Crime

In stalking trial of Robert Gross, prosecutors zero in with evidence of gun crimes

A timeline of Robert Gross’ criminal activities

Robert J. Gross has been tied to multiple crimes that include murders, stalkings and arson over several decades. Here is a timeline of those events.
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Robert J. Gross has been tied to multiple crimes that include murders, stalkings and arson over several decades. Here is a timeline of those events.

In the second day of Robert Gross’ trial on federal stalking and firearms charges, prosecutors showed cellphone video that they said captured him handling and examining shotguns and automatic weapons in violation of the law.

The trial is expected to conclude Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, where Gross is accused of stalking women who worked at massage parlors in Johnson County and in Lawrence, along with a slew of federal firearms offenses.

The 67-year-old has also long been a suspect in the killings of several women, including two who worked in the massage business, but he has never been charged in a homicide. None of the charges in the trial relate to the unsolved murders, arsons and assaults Gross has been suspected in over the past 50 years, which were detailed last fall in a six-part series by The Kansas City Star.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors showed video of Gross handling firearms while attending a gun show near Kansas City International Airport. Gross, a convicted felon, cannot legally handle firearms.

Several federal agents and Kansas City police officers testified they observed and recorded Gross inquire about several firearms, including a pair of shotguns and an “Uzi-type” firearm.

Investigators also testified they attached a GPS tracking device to Gross’ 2017 Toyota Camry to monitor his movement between Missouri and Kansas. The GPS showed Gross traveling to several massage parlors and to the home addresses of several massage workers.

None of the investigators said they observed Gross commit any crimes or come in contact with any of the massage workers.

A witness testified that Gross contacted him about purchasing two shotguns. The two agreed to meet in a parking lot in Liberty, near Interstate 35 and Missouri 152, to complete the transaction.

Shortly after they arrived, a team of undercover federal agents and Kansas City police officers arrested Gross.

Jason Conkling attended both days of the trial. Gross has long been a suspect in the 1979 slaying of Conkling’s mother Wanda Conkling and her husband William Cadwalader. But he was never charged.

“I don’t expect to get justice for that but to see him pay for his other crimes is something that I want to see followed through,” Conkling said after Tuesday’s proceedings.

Conkling said it was the first time he has seen Gross in person.

“The image that I always had of Mr. Gross growing up was that he had to be a lot bigger than what he is right now,” he said. “To me he looks frail. I know what he is capable of doing but seeing him where is at right now, he seems like a weak old man.”

Jason Conkling attended the trial of Robert Gross at the U.S. District Court in Kansas City. Gross has long been a suspect in the 1979 killing of Conkling's mother Wanda Conkling and her husband. But Gross was never charged.

Gross’ defense attorney John P. O’Connor has said that he doesn’t plan to call any witnesses or present any evidence when the trial is expected to conclude on Wednesday.

On the first day of trial Monday, prosecutors played a 30-minute surveillance video they said showed Gross abusing a worker at a massage parlor in Lawrence.

During cross examination, the owner of the massage parlor testified that Gross had visited her shops at least 10 times. He often visited the massage parlors without getting a massage, occasionally handing out flowers to workers.

Workers kept a list of disgruntled customers who frequently demanded more than a massage during their visits. Gross’s name never appeared on that list and workers never called police.

Since his December 2017 arrest while allegedly buying two shotguns in Liberty, Gross has been held without bond in a detention center in Leavenworth.

He is charged with 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.

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, screws drilled into their tires 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 the Lawrence massage parlor worker seen in the video in court Monday.

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.

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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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