsby himself and his defense team used that as their one and only crutch while attempting to save Golsby’s life. He was raped behind a convenience store as a child. But Golsby got to live to tell the tale. Reagan didn’t.
His fate is decided. The trial is over. The aftermath never will be.
There is legal justice, and then there is universal justice. Legal justice can punish. Perhaps it can also deter. It can remove dangerous perpetrators of violence from society.
What it can’t do is right a wrong.
What it can’t do is take away pain. Pain felt by Reagan’s family, pain felt by Reagan’s best friends, pain felt by her teachers, pain felt by her acquaintances, pain felt by her college community, even those who did not know her personally.
What it can’t do is erase the events of Feb. 8, 2017.
What it can’t do is bring Reagan back.
Golsby stole the life of Reagan Tokes, and in the process, stole the peace from everyone involved in the aftermath. Few, if any, in the courtroom will walk away with peace.
Many, including the Tokes family, who were present when Golsby was found guilty for the kidnapping, rape and murder of their daughter and sister, will leave the courtroom with less peace than when they entered.
One of the charges Golsby has been convicted of is robbery, for stealing Reagan’s car and forcing her to withdraw cash from an ATM. The ultimate robbery, however, is one of potential. By the accounts of those close to her, Reagan was a wonderfully compassionate and caring person. In her final year as an undergraduate when her life was cut short, it seems likely she was headed for great things, but one is left guessing as to what those might have been.
When people become parents, they make something of a bid for immortality. Parents put all their resources into nurturing a human being who should outlive them. Whether openly acknowledged or not, all parents hope such an investment leads to their child growing into a person who will leave a positive mark on the world. Abruptly robbing someone of that hope is cruel beyond imagination.
The jurors, who came into trial knowing nothing about Reagan, now know every detail of the two hours she was held captive last February.
They know she did everything to survive, but that was not enough. This detail is one of the most troubling.
The jurors will leave the trial not knowing Reagan, only the night she was murdered. The Reagan so many strangers read about. The Reagan we, as reporters, know.
Those in the courtroom also were confronted with the horror of how some of our fellow citizens grow up. Golsby’s upbringing does indeed sound awful. The behavior he exhibited is monstrous, yet the person who engaged in it is all too terrifyingly human.
Golsby will spend the rest of his days in a cell and, eventually, be forgotten.
Reagan will live on. She did everything right. She did not deserve to die.
By any measure, the Golsby trial was a showcase for the U.S. criminal justice system. Justice was served as fully and as clearly as institutionally possible.
Yet, for those who sat through the trial, it will always serve as a grisly reminder of the presence in our society of the abject horror humans are capable of.
This horror is the absence of universal justice.