COLUMBUS — A lawsuit accusing the state of Ohio of playing a role in the death of Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes has been thrown out by a judge.
In a decision issued last week, the Ohio Court of Claims determined the state is immune from liability in the case, even if all arguments in the lawsuit filed by Tokes’ family were accepted as true. Judge Patrick M. McGrath also found the state had no special relationship with the former Monclova Township resident to protect her from Brian Lee Golsby, the man ultimately convicted of kidnapping, robbing, raping, and murdering her on the night of Feb. 8, 2017.
Toby Tokes, center, and his wife, Lisa McCrary-Tokes, stand next to a photo of their murdered daughter, Reagan.
“The court is cognizant of the tragedy suffered by Reagan Tokes, Reagan Tokes’ family, and others who have been affected by the murder of Tokes,” Judge McGrath wrote.
Golsby had been released from prison two months earlier after completing an unrelated six-year sentence for attempted rape. He was subject to supervision by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority and released into a residential program run by a nonprofit corporation.
He was also wearing a GPS ankle monitor that recorded his whereabouts but was not monitored in real time. Despite wearing this, he committed a series of Columbus robberies in the days immediately leading up to the night he ran into Ms. Tokes at random as she left work at a restaurant not far from the Ohio State campus.
Golsby became a suspect in the days following the murder after his DNA was found in Ms. Tokes’ car. It was then that police connected the dots between where Ms. Tokes was known to be that night with data points recorded by Golsby’s ankle monitor.
The prosecution sought a death sentence, but the jury sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
The lawsuit contended that the parole authority was negligent in failing to arrest or impose tighter restrictions on Golsby after three violations of the terms of his release.
Lisa McCrary-Tokes, Reagan’s mother, declined to discuss the lawsuit.
“I’m focusing my energy on changes in legislation and what we’re doing from a foundation perspective to help and protect others,” she said.
She has been promoting self-awareness and self-defense programs in her daughter’s name while also pushing for passage of reforms in Ohio’s sentencing and parole systems.
Judge McGrath found that the state was immune from the lawsuit unless the estate could show that the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had a special relationship with Ms. Tokes in which it had an affirmative duty to protect her from Golsby. He found no such relationship.
It also found that, given Golsby had been released from prison and was not on parole, the department did not have an obligation to confine him absent a hearing on his violation of conditions placed on his release.
“The court’s conclusion that DRC owed no duty in this instance is wholly consistent with the general principle that, absent a special relationship, there is no duty to control the conduct of a third person as to prevent the third person from causing physical harm to another,” Judge McGrath wrote.
The estate has also separately sued the nonprofit operator of the residential facility to which Golsby was released in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
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