Forensic expert will study Grubbs' fatal wounds for clues

Ashland police are calling on one of the nation's leading forensic specialists of sharp-force trauma wounds to re-examine those inflicted on 23-year-old David Michael Grubbs when he was attacked on Nov. 19.

Police Chief Terry Holderness said Steven Symes, a forensic anthropologist based out of Erie, Penn., will arrive in Ashland on Tuesday.

Symes is an assistant professor at Mercyhurst College, where he is part of a master's program for forensic and biological anthropology. He is also part-time faculty member in the Anthropology Department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Symes specializes in sharp-force trauma, with an expertise in saw and blade marks on bone, and is also renowned for his work with burned bone trauma.

He is one of fewer than 90 forensic anthropologists nationwide who are certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology.

"We're getting the best of the best," said Holderness.

Holderness said the APD was led to Symes after seeking such an expert through the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, a forensic specialist at the University of Oregon and the FBI.

"They all said this was the guy," he said.

Symes could not immediately be reached for comment today.

Grubbs was found murdered on the Central Ashland Bike Path near the Hunter Park tennis courts at about 5:35 p.m. Nov. 19. An autopsy showed that he was nearly decapitated from a weapon with a medium to large blade, police said.

Investigators said Grubbs didn't appear to make any defensive moves in the attack, and that his wallet and money were left in his pocket after he was killed.

So far, Holderness said, evidence points toward the attack being random, because police are not finding any reason for Grubbs to have been targeted.

There is a reward fund set up for the anyone who can provide information that leads to an arrest in the Grubbs homicide case.

The reward is currently $1,000, but will likely grow as community members make contributions to the pool.

Anyone who wants to contribute to the fund can mail a check to the Medford Police Department, 411 W. Eighth St., with attention to Ruth Cox.

Checks can be made payable to "Crime Stoppers of Southern Oregon for Grubbs reward," Cox said.

Crime Stoppers of Southern Oregon established the reward fund on Monday.

— Sam Wheeler

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