Crime

Robert Gross, suspected in unsolved killings, on trial in Olathe stalking case

Robert Gross is at the center of decades of stalkings and murders

Over the past four decades Robert Gross has been a prime suspect in several stalking and murder cases. Some of the people close to those cases go as far as to call him a serial killer. Why has he not been convicted for murder?
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Over the past four decades Robert Gross has been a prime suspect in several stalking and murder cases. Some of the people close to those cases go as far as to call him a serial killer. Why has he not been convicted for murder?

Robert Gross, a 67-year-old Kansas City man long suspected in a series of homicides going back to the 1970s, went to trial Monday morning on interstate stalking and gun charges.

The trial in U.S. District Court in downtown Kansas City comes nearly 18 months after Gross’ arrest by a special law enforcement task force as he allegedly purchased two shotguns in violation of federal law.

Gross is also accused of stalking women who worked at massage parlors in Johnson County. Since his December 2017 arrest, he has been held without bond in a federal detention center in Leavenworth.

During the time he has been held pending trial, Gross was the subject of a six-part series by The Kansas City Star examining his possible role in the unsolved killings of several women over the past 50 years, in addition to multiple arsons, assaults and stalking episodes.

But Gross has never been charged in a homicide and none of the charges in the trial starting Monday were related to the killings. Gross has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges and has maintained his innocence.

Instead, Gross faces trial on four counts of stalking, three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and three counts of receiving a firearm while under indictment. The trial is scheduled to last about four days, federal prosecutors told U.S. Magistrate Judge Lajuana M. Counts in an earlier hearing.

Federal prosecutors planned to call about 30 witnesses and present more than 200 pieces of evidence. Prosecutors have said many of their witnesses speak Mandarin and would need a translator.

Many of the workers at the massage parlors where the stalking crimes are alleged to have occurred are from China.

Federal prosecutors have accused Gross of stalking multiple women between Oct. 1 and Dec. 22, 2017. During that period, Gross fell under police suspicion in a rash of property crimes and stalking reports by employees at massage parlors in Olathe and in Lawrence.

The women told police their cars were keyed, their tires punctured and their windows smashed out. The vandalism recalled earlier episodes that preceded assaults or killings of women Gross was connected to in the 1970s and 1980s, according to police reports and the accounts of women who survived attacks.

Gross is also facing prosecution in Douglas County for the 2017 sexual assault of a woman working at a Lawrence massage parlor. The assault was captured on surveillance video.

As a result of that investigation, law enforcement officials in late 2017 put Gross under surveillance by the Kansas City Career Criminal Task Force, a group made up of local and federal law enforcement officers.

According to court records, the surveillance team observed Gross over several weeks amassing a collection of guns, handcuffs and other security paraphernalia.

Gross was later arrested while allegedly buying two shotguns in a Liberty, Missouri, parking lot in a sale he arranged online, according to prosecutors.

As a convicted felon, it would have been against the law for Gross to possess or purchase firearms.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.

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