Much of the Grubbs case evidence analyzed; still no suspect
Most of the important pieces of evidence that Ashland police sent off to be analyzed by forensic experts for the David Grubbs murder investigation have been returned to local detectives, but with limited avail toward solving the crime, police said.
Evidence from three separate laboratories will continue trickling back to the Ashland Police Department for the next six to eight months, but most of it has little potential for helping detectives find a suspect in the Nov. 19 murder case, police Chief Terry Holderness said.
"We've gotten back some evidence that helped us a little bit in trying to figure out exactly what happened," Holderness said. "Most of the evidence, though, is something we will use to build a case against and prosecute a suspect, not identify a suspect."
Holderness said test results on bladed weapons police collected during their investigation have been returned as negative by the Oregon State Police Crime Laboratory. The results continue to help police eliminate people from their pool of potential suspects, as do negative forensic tests of clothing from people whom police stopped that night on the Central Ashland Bike Path, where the murder of the 23-year-old Ashland man occurred.
Police won't discuss most of the items being returned, said Holderness, as they potentially will be used to prosecute a suspect in the courtroom.
Holderness said he's still awaiting results from Steven Symes, an Erie, Penn., forensic anthropologist whom APD brought in to help identify the weapon used in Grubbs' murder.
Detectives have been in contact with Symes but there is no timeline for when the national expert plans to finish his analysis of evidence he collected during a second autopsy of Grubbs in early December, Holderness said.
Holderness said two days after Grubbs was killed, police examined and took castings of cut marks made into trees along the section of the bike path behind Hunter Park, where the attack on Grubbs occurred.
Police also have taken numerous reports from Ashland residents during the course of the Grubbs investigation who said they identified cut marks on trees at their property.
"On the bike path it looks like someone was just walking along and hacking at every tree," Holderness said. "It's something we're looking into the possibility of, but we just don't think it's related to the crime."
He said the OSP crime lab still has the castings taken from the cut marks made beside the bike path, but the other reports of cut marks made into Ashland trees are likely separate acts of vandalism.
"That's one of those low-probability situations," Holderness said. "We don't see any reason at this point to tie those things together."
Holderness said detectives from the Ashland department, OSP, Medford Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department are continuing to review data collected during the investigation, correlating interviews and going back over security footage collected from nearby local businesses.
Police also are still working with the city of Ashland and Grubbs' family members to establish an additional reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who brutally murdered Grubbs.
The Ashland City Council will hear a proposal to establish the reward fund during its next meeting on Jan. 17, said Kristine Bechtold, a paralegal for the city who has been working to move the effort along.
The new reward fund was one of nine suggestions that residents submitted to Ashland Mayor John Stromberg for ways the community should respond to the killing.
Holderness said the primary concern was that some people weren't making donations to the existing Crime Stoppers of Southern Oregon reward fund for Grubbs because it wasn't tied to the family, and because of uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the fund.
Holderness said the family is setting up the fund so that if police solve the crime without the help of a tip, the money will be returned to those who donated it.
Detectives would like to talk with anyone who was on the bike path between Wightman Street and the Clay Street overpass between 4 and 6 p.m. Nov. 19. Those who used that stretch of path at that time or know someone who did are asked to contact the Ashland Police Department at 541-482-5211 or leave an anonymous message on the tip line at 541-552-2333.
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.