Reagan Tokes’ parents discuss their struggle and desire to create change

Reagan Tokes’ parents discuss their struggle and desire to create change
Reagan Tokes' parents working to keep their tragedy from repeating

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Reagan Tokes’ parents say they have tried to turn the tragedy of their daughter’s death into something positive.

They’ve tried.

But in the year that has followed her murder, Toby Tokes and Lisa McCrary-Tokes are the first to admit it hasn’t been easy.

“This past year has been brutal to put it bluntly. There’s no other way to describe it,” Lisa McCrary-Tokes told 10 Investigates.

“It will never go away. It’s difficult and it’s a pain that unless it’s happened to you, you just can’t know,” Toby Tokes said.

On a recent warm day near their Florida home, the Tokes spoke at-length with 10 Investigates about the year that has followed the unthinkable – the rape, kidnapping and murder of their oldest daughter, Reagan.

The man charged with her murder, Brian Golsby, will stand trial later this month. The jury selection process is slated to begin Feb. 23.

Golsby has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, kidnapping and murder. If convicted, he faces the possibility of the death penalty. His defense attorneys have declined repeated recent requests for comment following his most recent court proceedings.

Golsby, a convicted sex offender, was released from prison homeless three months before Reagan’s death in November of 2016.

As a tier three sex offender, no halfway house would initially accept him, according to a 10 Investigates’ review of parole records and interviews conducted with those close to the matter.

At the request of the state, Alvis in Columbus agreed to place a GPS ankle monitor on Golsby.

But 10 Investigates found that Golsby was not closely monitored. And no “geo fences” “inclusion” or “exclusion zones” were assigned to Golsby – a failure on the part of the state and its parole officers which violated a 2016 state corrections policy.

Golsby also faced little sanction even after failing to charge the battery on the device and being caught AWOL from the EXIT program, the community residential housing facility that later agreed to take him in.

Police say data from Golsby’s GPS ankle monitor places him at a series of robbery locations in the German Village neighborhood in the weeks leading up to and the days before Reagan’s disappearance, as well as at Scioto Grove Metro Park where Reagan’s body was found February 9, 2017.

Police also say DNA found on a cigarette butt found in Tokes’ car matches Golsby.

The Tokes declined to talk about Golsby because they did not want to interfere with his upcoming criminal trial, but they talked at length about their struggles, how they’re learning to cope and the desire they have to create change – including what they call fixing a “broken system” and “flawed laws” in Ohio.

The struggle

“We just miss her every day. There is a huge void in our family. Some holidays, some birthdays have come and gone, they’ll never be the same without her,” Toby Tokes told 10 Investigates.

“Every day is tough,” Toby Tokes told 10 Investigates. “The loss doesn’t get any easier. When you go to work and try to function there, when you think about Reagan and what happened, when you are home and you are sitting around you think about what happened, it’s every minute of every hour of every day.”

Lisa McCrary-Tokes said some days are better than others. Holidays, she says, were especially tough the first year without Reagan.

“Just to function sometimes on a given day. Just to be able to get up and put one foot in front of the other is tough,” Lisa McCrary-Tokes said.

“There is always a missing spot in anything we do,” Lisa said.

“There’s an empty bedroom in our home,” Toby added.

“There’s an empty chair at the table,” Lisa said, fighting back tears.

“There’s a permanent emptiness in your heart that doesn’t heal. Time does not heal all wounds. It does not,” she said, wiping her eyes with a tissue.

Time has also not answered all their questions.

Namely, how a paroled felon like Brian Golsby could be released from prison homeless, assigned a GPS ankle monitor, and then not closely monitored by parole officers or the community housing facility that later agreed to take him in.

“Every single emotion and adjective you want to throw in we felt it at some point,” Toby said.

10 Investigates uncovers problems

As 10 Investigates first reported in November, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction may have violated its own 2016 policy by failing to assign exclusion zones that would’ve restricted Golsby’s movements.

Video surveillance from the Columbus bus system shows he traveled throughout the Short North area the night Reagan disappeared.

10 Investigates also asked the Tokes about another discovery we first reported in November - that Reagan wasn’t the first victim of lax monitoring.

There were others who fell victim to paroled felons under state supervision who were not watched and went on to commit additional acts of violence.

You can watch 10 Investigates November investigation here.

“I think what Lisa and I find difficult – difficult is may be the wrong word – but surprising – is that we are not the first victim, Reagan wasn’t the first victim. You know that. Everybody knows that these things happen way too frequently. And why somebody didn’t do this before is really surprising to us,” Toby Tokes said.

“I think shocking is the more appropriate term. That’s the thing that we don’t understand,” Lisa added.

On September 27, 2017, the same day the Tokes stood by lawmakers to introduce the Reagan Tokes Act, (a bill that would change how violent felons are sentenced and how they are watched once they’re released from prison) the Tokes met privately with Gary Mohr, the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

10 Investigates asked the Tokes the following question: “You guys had one-on-one time with the guy at the top. I imagine you had that question for him, were you satisfied with his answer?”

Lisa: “There is a system and I will tell you that not one person is capable of making change without the support of the system. That’s how I can best answer that.”

Through a spokeswoman, Director Mohr again declined a request for an interview with 10 Investigates.

A year later, 10 Investigates has found there are still problems – there are still hundreds of offenders, like Golsby, who are being released homeless from prison. And there are more than 1500 offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and are at-large, meaning the state has lost track of their whereabouts, according to ODRC records.

Knowing those facts, 10 Investigates asked the Tokes what goes through their mind?

“Fear. Fear of some other family experiencing what we have,” Lisa said.

Learning to cope

In an effort to move away from those feelings of fear and anger, Lisa McCrary-Tokes says they have leaned on friends and family for support.

“That support has been very, very helpful,” Toby said.

“It will take forever. It will take the rest of our lives. There is no timeframe on it,” Lisa said. “All the other emotions never go away. They are always there. It is which ones do you choose to hang onto and bring to the surface and propel you forward.”

Helping them move forward, Lisa says, are the cards and gifts the Tokes say arrive at their Florida home constantly.

The most touching thing, Lisa says, are the stories they hear. Like the young woman who approached them at Reagan’s funeral and told them how Reagan befriended her in grade school when no else would.

“And she met Reagan when she was in the second grade when she was in elementary school… she was only at the school for a week because of her circumstances (parents were getting divorced) and Reagan was the only child who was kind with her. To this day, she still goes through life telling others that Reagan Tokes was her friend,” Lisa said. “It’s things like that that how do you not move forward with that in a positive way.”

Most the Tokes’ time this past year – they say - has been split among their own efforts to heal, continuing to work on their business and to work with lawmakers on the Reagan Tokes Act.

“Reagan is a number in a long line of people that have had this happen. And it has to stop. And I refuse to allow her to become just a number and statistic. That’s part of the motivation to do this.”

Rally for Reagan

Next month, on what would have been Reagan’s 23rd birthday, the Tokes and their friends are planning what they are calling the Rally for Reagan Fundraiser in Maumee, Ohio to remember Reagan. It will include a social event, tennis tournament and self-defense class.

More information about that event the weekend of March 9 can be found here.

“This is an outlet for us to celeb Reagan first and foremost. The love we had for Reagan as Lisa said is immeasurable,” Toby Tokes said.

“It is. And it helped us cope. And it’s the right thing to do and it’s what she would want us to do.,” Lisa said.

Last week, the Ohio State University Board of Trustees approved an annual $50,000 scholarship in Reagan’s name.

A murder trial lays ahead for the Tokes. They say it is not easy being robbed of a child, but they are quick to point out not all has been lost.

Lisa said: “The love you share with your child and within your family that never goes away and that can’t be taken away from you.”


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