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Commentary: End of Reagan Tokes trial brings little peace

Reagan Tokes’ family accepts her degree posthumously at Spring Commencement in Ohio Stadium on May 7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

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.


  1. Great commentary, well said. Its very sad the jury didn’t see it that way, they could only pity this man and spare his life. But this subhuman had no pity or remorse or even mercy for Reagan when he kidnapped, robbed, r*#ed and murdered her. I hope these jurors are able to sleep at night, because justice was not served in this case – that man is a repeat offender and was only out of prison (r*#e conviction) for a few weeks when HE made the CHOICE by his OWN FREE WILL to take Reagan’s life. I can only hope that spending the rest of his life in prison will be a lifetime of hell for him and even that won’t be justice served.

    Side note: my comment was originally rejected because I used the word that defines the criminal act of forced sex on a person. WTH? It’s not a word that is not PC or offensive. What word should I use that isn’t banned?

  2. Brian Golsby deserved the death penalty, the jurors in this case were apparently more worried about how they would feel sending him to his death as opposed to seeking justice for Reagan. He kidnapped her, robbed her and tortured her and then as she plead for her life, executed her at point blank range! There will now never be peace for the family, in reality Golsby will outlive Reagans parents and the jurors! I hope they’re proud!

  3. This case is like so many others. Where a rapist and murderer are getting to live and eat every day and watch tv.
    The justice system is very weak. Why put them in jail they should not even get a trial. They are rapist and murderers
    They should be put to death sooner than later. There should NOT be a death row for them.
    Congressmen should look in the mirror and ask themselves why are we spending so much money to keep these
    criminals alive for taking another’s lfe. An eye for an eye.

  4. Your commentary was very insightful and appreciated. I knew Reagan and have met her parents and her sister. I can’t even begin to understand how difficult this year has been for Lisa, Toby and Makenzie Tokes. I am in awe of their strength and courage driven by their love of Reagan. Reagan was very lucky to have them and they were blessed to have her.
    You are correct when you say how her death affected so many. My daughter lived with Reagan her freshman, junior and senior years. Reagan, my daughter, and her closest friends did what all college students do. They went on vacations together, visited each others families, laughed together, cried together, and partied together. They went to OSU football games together, jumped in Mirror Lake together, got jobs at the same places, and had classes together. In short, they created their own family at OSU. All of Reagan’s roommates and close friends have been impacted beyond belief by these horrible events. From reporting her missing, interviews with the police (who were phenomenal!), fending off reporters in those first few horrible hours, nightmares, and testifying at the trial. All while experiencing incredible grief and sadness. These young women and men have kept putting one foot in front of the other throughout the last year. And now the trial is over. And it didn’t help. Reagan is still not with them. And they are still sad.

    One thing I know for sure is that Reagan will ALWAYS live forever in their hearts and memories. When they talk about Reagan – not those horrible events- they always end up laughing about some kind of crazy antic or memory of their life with Reagan. The Tokes had a warm, loving, and funny daughter. Madison, Kirsten, Jackie, Steph, and Ronnie had a warm, loving, and funny “sister”.

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