Ashland tragedy deepens

Autopsy: Victim nearly decapitated; police seek leads
A memorial has been placed for David Michael Grubbs, 23, near where he died on the Central Ashland Bike Path behind Hunter Park. Julia Moore | Daily TidingsJulia Moore

ASHLAND — Police are still trying to piece together exactly what unfolded during Saturday afternoon's violent murder in Ashland, but autopsy results released Tuesday confirm that David Michael Grubbs was the victim of a homicidal attack that nearly decapitated him.

The 23-year-old's body was found on the Central Ashland Bike Path near the Hunter Park tennis courts at about 5:35 p.m. Saturday.

If you go

A memorial service for David Michael Grubbs will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at First United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St., Ashland. There will be a reception immediately following the service.

Donations to Grubbs' family and memorial fund can be made in $2, $5 and $10 increments through the registers at Shop'n Kart in Ashland, where Grubbs worked off and on since he was 18, and by donation jars placed on the counters there.

Donations in the form of a check can be made out to "David Grubbs Memorial Service," and deposits also can be made into Rogue Valley Federal Credit Union account number 1515937.

Police said he had been dead less than 30 minutes when his body was discovered.

Police said in a release that Grubbs was attacked with "a very sharp, possibly medium to large-sized, edged weapon." The autopsy showed that "multiple sharp force injuries to the head and neck" killed Grubbs.

Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said investigators don't know yet what type of weapon was used.

"One would think sword, but there are a lot of those types of weapons "… a large knife, or a machete could have done it, and there are many other types of martial arts weapons.

"It's a long-bladed weapon, but we're just not sure at this point."

Holderness said Grubbs did not appear to have been robbed.

Police from multiple agencies contributing to the investigation are working long days trying to solve the crime, Holderness said.

"We are still getting leads and following up on every one of them," he said. "We have some promising ones."

No suspect has been named, and Holderness would not comment further on the investigation.

Investigators from the APD and Jackson County Sheriff's Department Tuesday afternoon continued to examine the crime scene where Grubbs' body was found, pacing out distances to and from the point where he was attacked, and going over different scenarios for how it all might have unfolded.

"We're working a lot of overtime," Holderness said, mentioning that a few investigators have pulled over 24-hour shifts since Saturday. "But it's not just us."

Ashland police are working in conjunction with the sheriff's department and police from Medford, Phoenix and Talent to increase police presence on the bike path, the Bear Creek Greenway and around Ashland, he said.

"We can't have an officer on every corner," Holderness said, "but we're doing everything we can to prevent a reoccurrence."

Holderness said the police department is looking to hold an open community forum early next week, possibly Tuesday, he said, to give members of the community a chance to ask questions about the events surrounding Grubbs' death.

It would have been before the weekend, he said, but the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday made it tough to arrange that early. No venue or time has been announced for the open forum, but should be determined within the next few days, he said.

Police are requesting anyone with information to call 541-482-5211. To leave an anonymous tip, call 541-552-2333.

Holderness said locals need to "be aware of your surroundings and extra cautious no matter where you are, not just on the (bike path)."

"Don't be there if you don't have to be," he said of the bike path, "but if you do, don't go alone."

Karen Karlik, 26, who lives on the north side of downtown Ashland, said the news of Grubbs' death was shocking, but it hasn't stopped her from walking alone.

"I am taking some precautions, though," she said, pushing a stroller with her 16-month-old daughter in it Tuesday on a path leading into Lithia Park. "I called my sister and told her explicitly where I was going."

"It's very scary," she said, "but I don't think people should be afraid to walk around."

Frances Dunhan, 70, and Allan Peterson, 71, both of whom live on Beach Street in Ashland, felt the same way.

"I don't think we can get the idea that it's totally unsafe now," said Peterson. "Sure it's surprising, but random events like that can happen anywhere."

Dunhan said part of the reason she moved to Ashland was because it seemed like such a safe haven, a progressive town, and a great place for walking.

"But you can't expect any single place with humans living in it to be perfect," she added.

Relative to violent crime, Ashland is a very safe place to live, said Holderness.

Comparing the first six months of 2010 to the first six months of 2011, the city's violent crime rate — which includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault — fell by 50 percent, from 18 to nine, the latest report shows.

"It's a really, really safe community," said Holderness, "but unfortunately, an isolated event like this can happen anywhere."

Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.


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