The life of Brian Golsby continued to be analyzed through a psychological point of view Monday in court as his defense team and its final witness described his living conditions as a youth; the making of the murderer.
Golsby’s life filled of poverty, abuse and mental health issues was a “recipe for disaster,” according to Bob Stinson, a clinical and forensic psychologist who met with Golsby three times in jail after his Feb. 11, 2017 arrest. That disaster, apparently, was the kidnapping, rape and murder of Ohio State student Reagan Tokes.
Stinson, the final defense witness in the sentencing phase of trial, described Golsby’s upbringing as being “marked by multi-generational family dysfunction and violence.” According to 2,000 pages of documents containing wellness checks, psychological evaluations and Franklin County Children Services records he reviewed, Stinson said Golsby’s family was filled with alcoholism, drug abuse and physical violence.
But why do these factors matter in this case?
This was the question Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien aggressively and repeatedly asked throughout his cross-examination of Stinson.
O’Brien asked, searching for some sort of clarity, “Why did [Golsby] shoot Reagan Tokes on February 8th?” After all, he said, no one else in Golsby’s “dysfunctional family tree” committed such a crime.
Stinson said Golsby raped upward of 10 people throughout his adolescent life, and forced a woman to perform fellatio as an adult. But he didn’t kill those people, O’Brien said, so why did he kill Tokes?
What factor led to this aggravated murder? Or even the rape and robbery? The prosecution hounded for these answers, asking Stinson if during his three visits, which collectively amounted to a little less than five hours with Golsby, if he ever asked the man guilty of murder why he did it.
Stinson’s answer was no, he did not ask Golsby why, because his job, he said, was to focus on the life that led up to Feb. 8, 2017. Stinson said he viewed Golsby as guilty from the very beginning, which is why he said he did not feel the need to ask why.
While the defense seemed to use Golsby’s history as a reason for him murdering a 21-year-old woman who gave him everything he asked for in the hours he held her captive, Stinson said Golsby’s mental health does not mean he should not be held responsible for what he did.
“I’m not here to tell everyone he didn’t have a choice in what he did,” Stinson said.
One of those choices could have easily been to spare Tokes’ life, O’Brien said, adding that after killing her, GPS data collected from Golsby’s ankle monitor tracked him to the place in which she was abducted. “He could have dropped her off,” O’Brien said.
But to Stinson, being held responsible seemed to mean not the death penalty, but instead being in a jail with structure, proper medication and trauma care.
Different facets of Golsby’s mental health were discussed throughout Stinson’s testimony. Golsby has a history of depression, ADHD and has said — though not consistently in psychological evaluations over time — that he has heard voices.
Similar to his interview with the Grove City Division of Police the day he was arrested for killing Tokes, Golsby’s narrative seemed to change depending on when he was asked certain questions pertaining to abuse at home, substance use and psychological trauma.
During a slideshow presentation in which traumatic factors in Golsby’s life were numbered one through 15 (3 – a history of drug and alcohol abuse, 4 – an abusive mother, 6 – living in poverty), the man who has consistently appeared stoic throughout the trial grew restless.
He moved his chair when his mother, Stephanie, was discussed, specifically her substance use and abusive parenting. He cocked his head to the right looking at the three rows of audience sitting adjacent to the jury as the slide went from one number to the next, explaining trauma that Stinson said made Golsby the murderer he is today, the “perfect recipe for disaster.” He yawned and scratched his face when the PowerPoint turned to an animated slide that showed a picture of a ball (Golsby) headed down a slanted path of disaster, unblocked by a square (a support system) that had been removed with the click of a remote.
Golsby’s depression and life without a father figure were major points of focus throughout the testimony. This need for a father, Stinson said, led Golsby to try to kill himself when he was a teenager. Living with an abusive mother led him to witness violence he would soon reciprocate, Stinson said, which could be reason for why he wielded a knife and threatened his mother at one point as a child. Being raped at 12 or 13 years old could lead to an understanding of why he commited similar acts throughout his life, Stinson said.
The jury will begin its deliberations Tuesday on whether Golsby will face the death penalty; life in prison without the possibility of parole; life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years; or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
The narrative of Golsby, his upbringing and his crimes might never be clear. He is proven to be an unreliable source of information, which could mean there might never be an answer to the question O’Brien, the Tokes family and Tokes’ friends and college community long to learn: Why?