Reagan Tokes’ life was taken from her by a man who did not know her. A man who in her unconsented presence had hours to let her live.
Along with her life, he took her money. He took her car. He took her purse and wallet. He took her safety. He took her body.
He shot her two times. He killed her. He dumped her body. Left her naked in freezing temperatures in a park miles away from her campus home. From her friends. From her family.
He gave away her purse and wallet.
He drove her car around town that night. To McDonald’s the next morning. To work one day that week. The stickers she had displayed proudly on the car’s back window, one of the Block O, the other the Miami Dolphins, were still on it. Each sticker representing her two homes, one being her school, the other being where her family relocated.
After killing Reagan, Brian Golsby took her life around with him.
Reagan gave him everything the night he kidnapped her with the hope of living. The hope of seeing another day. The hope of graduating with a degree she worked so hard to earn. The hope of some day starting her adult life in the real world.
She did everything right and it wasn’t enough.
Now that man will live the rest of his life in a jail cell.
The decision was reached Wednesday after nearly seven hours of deliberation. The jury unanimously decided on giving Golsby a life inside one building. The jury members decided this man’s upbringing filled with poverty, abuse and in one instance, his rape, was reason enough to spare his life — but not grant him freedom. The jury members decided the kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder Reagan endured garnered Golsby to be locked away for his life.
Unlike Reagan, Golsby’s life is spared. Unlike Reagan, Golsby knows what will probably come next. Unlike Reagan, Golsby will live to see what tomorrow brings. Unlike Reagan, Golsby knows his fate.
In total, it took a one-week trial, hours of deliberation, testimony from more than 20 witnesses, scores of DNA evidence, two bullet casings, GPS data of Golsby’s whereabouts and the location of a parked car to convict Golsby of aggravated murder.
It took nearly one week of sentencing, hours of deliberation, a few defense witnesses and a statement from Golsby himself, along with evidence sequestered throughout the investigation, to sentence him to jail for life with no possibility of parole.
It took more than a year for the Tokes family, who dawned Tiffany blue ribbons in the courtroom that represented their deceased daughter’s favorite color, to hear the fate of the man who killed their daughter.
The man Toby Tokes, Reagan’s father, said does not exist.
“He hasn’t existed in our world since the day we heard his name,” Toby said. “We give him no thought.”
The sentence is finalized, but the grim details of Feb. 8, 2017 will continue in the minds of the Tokes.
“It doesn’t erase the night of terror that Reagan had to endure. It doesn’t erase the graphic details and images that are forever burned into our minds,” Reagan’s mother, Lisa, said to the judge before his sentencing. “Most importantly, it doesn’t change that she wasn’t granted her last wish. And to quote our daughter, her last words, ‘I just want to live.’”
“Our baby is gone forever,” Toby said.
The evidence, it seemed, was foolproof. Golsby’s acquaintances recounted the murderer driving Reagan’s car. Two women close to him disclosed that Golsby, while in jail, admitted to the crimes. And the murderer’s location was tracked through an ankle monitor, pinning him at the scenes of multiple sites, including the park where Reagan’s body was found and the Short North area where she was last seen.
All of these details disproved the narrative Golsby told police the morning of his arrest and gave the jury enough to unanimously decide his guilty verdict after less than six hours of deliberation.
Before the sentence was given, the defense and prosecution went back and forth on whether the aggravated murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery outweighed mitigating circumstances, such as Golsby’s upbringing; psychologists testified he was raped, abused and lived in poverty as a youth.
The prosecution argued that was not enough reason to spare his life, because he did not spare Reagan’s.
Due to Ohio law, Reagan’s family could not testify during the sentencing. They could not tell the jury of how Reagan illuminated any room she walked in, or of how to Toby, Reagan was better than the son he never had; she was athletic, smart, sharp and beautiful, or of how Reagan was going to move to Cleveland after graduating with hopes of opening her own psychology practice one day to help others in need. They could not tell the jury this, and they were directed to avoid speaking to media throughout the trial, but when sentencing finished, it’s almost all they could say.
“Her beautiful, bright, vibrant light and energy, love and spirit is forever,” Lisa said. “We know that Reagan is in heaven,” she continued, strengthening and her volume heightening as she continued, “and evil has not won. We will continue to honor her memory and legacy in a positive and loving way.”
Throughout the sentencing, Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien called Golsby a liar, a disaster, someone trying to “wiggle” his way out of the voluntary position he put himself in, the position of a murderer who eight of the 12 jurors thought deserved to die.
The defense called him troubled, implied he was psychologically inept and said his childhood influenced his decisions as an adult. Decisions, O’Brien said, that could have consisted of letting Reagan live. Decisions, a psychologist said, only someone like Golsby, whose upbringing was a “recipe for disaster,” would make.
A grieving family held each other, shaking and crying, when the man who killed their Reagan was given his guilty verdict. A grieving family stood before that same man upon his sentencing, triumphant in detailing the greatness that was their daughter.
They stood feet away from him. The man who took their daughter’s life with him. They stood there and told that man that Reagan Tokes cannot be killed. Reagan Tokes will live forever.