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Reagan Tokes trial: Prosecution makes case for aggravated murder in closing arguments

Assistant County Prosecutor James Lowe shows the murder weapon to the jury Tuesday during his closing statement. Credit: Matt Dorsey | Engagement Editor

Both the prosecution and defense are in agreement that Brian Golsby kidnapped, raped and murdered Reagan Tokes, but the differences between the two sides lie in how much “calculation and design” he had, as heard in closing arguments Tuesday morning, a day which would have been Tokes’ 23rd birthday.

“On February 8th of 2017, Reagan Tokes went through every woman’s nightmare,” said Jennifer Rausch, assistant county prosecutor, at the start of her 50-minute statement. “She was kidnapped, she was robbed, she was raped and she was murdered.”

The arguments from the prosecution and defense focused on specifications which the jury must take into account when deciding whether Golsby is guilty of the nine counts he is charged with, namely the difference between murder and aggravated murder, and whether or not he acted with “prior calculation and design.”

Being convicted of aggravated murder could be the difference between receiving the death penalty or a prison sentence for Golsby.

Rausch argued that Golsby murdered Tokes in an attempt to get away with the other crimes he had already committed against her, indicating that he planned to kill her, even if the planning wasn’t far in advance.

“Why else did he kill her?” she said, rhetorically.

Defense attorney Diane Menashe addresses the jury during closing statements in court on Tuesday. Credit: Matt Dorsey | Engagement Editor

The prosecution repeatedly emphasized the strength of the evidence and testimony it presented, with assistant prosecutor James Lowe stating multiple times in his rebuttal to the defense that it “is not a difficult case.”

The reliability of the GPS data in particular is a point Rausch centered on.

Rausch also emphasized how strong the evidence was against Golsby on the charge of rape, highlighting both the DNA evidence presented Monday and Golsby’s videotaped confession to Grove City Division of Police presented Thursday.

“How do we know that [the rape] happened? DNA, DNA, DNA. Also, he tells you. He tells you he did it,” she said.

In her statement, defense attorney Diane Menashe conceded that Golsby is “T.J.” — the supposed name of the friend who Golsby told Grove City police killed Tokes — effectively acknowledging that Golsby committed the crime.

With that acknowledgment, however, Menashe argued that Golsby did not act with prior calculation and design in killing Tokes and that he is not actually smart enough to do so. Instead, Menashe said Golsby killed Tokes out of fear.

Menashe recounted Brittney Stepp’s testimony Monday of her May jail visit during which Golsby confessed to raping and murdering Tokes to their mutual friend and mother of Golsby’s daughter, Jennifer Nickell. Stepp said after Golsby’s confession sent Nickell fleeing the jail, Stepp picked up the phone to speak with Golsby on the other side of the plate-glass window.

“But remember what he said. He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I got scared,’” Menashe said in her statement, adding that “‘I got scared’ is not prior calculation and design.”

Additionally, Menashe pointed to the fact that Golsby made no apparent attempt to remove his GPS ankle monitor and that he kept it charged prior to committing the crimes as further indication that he is not capable of planning ahead.

In his impassioned rebuttal to the defense in which he showed the murder weapon and the sweatshirt with gunshot residue Golsby was wearing the night of the murder, Lowe described how immediately after killing Tokes, Golsby showed a lack of concern by picking up his girlfriend Hattisa Jackson to go out for a meal.

Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer Rausch delivers the prosecution’s closing statement in court on Tuesday. Credit: Matt Dorsey | Engagement Editor

“They went to McDonalds to get a snack,” Lowe said. “That shows you what we are dealing with here, ladies and gentlemen: a cold-blooded killer.”

Lowe said Golsby clearly killed Tokes and left her body at Scioto Grove Metro Park because he didn’t want to get caught, proving the calculation necessary to be convicted of aggravated murder.

“He kills her because he can’t let her testify. He has no beef with Reagan. He kills her because he raped her. He kills her because he robbed her. He killed her because he kidnapped her. He took her to that park so she wouldn’t be found right away, he murdered her so she couldn’t come in here and tell you what happened,” Lowe told the jury. “Of course it is to escape detection.”

The defense also called into question the DNA evidence provided by the state on Monday by again casting doubt on the use of a DNA profile of Golsby that was created in 2010.

The prosecution rebutted that the DNA profile was fine, and that the profile was used to connect Golsby to the cigarette found by the Tokes’ car that led to Golsby being brought in for initial questioning in February 2017.

“DNA does not change, from 2000, from 1990, 1980, it doesn’t matter. Your DNA does not change,” Lowe said to the jury.

In addition to rebutting Menashe’s statement, Lowe appealed to emotion, something Menashe asked the jury to factor out, pleading for them to be objective.

“Reagan Tokes was a 21-year-old college student three months shy of graduating,” Lowe said. “She had just gotten off her shift at work at Bodega, not doing anything wrong. She wasn’t drinking, she wasn’t doing drugs, she wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was in the right place at the right time, doing what she was supposed to be doing, trying to get home. But she didn’t get there because of that man, because of Brian Lee Golsby, because he decided he needed some fast and easy money.”

Following the closing statements and detailed jury instructions from Judge Mark Serrott, the jury began its deliberations. A guilty verdict could lead to Golsby being sentenced to death.

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