The sun was just starting to set when David Grubbs left his job at an Ashville, Oregon, supermarket and began walking home on Saturday, November 19, 2011. The 23-year-old had been working at Ashland’s Shop’n Kart for a few years and always took the same route along the Central Ashland Bike Path to get to his home on California Street. The walk normally took David around 30 minutes, but on this particular evening, something went very wrong.
At 5:35 pm, a woman who had been riding her bicycle on the Central Ashland Bike Path called 911 to report that an unconscious male was lying on a section of the path behind Walker Elementary School near Hunter Park. Paramedics were immediately dispatched to the scene, where they quickly realized that the situation was far more serious than first thought. The man lying on the ground was David, and he wasn’t unconscious. He was d*ead. There was little paramedics could do except wait for police.
One of the first police officers to arrive at the crime scene was Sgt. Tighe O’Meara. “It was completely dark…I encountered the paramedics who were coming out and they said, “The guy’s definitely de*ad. It looks like a gunshot wound.” When he got his first look at the victim, however, Sgt. O’Meara knew immediately that David had not been shot. He had been the victim of a b*rutal att*ack that had left him nearly decapitated.
Homicide detectives soon arrived and cordoned off the area. Before he left the crime scene, Sgt. O’Meara was entrusted with what detectives hoped would be a crucial piece of evidence: the victim’s phone. “I took David’s cell phone to the high-tech crimes task force that night so the cell phone could be dumped.” Even after he left the area, the horror of what he saw that night would stick with Sgt. O’Meara for years to come.
Police thought David had been ki*lled about 30 minutes before his body was found. He looked like he was walking along the bike path when he was shot at, most likely from behind. They looked like they were cut with a big blade, like a sword or machete. He had cuts on his head and neck. He didn’t have any defensive wounds, which showed that he was caught off guard and didn’t have time to fight back before he was attacked.
People in Ashland, a small city of about 20,000 people that was proud of being a very safe place to live, were sho*cked by the violent crime. Locals said that Ashland, which is only a few miles north of the California border, was like paradise because it had great schools, great neighborhoods, and great restaurants. Very little violent crime happened there, and mur*ders almost never happened. Most people who lived there never bothered to lock their cars or homes. David was the first person killed in Ashland in over seven years.
David was born and raised in Ashland. He was 24 years old soon to be birthday when he was ki*lled. He was the son of Michael and Cherie Grubbs and had a lot of friends. He was known for being kind and gentle. The way he was kil*led sho*cked all of them.
Sarah Grubbs, David’s sister, told reporters that her brother was funny, kind, and generous. She said that one Christmas, he gave all the money he had to a family who was homeless. He liked to write, read science fiction, and listen to music. His friend Andrea Venerable, who worked with David at the Shop’n Kart, said, “If it’s true that only the good die young, then David was one of them.”
Friends began to gather on the bike path near where David had been ki*lled as word spread that he had been kil*led. Many of them brought things that reminded them of David to add to the memorial that was being built for the young man. There was a small green cross with David’s name on it surrounded by flowers, candles, crossword puzzles, CDs, photos, and carrot cake. Many people who went to the site left in tears.
Someone David worked with, Beau Haddick, would often work the same shift as him and walk home with him. But on that Saturday, he had to work an hour later than David, so David had to walk home by himself. After his shift was over, Beau walked along the bike path and saw all the police lights. He had no idea they were there for David. “It’s hard to believe it could have been me instead.”
After the mu*rder, police increased their patrols of the bike path, but many people in the area were still scared. David was k*illed only a few yards from an elementary school, and the school told the kids not to walk alone on the bike path. People at Southern Oregon University, which is close by, were also told that until the ki*ller was caught, it would be safer for them to be in pairs or larger groups.
The ki*ller didn’t leave many clues, which made it very hard for detectives to figure out who he or she was. No one came forward to say they saw the attack, and the mu*rder weapon was never found. When the woman who called 911 got there, she remembered seeing a man leave the area, but she didn’t get a good look at him and couldn’t describe him.
Investigators questioned everyone who knew David but couldn’t find anyone who might have wanted to hurt him. His online gaming habits were looked into because he liked the game Assassin’s Creed, but there was no sign that it had anything to do with his de*ath. As soon as officials thought about it, they knew that David had probably been picked at random. He really did happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A community meeting was held on November 29, 2011, to talk about the mur*der and address people’s concerns. There were more than 500 people at the meeting, and they all said they were scared because the mu*rderer was still on the loose. Police Chief Terry Holderness told people straight out if they were safe in the city when they asked him. “I’m afraid this is something you won’t want to hear, but I don’t know.” He said that investigators still didn’t know why David was k*illed because he hadn’t been robbed and wasn’t doing anything dangerous. “People are likely less safe if this is an act of violence that happened for no reason.”
They worked full-time on the case for two weeks after the mu*rder, but they hadn’t made much progress. Chief Holderness said they hadn’t found the mur*der weapon and didn’t have any suspects or people they thought might be involved. “I don’t like where we are right now…”Still, it’s possible that this was a completely random act that had nothing to do with the victim except for the time and place. That doesn’t happen very often, but it could.”
When people found out that the mu*rder weapon was either a machete or a sharp sword, they gave police a lot of information about people who owned those kinds of weapons. The police chief said that this made him feel strange. “Before this case, I had no idea how many people carry machetes and swords. We talked to a huge number of people who were carrying these kinds of weapons.” After being sent to a lab for testing, none of these weapons were connected to the mu*rder of David.
Detectives had talked to more than 300 people by December 5, 2011, but they were still no closer to finding the ki*ller. The police got surveillance footage from businesses near the bike path and talked to everyone who had been in the area around the time of the mur*der. However, none of the people they talked to could say anything about what had happened. Somehow, the person who k*illed David was able to get away without being caught.
Investigators said in January 2012 that they had received the results of forensic tests that had been done on crime scene evidence. Clothing from people who were on the bike path around the time of the mu*rder was gathered and tested for blood or other evidence. All of the tests came back negative. The results helped detectives rule out some possible suspects, but they didn’t help them find the person who did it.
The Ashland City Council decided to set up a reward fund in the hopes of getting some new leads. People from all over the city gave money, and after a few weeks, the reward had grown to $15,000. Another reward of $1,500 was offered by Cri*mestoppers for information in the case. This made a total of $16,500 available. Even though there was a big reward, not many tips came in, and none of them led to the kil*ler.
The case didn’t move forward much over the next few months. Experts from the FBI agreed in June 2012 to look through the case files and see if they could make a list of possible suspects. Reporters asked Chief Holderness if he was hopeful that the FBI would be able to “reveal if there’s something else we should have done or could do” to find David’s ki*ller. The specialists were asked for information, but it was kept secret from the public.
As the anniversary of the mur*der drew near, police got what they called “a major tip” about the case. They used this tip to look for the mur*der weapon in a pond on a farm in southern Oregon. Police divers used metal detectors to search the one-acre pond for several days, while officers with search dogs went through the rest of the property, which is in a rural area near Talent, Oregon. People were told by Chief Holderness not to jump to any conclusions. “There’s no reason to think that we’ll be making an arrest soon.” He also said that the owners of the property were not seen as suspects.
The case stopped being in the news for a while, and the investigation seemed to stop moving forward. Police had talked to almost 2,000 people and followed up on hundreds of tips by October 2013, but they still didn’t know who k*illed David. Authorities told his dad, Michael Grubbs, that they had run out of leads and would act again when they got a new one. They’ve no more things to look at, so they’re just going to guess. David was not where he should have been at the wrong time.
It had been a year, and David still hadn’t been heard. Cherie Grubbs, his mother, told reporters that the pain of losing her son had not gone away over time. “I awaken. It’s okay for about three seconds, but then I remember that my boy is gone. She felt better after visiting the memorial bench that had been put up on the bike path, but she still said, “I don’t see joy in my life anymore.” I know how quickly good things can be taken away when they happen.
Corey Falls, Deputy Chief of Police for Ashland, told reporters that tips were still coming in, but it was disappointing that there weren’t any solid leads. “Our job is to catch bad guys.” He was still sure that the crime would be solved one day. “We’re going to keep looking for the person who did this.”
The case was no longer being looked into five years after the m*urder. In 2011, Tighe O’Meara was the first officer to arrive at the scene of the crime. He was now police chief and made it clear that David’s case would be given top priority. He hired Charlie Retzer, a retired detective from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, to look over the case again and see if there was anything the first detectives missed. Chief O’Meara asked for help from the public as well, even though he was hopeful that new eyes would help the investigation. “Someone must know something, and they need to tell us.” If someone with information heard him, they didn’t say anything.
David’s family and friends are still having a hard time getting over the fact that he was k*illed more than ten years ago. When David’s best friend Garrison Mau was interviewed in 2022, he said, “To this day, I’ve never met anyone like David who just naturally got along with everyone.” David had no enemy in the whole world.
Ashland Police Chief O’Meara said that David’s case was still their most important one. “It’s everywhere. It’s always there; it doesn’t fade away and become a memory. He wanted to find out who did the horrible crime so badly. “I really need to find a solution.” I’ve made it clear: there will be serious consequences if I ever get the sense that we aren’t doing everything we can to move this forward.
The fact that a k*iller was still on the loose was disturbing to Chief O’Meara, especially a k*iller as ruthless as the one in this case. “The randomness of it is one of the most jarring parts about it…no scorned partner, no beef at work…David was very well-liked.”
Detectives believe it’s possible that a man named Christian DeLaurentis could be responsible for the m*urder and consider him a potential person of interest, though they lack the solid evidence needed to name him a suspect. Although he was living in Ashland at the time of the mu*rder, investigators could find no connection between him and David. Christian is currently serving a life sentence for an unrelated mu*rder and has refused to speak with detectives about David’s case, making it impossible for them to rule him in or out as David’s k*iller. “We’re just kind of stuck, because he won’t talk to us”
Despite the passage of time, Chief O’Meara remains convinced that there are people out there who know exactly what happened that night and he continues to hope they will one day decide to come forward and help bring closure to the case. David’s family and friends have been waiting far too long for justice.
David Michael Grubbs was just 23 years old when he was br*utally mu*rdered in Ashland, Oregon, in 2011. He was a talented musician, a great friend, and an all-around nice guy. His loss is still felt deeply in Ashland, and his loved ones have never given up hope that they will one day obtain justice for him. If you have any information about David’s mu*rder, please contact the Ashland Police Department at 541–482–5211 or the Ashland Police Department Anonymous Tip Line at 541–552–2333. There is a $22,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of David’s mur*derer.