During his decades as a police detective in Kansas City, Kansas, Roger Golubski earned a reputation for clearing cases quickly thanks to his network of “confidential informants.”
Many of these informants were Black women. And some of their bodies were later found around the woods, in a part of town then known as the “the Ruins.”
Several of these women were sex workers, ones Golubski was accused of abusing. Their murders were never solved by Golubski’s fellow officers in the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department during the time he worked there — and still haven’t been.
Questions about Golubski’s connections to these women weren’t just whispered among people who knew the victims. Questions were also raised by attorneys for Lamonte McIntyre, who spent 23 years in prison for a double murder he didn’t commit. McIntyre was convicted on false testimony by two eyewitnesses who said Golubski had threatened them if they didn’t lie.
The litany of murdered women was first raised by Niko Quinn, who knew many of them.
After McIntyre’s exoneration in 2017, lawyers sought files and records about several of Golubski’s confidential informants during their civil lawsuit against the government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, and various police officers, including Golubski.
They wanted to establish that the way Golubski and the police department handled McIntyre’s case wasn’t some anomaly. They wanted to prove that this was, in fact, how the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department operated.
“The murders of these women, who were killed in exceptionally violent ways and who were left with their genitals or breasts exposed, prompted little attention in the KCKPD, despite the fact that the women were well acquainted with certain police officers and, in particular, were well acquainted with Roger Golubski because they had been coerced for sex or information or both,” McIntyre’s lawyers wrote in a pre-trial order filed in McIntyre v. Unified Government on March 17, 2022.
Golubski’s own attorneys even acknowledged that the McIntyre investigation implicated their client in some of the unsolved murders of Black women in Kansas City, Kansas.
“(T)he court is also aware that Plaintiffs are trying to prove their claims by investigating and accusing Golubski of committing many other crimes, even going so far as suggesting he is culpable in connection with several unsolved murders,” Golubski’s lawyers wrote in response to a motion by McIntyre's lawyers on Oct. 12, 2021.
KCUR has found no proof Golubski was involved in any of these murders. And many of the women who were murdered lived dangerous lives during the crack epidemic.
Golubski has also denied any misconduct.
But interviews and documents obtained from public records suggest that, in their ongoing investigation into Golubski, FBI agents are asking questions about these unsolved murders.
A once-safe place
The “ruins” where many women’s bodies were found is officially called the Quindaro Ruins. It’s a bluff along the Missouri River that was once home to a port town called Quindaro — a stop on the Underground Railroad.
During the mid-1800s, enslaved people from Missouri risked their lives crossing the Missouri River to get to Kansas, a free state. For a time, a prosperous town grew here, but all that remains are some stone foundations, an overlook and a cemetery on top of the hill.
Niko Quinn grew up in the neighborhood around Quindaro Boulevard. But she left town after her false testimony in Lamonte McIntyre’s case, and her failed attempts to correct the record, drew too much attention.
Nearly 30 years later, after McIntyre’s release, she came back and joined other activists who’ve been trying to get attention for so many other cases connected to Golubski — and for her friends who disappeared.
Nobody in charge kept track of the number of women whose bodies turned up around the Quindaro Ruins back then, at least that we know of. But their families and friends remember.
Now, finally, more people are paying attention and speaking up for all the moms and aunties and sisters who are gone. And the name that comes up in all of their cases is Roger Golubski.
“I don't know if it was because of something he did, but when I would talk to women about him, that's what they would tell me: He was the Grim Reaper,” Niko says of Golubski.
There was Elza "Liza" Michie, a 30-year-old Black woman found lying on the side of the road in February 2004 with two gunshots to the head. She was a sex worker who told Niko and others that Golubski was a regular customer.
There was Monique Allen, who also worked the streets. Niko says she saw Monique in Golubski’s car. She was 26 when her body was found in January 1998, beaten to death.
“I mean, they was finding these women everywhere on dead ends,” Niko says.
After Lamonte McIntyre’s release, Niko told his attorney, Cheryl Pilate, that she would continue to help with his case if they looked at the unsolved homicides of many women she knew.
Besides Michie and Allen, there was Kelly Fant, a sex worker and drug user.
Pearlina Henderson was found in a park near Quindaro in 2008, dead of blunt force trauma; she also worked the streets.
“I gave her maybe 10 women's names,” Niko says.
McIntyre’s lawyers had noticed the pattern, too. After 10 years of investigating the KCKPD and Golubski in particular, they saw how Black women, typically who worked the streets and used drugs, went missing, then turned up murdered, their bodies dumped around town.
Lamonte’s legal team was the first to circulate a list of such women.
Members of the community formed organizations such as Justice for Wyandotte, where activists Khadijah Hardaway and Nikki Richardson, host of the 7th St. Podcast, have held rallies to keep attention on these women.
They don’t just blame Golubski.
“Golubski is the poster child for the police department, as he represents many officers that violated people,” Hardaway says. “I mean there is several detectives that run a thread through some of these cases that have never been investigated. We are looking at how many cases did these other officers work on?”
If there’s any hope for justice for one of the women on the List, it’s Rhonda Tribue.
Tribue was a 33-year-old mother of six. Her body was found early in the morning on Oct. 8, 1998, on a road at the border of Kansas City, Kansas, and Edwardsville, the nearby town where Golubski now lives. An autopsy showed she died from multiple blows to her head and extremities, and the autopsy says her body might have been dragged.
In March 2021, the FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigationissued a reward of up to $50,000 for information about her murder.
The FBI says Tribue was seen earlier on the day of her death at the Firelight Lounge, where she was a regular. She was wearing a dark purple corduroy jacket, a gold lace top, brown sandals and what the FBI described as “pumpkin-colored jeans.”
“The orange pants they found her in? Those are my pants,” Niko says.
Like many women on the List, Niko Quinn knew Rhonda Tribue well. They would go to Niko’s place to get a meal, wash their clothes, get some care.
“I gave them people clothes and everything,” Niko says. “If they didn't have it, she asked me, did I have a pair of jeans she could wear? I gave her a pair of rust, orange, Kaylee jeans to wear.”
Niko Quinn also says she saw Rhonda Tribue get into Roger Golubski’s car on the day of her death.
“I seen Rhonda Tribue get in the police car. She was on my porch,” she says.
And Tribue wasn’t the only one. Niko says she saw several of the women on the list get into police cars before their deaths, or they were seen riding around with Golubski, like Niko’s sister Stacey did.
Niko told the FBI all of this. She says she told police, too.
Meanwhile, two of Rhonda Tribue’s daughters are angry about Niko’s story and media stories, too.
After the Kansas City Star called their mother a "prostitute" in a headline, Rhonda Tribue’s daughters declined to speak with KCUR if we also intended to report that she was a sex worker. Her family doesn't believe it and they don't want it in the media.
But given all of the evidence to the contrary, KCUR couldn't agree to that condition.
One of the daughters was just four years old when her mother was killed. Today, they’re in their late 20s, early 30s.
In a picture of Rhonda Tribue provided by one of the Justice for Wyandotte activists, she appears to be in her early 20s, probably younger than her daughters are now. She’s wearing a red mock turtleneck and stone-washed jeans with a red belt.
Rhonda is smiling brightly with red lipstick. Gold hoop earrings. Hair up in a ponytail. She’s leaning up against the wall of what looks like a church basement. She looks happy and relaxed.
It's this split second captured so long ago — not some ugly headline — Rhonda’s children want to remember.
Rose Calvin’s name is on the List. Her body was found at 1021 Walker Ave., just a few blocks from the home where she grew up.
Mamie, the matriarch who was in her 90s when she died in October 2021, and her late husband, John, raised their 10 children in a house on 15th Street and Cleveland Avenue. Rose was seventh among them.
One day in March 2020, other Calvin families gathered here to talk about Rose. Mamie held a broken picture frame, the photo water-damaged under the glass. But it was unmistakably Rose, young and pretty, sitting on a couch wearing a brown wool print jacket.
“Oh, she was a good girl. She was kind hearted,” said Rose’s sister, Oradean Walton. “She would do anything for you. And she didn't bother no one, no one. We were best friends. She and I.”
Oradean remembered how she and Rose would go to elementary school early to play tether ball. In high school, they’d have dance parties, playing R&B records.
“Yeah. She liked the Diana Ross. So did I,” Oradean said with a laugh. “We liked, you know, the lady singing groups.”
Rose loved to dress in fashion. One picture of her looks like it was cut out of a Sears summer catalog from the 1970s: She’s wearing light blue polyester dress pants, a matching floral blouse, a floppy straw hat, and she’s holding a white macramé purse.
Rose attended Wyandotte County High School, though her sisters couldn’t remember if she graduated. The yearbook has pictures of Rose up through 1973 — in that year’s black-and-white photo, she has an afro, big hoop earrings and a little gap between her front teeth.
Her niece, Tracy Harris, 10 years younger than Rose, remembered how Rose taught her to French braid her hair. And how Rose kept her apartment extremely clean.
“I mean spotless,” Tracy said. “If you were at her house and, just say, if she gave you something to drink and you drank it and you just set it down and went to the restroom or something, she already washed it out and dried and put it up.”
Same with her car.
“You fill an ashtray,” Oradean added, “she dump it out.”
“And she loved to rearrange furniture and stuff,” said Tracy.
At some point in the 1980s and early ‘90s, though, Rose fell in with the wrong crowd. These were the banner years for crack cocaine. It was at this time, when Rose was in her 20s, that Golubski entered the Calvins’ lives, according to Rose’s little brother, Eric Calvin.
“She used to be in the car with Golubski on several occasions,” Eric said. “I think Golubski was, actually, uh, messing with her ‘cause she was on the streets. She was on drugs and that’s what he preyed on, was people that was on drugs.”
Eric says the family would see Golubski picking Rose up and dropping her off.
“All the time she used say how dirty he was, how a dirty cop,” Eric said. “That he was a, a lousy MF. That was her favorite words about him.”
If it was odd she got in the car with a man she disliked so intensely, Eric speculated that was because Golubski was supplying her with drugs.
“So it really wasn't her,” he said. “It was the drugs she was at.”
Rose’s niece Deidra Dodds remembered seeing her on July 20, 1996, just off of Quindaro Boulevard, and waving at her. Rose waved her off.
The next day, Golubski visited the family to tell them her body had been found.
Rose Calvin was 39.
“When she was found,” Eric said, “Golubski told my mother that she had already been identified, that they didn't have to identify her. He said that her body was badly decomposed and she had been strangled and stabbed multiple times and something was stuck up in her vagina. Come to find out later, that all the things was a story.”
The autopsy says Rose died by asphyxia through strangulation. It doesn’t mention stab wounds, nor does it mention any sexual assault. While there had been some decomposition, the autopsy notes that Dodds had seen Rose 24 hours before her death.
Dodds even snuck around the crime scene tape line that day. She said she saw Rose face up, her red dress pulled up above her waist — enough so she could see Rose wasn’t wearing underwear. Yet the autopsy reports that Rose was wearing turquoise panties, that a black bra was pulled above her breasts and that she was wearing Nike sneakers.
So everything about Golubski’s visit to notify the family of her death was strange. Golubski wasn’t even officially connected to the case: Two other KCKPD officers were listed on the autopsy.
Now, 26 years after her death, Calvin’s family members were still sad, of course, but they were also uncertain about many of the details of her life. And of her death. For instance, they couldn’t remember where she was buried.
KCUR found Rose Calvin’s grave in Brookings Cemetery, on the Missouri side of Kansas City. Her plot is at “three west four.” There is no headstone.
Rose Calvin also left behind a daughter, who has three children. KCUR spoke with her several times, but whenever it was time for our scheduled meeting, something came up and she canceled.
But members of the Calvin family are among the many families who show up for rallies and vigils to keep attention on victims.
‘What took you guys so long?
In 2021, FBI agents interviewed Ethel Abbott, one of Golubski’s former wives. They, too, had a list.
“They showed me a book,” Abbott says. “And they were asking me, ‘Had I ever seen him with any of these women?’ And I went through and some of the girls out of the book, I knew like five of them, but that was due to, they were my age. And we had went to school together. You know, they were doing the drug life. I was doing a whole different type of life and hadn't seen him forever. And, uh, they came up deceased.”
The names in the book included her cousin, Vicki Hollingshed Dew, who was 46 when her body was found in a KCK alley in June 2000. She had been stabbed three times. A news report from the time said her murder might have been retaliatory for stealing drugs.
Abbott says agents told her they had 25 names on their version of the list.
“And that's when they were telling me that, you know, he was suspected of all these different women's murders,” Abbott says.
Here’s what we know about the FBI investigation: KCUR’s public records request to the Wyandotte County government yielded nine subpoenas from federal agents, showing that a federal grand jury was investigating a large section of the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department.
The county turned over records covering two decades of homicide cases, internal affairs reports and informant files. And the years the subpoenas covered were the years Roger Golubski worked as a KCKPD detective — up through 2010, when he retired.
Still, it was surprising to learn the FBI was showing witnesses a book with the names and pictures of that many murdered women.
“After I heard about all these women and the things that went on, that was one thing that I was really scared about,” Abbott says, “because I'm like, this man is a homicide detective. I said, death is nothing to him. Nothing. He could kill me, throw me off in the river. That's why he used, when he would say, ‘My boys, they're coming to get you.’”
At the end of the book agents showed her, Abbott says, there was a recent picture of Roger Golubski, now nearly 70. She said she was shocked to see her ex-husband looking so old and unhealthy.
“I told the FBI, I said, ‘He won't make it to the trial. He won't,’” Abbott says. “I said, ‘He's going die before you guys do anything. I said, ‘What took you guys so long?’ And I'm like, but they should have done something about this long time ago.”
Missing persons? ‘I don’t mess with that’
In the past, these murders have stayed in the dark because former KCKPD police officials have simply denied any and all of these allegations regarding Golubski.
But at least one officer from back then told Lamonte McIntyre's lawyers that he wondered about the women who vanished from their neighborhoods.
Timothy Hausback worked for the KCKPD from 1972 through 1989, when he retired as a sergeant.
In a deposition, he laid out a highly sexualized work culture, where many officers abused their power and preyed on the Black sex workers in the north end of town where Hausback patrolled.
Hausback was well-acquainted with Golubski, too. He said Golubski spent a lot of time looking for sex workers in an industrial area by the river known as the Bottoms.
Hausback said he reported Golubski and others’ problematic behavior to the brass over and over, and nothing was ever done. In fact, he said, it was “accepted.”
Hausback also talked about the people who went missing from Kansas City, Kansas, in the 1970s and 1980s. It was mostly women. He said their families were grief-stricken.
At one point, Hausback checked in with a detective in the missing persons bureau, who was openly dismissive of the cases, telling him, “I don’t mess with that.”
If there was ever an acknowledgment that KCKPD was investigating a string of Black women’s homicides, KCUR has not found it. There wasn’t a lot of media coverage of the issue back then, so perhaps police chiefs didn’t have to address it.
But since the exoneration of Lamonte McIntyre, with so many accusations thrown at the department, at least one former chief spoke up. In January 2020, former KCKPD Chief Terry Zeigler — who was partnered with Golubski for a time in the early 2000s — said he “never saw Golubski do anything wrong.” He attributed all the coverage to “fake news” drummed up to sell newspapers.
Now there’s a new chief: Karl Oakman took over as leader of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department in June 2021. He’s the second Black chief in the department’s history.
Oakman set up a cold case unit, which now has 285 cases with four detectives working on them.
But Oakman offered a caveat to his promise to work on the cold cases of unsolved homicides, saying many of the missing women could have been caught up in the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.
“If you look around the country in the United States, there was a large number of missing persons, unsolved homicides, and particularly around female victims. That wasn't just in Kansas City, Kansas. It was in Kansas City, Missouri. It was all around the country,” he said.
If cold case investigations turn up evidence that the department “we did drop the ball on something in the past,” Oakman said, “we will apologize as a police department. But as of yet, that information hasn’t surfaced. A lot of it’s just opinions.”
What police department leaders might historically have categorized as “just opinions” — reports of sexual misconduct or harassment against sex workers, confidential informants, or women who were already incarcerated or in the midst of being arrested — are now part of the FBI’s indictment against Golubski.
In September, Golubski was charged with abuse of two women and court filings suggested there might be more charges to come.
In November, federal prosecutors added claims of conspiracy, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse and attempted aggravated sexual abuse. The new charges involved "involuntary servitude" of two teenagers who were held captive at an apartment complex and allegedly raped by the traffickers and other men. Golubski is accused of raping one of the girls, who was 16 at the time.
The women and girls named in the FBI's indictment were young, poor, vulnerable. Less likely to be believed and more likely to fear coming forward.
Just what is Roger Golubski accused of now? Why did it take so long to charge him? And what does justice look like?
Overlooked is a production of KCUR Studios and the NPR Midwest Newsroom, and a member of the NPR Podcast Network.
It’s hosted by Peggy Lowe, with reporting by Peggy Lowe, Steve Vockrodt and Dan Margolies. Mackenzie Martin and Suzanne Hogan produced, mixed, and did the sound design for the podcast, with editing by CJ Janovy and mixing help from Paris Norvell. Digital editing by Gabe Rosenberg. Social media promotion by Allison Harris. Photos by Carlos Moreno and Julie Denesha. Artwork by Crysta Henthorne and Chandler Johnson of Kalimizzou. Music from Blue Dot Sessions and Diana Ross.
Special thanks this episode to Genevieve Des Marteau, Lisa Rodriguez, Holly Edgell, and Anne Lacey at the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library.