For two decades at the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, Detective Roger Golubski was always on the lookout for his next victim, someone pretty, poor and Black, someone no one would believe over the word of a white man with a badge, prosecutors say.
Golubski found one of them as she was walking home from the grocery store, another while sifting through booking photos. Others he came across while serving search warrants or arresting their husbands or sons, according to detailed accounts in court records.
Then, Golubski would isolate them and rape them, sometimes at gunpoint, sometimes after punching or choking them, always leaving them with the warning: “Keep your mouth shut or else,” the women say.
Now, for the first time – almost 40 years after prosecutors say his reign of terror began – Golubski faces a criminal trial and life behind bars. His arrest last week brought some relief to the women he’s accused of terrorizing but also served as a reminder of just how long it took for anyone to believe their stories.
“I was glad but wasn’t that happy,” said Ophelia Williams, 60, whom Golubski is accused of raping several times between 1999 and 2002.
“My gut tells it all,” said Williams, who was 37 when the assaults began. “I can’t even eat. I can’t sleep. He messed me up all inside. Every time I see a cop, I get scared.”
Golubski's attorney, Tom Lemon, did not return repeated requests for comment. Golubski, 69, has pleaded not guilty to six federal civil rights charges of sexually assaulting two victims while acting under color of law.
'A life-or-death situation'
The youngest of Golubski's accusers was just 13 when she said the detective pulled up to her, flashed his badge and told her to get in the car, she recounted to prosecutors before describing a horrific and violent sexual assault.
Despite her cries and insistence that she was a virgin, Golubski told her to stop being a crybaby and she was old enough to make decisions, prosecutors say.
Afterward came a warning that frightened the girl to the core.
He told her to keep her mouth shut or she could “kiss her sweet little grandmother goodbye,” and he ran the streets so “don’t (mess) with him,” she told prosecutors.
She "felt like she was in a life-or-death situation,” prosecutors wrote.
Golubski went on to sexually assault the girl more than 10 times between 1998 and 2001, frequently threatening to kill her or her grandmother, even once forcing her to dig her own grave at a local cemetery, prosecutors say.
Golubski "abused his position of authority and trust against the most vulnerable members of the community he was sworn to protect," prosecutors wrote. "He knew how to get away with his crimes year after year after year – by choosing victims he thought he could control, reminding them of his connections and his power, and threatening them into silence."
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Prosecutors laid out the accounts of nine survivors in court documents but suspect there could be more.
The accusations against Golubski first gained widespread attention in 2017, when a man named Lamont McIntyre was freed after serving 23 years in prison for a 1994 double murder he didn't commit.
McIntyre sued Golubski the following year, accusing the detective of framing McIntyre for the murders when he was just 17 years old. McIntyre's mother, Rosie McIntyre, said Golubski targeted her son because she refused to agree to a long-term sexual arrangement with him after he raped her.
A government agency settled the lawsuit earlier this year, agreeing to pay the McIntyres $12.5 million.
An open secret?
Though the allegations against Golubski gained widespread attention because of the McIntyres' case, they were an open secret among many of Kansas City's Black neighborhoods for much longer, community activists say.
They also believe, as do attorneys representing the survivors, that Golubski's actions were part of widespread corruption in his department. Though some of the women lodged complaints, Golubski faced no consequences from the allegations. His fellow officers – including his own longtime partner – have said they knew nothing about them.
Golubski retired from the Kansas City Police Department in 2010, collecting a full pension, and then worked for another nearby police agency until 2016.
Williams said she told a police officer years ago what happened to her and that he seemed to be listening to her and taking notes. But nothing ever came of it.
At least one woman complained about Golubski to the department's internal affairs division in 2004 and was told "there was nothing they could do because it was her word against" the detective's, prosecutors say.
Community groups and civil rights attorneys had been calling for Golubski to be investigated for many years. In 2021, rapper Jay-Z's organization, Roc Nation, helped bring more attention to the case by seeking records of officer misconduct within the department.
Meanwhile, the Midwest Innocence Project is looking into 30 cases they say involved Golubski or other officers in Wyandotte County, said Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the organization and one of the attorneys representing the McIntyre family.
She and other community groups also are calling on the Department of Justice to conduct a so-called pattern-or-practice investigation into the Kansas City Police Department to determine whether it has a policy of discrimination.
On Monday, the Justice Department said it's investigating allegations of discrimination against Black officers at a neighboring police department in Kansas City, Missouri.
Whether there's a deeper inquiry into the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department and whatever the result of Golubski's criminal case, it's going to take many years before the community has any faith in the system, Bushnell said.
"It's generations and generations of abuse and trauma and lack of trust," she said. "There needs to be full truth and reconciliation in Kansas City, Kansas. We can't just say one person did this. We know that's not possible. We know that the system as designed would not allow it to have occurred without other people knowing, and the community needs to unpack all of that."
There's much skepticism in the community about whether there will be justice.
Golubski's release from jail on Monday, just four days after his arrest, did little to allay their concerns.
"I'm very afraid," Williams said through tears Monday. "He always told me that if I told, either he or somebody else could do something to me."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Rachel Schwartz concluded that Golubski doesn't pose much of a risk because of health problems. He needs medical care for diabetes and is recovering from quintuple bypass heart surgery, his attorney said.
Golubski's release came after strong objections from prosecutors who wrote in court documents that he is "more dangerous – not less – today."
"This defendant has shown nothing but utter contempt for the law," they wrote. "He has spent decades lording his power over his victims and the community by demonstrating how unbound by legal limits he feels."
They cited one survivor's rape.
"Why are you doing this?” she asked Golubski, they say. "(He) responded, 'Because I can.'”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: KCK Det. Roger Golubski's arrest came after years of rape allegations