Crime & Courts

Suspected serial killer seen on video abusing massage parlor worker in Kansas

Video released by federal prosecutors Thursday shows Robert J. Gross walking around a Lawrence massage parlor in 2017, at times naked, while berating a worker and demanding a refund.

The 30-minute video was shown at Gross’ trial this week in U.S. District Court in Kansas City where Gross, 67, was convicted of stalking women who worked at massage parlors in Johnson County and in Lawrence. He was also convicted of possessing guns as a convicted felon.

Federal prosecutors have said Gross faces up to 55 years in prison for those crimes. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Gross was a subject of a six-part series by The Kansas City Star that detailed his upbringing in south Kansas City neighborhood and his long criminal career.

Separate from the charges against him in his trial, Gross 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 related to the unsolved murders, arsons and assaults Gross has been implicated in over the past 50 years.

During the trial, federal prosecutors 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.

Video shown at trial showed Gross at the Tea Spa massage parlor on Oct. 1, 2017. In the video, Gross hands money to a woman at the front desk, walks to a back room and removes his clothes. After the woman tells him she won’t do any sexual favors, Gross berates her.

In the tirade, Gross threatens to call police and immigration authorities on the woman, who was Chinese. He called the woman a “lying bitch” and “stupid.”

Later in the video, Gross tries to grab the woman by her face but she backs away. He then wraps his arms around the woman from behind. The woman breaks away.

According to prosecutors, Gross groped the woman’s breast and slapped her on the rear end as he walked away. While Gross got dressed, the woman summoned the help of a man walking to work nearby, who asked Gross to leave.

Gross still faces prosecution for sexual assault in Douglas County for the actions shown in the video.

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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.