Documents reveal chilling allegations against man charged in sexual assault, stalking of Lawrence massage parlor workers
'Deviant sexual and violent behavior,' recent gun and handcuff purchases are outlined
photo by: Mike Yoder
The same day he was booked into jail on charges of sexually assaulting a Lawrence massage parlor worker, Robert J. Gross posted bond.
In the weeks that followed, federal authorities say, Gross began purchasing handcuffs, ski masks, black shirts labeled with “SECURITY,” and guns.
Federal agents — trailing Gross after reports that he assaulted the woman in Lawrence and stalked her co-workers — closed in on him during an alleged gun deal in a Kansas City-area parking lot and made an arrest, federal court documents say.
This time, Gross, a 66-year-old Kansas City resident, is being detained with no bond.
The Lawrence massage parlor case led to an eight-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in January, charging Gross with stalking and weapons crimes. The new cases represent the most recent allegations against a man with a decades-long history of concerning behavior, court documents say.
“Gross has a history of interest in prostitutes, including deviant sexual and violent behavior, particularly against women, dating back to at least 1975,” according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.
In ordering Gross detained without bond, a federal judge wrote that no bond conditions could reasonably assure the safety of the community.
The judge’s order specifically cited Gross’ prior convictions for burglary, terroristic threat, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and interstate transportation of a stolen firearm.
In the terroristic threat case, Gross was charged and convicted in Johnson County in 1984 with threatening a former girlfriend, according to the complaint. He pleaded guilty in the cocaine case in federal court in 1985.
He also was charged with stalking in Jackson County, Mo., in 2001, and although that charge was not pursued, his federal parole was revoked in 2002 as a result of the incident, according to the judge’s order. Gross was then returned to custody and completed his sentence in 2006.
Gross has pleaded not guilty in both new cases.
Other than reiterating Gross’ not guilty pleas, his attorney, John O’Connor of Kansas City, Mo., declined comment for this story on the pending Douglas County and federal cases.
“We intend to defend the charges,” O’Connor said.
The investigation that led to Gross’ charges began Oct. 1, 2017, when employees of some Olathe massage businesses reported to Olathe police that their cars had been vandalized — keyed, tires flattened by screws, and windows broken out — at their homes and work, according to the complaint in the federal case.
According to the complaint:
One of the women said she owned one Olathe massage business, managed another Olathe massage business and also “helps out” at Lawrence’s Tea Spa Massage, 2223 Louisiana St.
She said she suspected the person responsible for the vandalism was an older white male who went by “Bob” and had been coming into the three businesses since January 2017.
“Bob initially visited the businesses to request massages,” the complaint says. “However, recently, Bob began asking for sexual services.”
The woman said Bob had been to all three of the businesses on Oct. 1, and was asked to leave at each.
The same day, the woman saw Bob in her neighborhood in Lenexa and speculated he might have followed her when she left work. She said he also may have followed the other employees whose cars were damaged in Olathe, including one who turned him away when he asked for sexual services at Tea Spa Massage in Lawrence.
The woman gave police surveillance video of that incident. Both the federal complaint and the affidavit for Gross’ arrest in the Lawrence sexual assault case, which the Journal-World requested and received from Douglas County District Court, describe the video:
A man later identified as Gross is seen on the video walking down the hallway inside the business, completely naked.
He argues with a woman at the front desk, calling her profanities, saying she should not be working and threatening to call “immigration.” He says repeatedly that “he paid for a massage and he wanted it.” After speaking to her manager over the phone in Mandarin, the woman tells him to leave and tries to give him back his money.
Gross refuses the money, tells her “You ain’t going no place,” and proceeds to walk around the lobby of the business completely nude.
He then caresses the woman’s face as she pulls away, makes a lewd gesture, then tries to grab her face again, and she pushes his hand away. While still completely naked, Gross wraps his arms around the woman from behind, fondles her breast as she turns away, and slaps her buttocks.
The employee steps outside and comes back in with an unknown man, who tells Gross to go. Gross, who had stepped inside a room and gotten dressed, eventually leaves, smiling at the employee on the way out and telling her, “You owe me some money.”
The victim later told police she had dealt with “Bob” in the past and he caused problems every time he visited the business.
She said she didn’t consent to him touching her and asked him multiple times to leave, but he refused. She said she ran out of the business to get help because she was scared he was going to hurt her.
Gross was charged Oct. 24, 2017, in Douglas County District Court with one count of aggravated sexual battery, a felony, against the 56-year-old woman.
He was arrested on the charge Nov. 7 at the Douglas County jail, posted a $5,000 bond and was released the same day, according to jail and court records. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office denied the Journal-World’s request for Gross’ booking photo.
Gross made his first appearance in Douglas County court in the case on Nov. 21, according to the DA’s office.
At the end of December, Douglas County prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his bond in the Lawrence case, citing his recent alleged purchases and arrest a few days earlier in Missouri.
Court documents in the federal case reveal more about that.
According to the criminal complaint prepared by an FBI agent and filed Dec. 26, 2017, in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.:
Evidence Gross had been “destroying property and stalking individuals associated with massage parlors in Kansas” led to “further surveillance” of his movements.
Here is what law enforcement agents saw, according to the complaint:
On Dec. 2 at a Kansas City, Kan., surplus store, Gross bought four sets of handcuffs, two ski masks and two black shirts with “SECURITY” and badges on them. Management told law enforcement Gross had been there two weeks earlier and bought two sets of handcuffs then.
On Dec. 16, Gross went to the Kansas City Gun Show in Kansas City, Mo. Law enforcement watched him picking up and handling a 9mm “Uzi” type gun with an empty 30-round magazine. The Federal Firearm Licensed dealer at the booth told law enforcement that Gross approached him multiple times that day, asked questions about various types of guns, told him his name was “John” and seemed “very nervous,” especially when asking about the background paperwork required to purchase a gun.
The next day, back at the gun show, law enforcement watched Gross at a different booth pick up a 9mm Luger handgun and ask about buying it.
The morning of Dec. 22, Gross went back to the surplus store and bought four more sets of handcuffs — bringing his total to 10 sets — and another ski mask. He also inquired about buying a bulletproof vest.
That evening, law enforcement observed Gross park in a dark area of a restaurant parking lot in Liberty, Mo., and remove the license plate from his car. He then drove to Lowe’s in Liberty, parking away from the store.
A pickup truck pulled up and Gross got out of his car and interacted with its driver, appearing to buy two shotguns from him.
Gross was holding one shotgun in each hand, putting them into his trunk, when law enforcement moved in to arrest him. Gross complied with orders to drop the guns, and was taken into custody.
In the indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Jan. 10 of this year, Gross is charged with two counts of interstate stalking of the massage workers; three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, for the four guns described in the complaint; and three counts of receiving firearms while under indictment, for the same guns.
Gross has a bench warrant but no hearings scheduled in his Lawrence case, for now.
His federal case is scheduled for trial in August.
The federal trial had been set for this month, but his attorney requested a delay, citing a massive quantity of case materials that needed whittling down and reviewed.
“There is approximately 14,000 plus pages of discovery dating back to 1960,” O’Connor said, in a Feb. 12 motion. “However, the United States Attorney office is breaking down that discovery to specifics related to the current charges.”