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Solemn decennial anniversary

Ashland City Council renewed authorization Tuesday of a reward fund to pay anyone who comes forward with new information about the David Grubbs murder case.
10 years since grisly unsolved murder of David Grubbs

ASHLAND — On Friday, Nov. 19, 10 years will have passed since the gruesome murder of 23-year-old Ashland resident David Michael Grubbs — an unsolved case that continues to frustrate Ashland law enforcement years after the last fresh glimpse of hope for identifying the perpetrator.

Grubbs was found in 2011, on the central Ashland bike path near the Hunter Park tennis courts, where he had walked home from work at Shop’n Kart. An autopsy concluded Grubbs was nearly decapitated with a medium- to large-blade weapon.

Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara was the on-duty supervisor and one of the first arrivals on scene when Grubbs was killed, and took over the detective section six weeks later. When a murder occurs in Jackson County, the Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit convenes detectives from around the county to survey the crime scene, canvass the area and conduct witness interviews, as was the case Nov. 19, 2011, O’Meara said.

“What you hope for is that there is an initial clear direction to follow, and unfortunately that was not the case with David’s murder,” O’Meara said. “As a result, here we are 10 years later without any meaningful movement on it.”

Some forensic evidence was compiled in 2012, but many of the case details remain confidential to preserve the integrity of the information against suspect statements, O’Meara said.

“There is some forensic evidence that came back that we can potentially compare to evidence that is developed in the future, to test the veracity of somebody’s statement,” he said. “There’s different types of forensic evidence that came back to us from different specialties.”

The top person of interest in the case, Christian Olivier Delaurentiis, was living in Ashland at the time Grubbs was killed. At some point after the murder, Delaurentiis moved to the Portland area and began robbing banks, including one in Medford, to fund a heroin addiction, according to police.

Delaurentiis pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, abuse of a corpse and robbery charges after stabbing Aloha resident Phyllip Lindemuth to death, dismembering the body and storing it in a freezer in the house the two men shared at the time.

Washington County prosecutors said Delaurentiis killed Lindemuth to prevent him from exposing the robberies, for which Delaurentiis had enlisted Lindemuth as a getaway driver. Delaurentiis was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 41 years and four months.

“[Delaurentiis] was living here at the time, he’s capable of murder, he dismembered his victim, so how could he not be a person of interest in David’s death?” O’Meara said. “There’s more to that that we know about that makes him a person of interest — obviously there’s not enough that we have charged him with anything — but that was the one big break that when it was put before us, we thought this was really going to move the case forward.”

After the Aloha murder case was adjudicated, detectives assigned to the Grubbs case attempted to talk to Delaurentiis, but hit a wall with his attorney, O’Meara said.

Those in law enforcement holding their breath for movement in the case hope that if Delaurentiis is the responsible party, the reality of his life imprisonment might encourage him to fess up.

“Somebody knows something that they haven’t told us,” O’Meara said, acknowledging what must be a “heavy burden” associated with knowing any unshared information about an open homicide case.

In 2016, O’Meara hired retired sheriff’s detective Charlie Retzer to sort through a half-terabyte of case leads, including reports, tip sheets, investigation task sheets, video and audio files, photos, cellphone information and search warrants, to name a few types of information. Retzer found no deficiencies in the investigation or overlooked leads, O’Meara said.

At this point, O’Meara said, he can say with confidence that the team of local police, regional investigators, FBI and the Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico haven’t missed anything. Rick Spence remains the lead detective attached to the case in the event new information comes to light.

“Whoever it is, we ask that they show some humanity and let the family and the community have some closure on this, especially the family,” O’Meara said. “Everybody is anxious to solve it, and I daydream about being able to call the family and let them know that we wrapped it up; being able to announce to the community that this open wound can finally start to heal a little bit.”

Ashland City Council renewed authorization Tuesday of a reward fund — with a current balance of $22,235 — to pay anyone who comes forward with new information about the Grubbs case.