Murder fallout grips Ashland

ASHLAND — Residents are shaken by what police describe as a violent murder that took place on the Central Ashland Bike Path Saturday afternoon.

"It's just really scary," said Susan Berry, 62, whose home sits a few hundred feet away from where the crime took place.

"We bike together frequently on the path," she said, looking down and clutching the hand of her young adopted daughter, whom she did not want to be named.

The body of 23-year-old David Michael Grubbs, of Ashland, was found near Hunter Park by someone using the popular walking and biking trail at about 5:35 p.m. Saturday. Grubbs' body was bloody and lying in the middle of the path, said Ashland Police Sgt. Tighe O'Meara.

Police have declined to say what weapon was used in the attack, except that it was a "large, sharp-edged object," and that Grubbs' fatal wounds were inflicted to his neck and head.

Initial reports that Grubbs might have been a gunshot victim proved false once investigators were able to examine his body.

O'Meara said police believe Grubbs was dead less than 30 minutes before his body was found.

"It's just so unfortunate that nobody saw it happen," said another Ashland resident, who did not want to be named because she was afraid of revealing herself to a killer who was still on the loose. "I think we are all a little distressed. It's kind of odd to have something like this happen here."

Her home is also a few hundred feet away from where Grubbs' body was found.

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Berry, who has lived in Ashland for just three months, said she was surprised by residents' attitude that they live in an oasis.

"People aren't on guard here," she said. "They all think they are safe."

The last murder in Ashland took place about seven years ago, in late 2004. There were two murders within the city limits that year. The first was the bludgeoning death of predatory sex offender David Evan Rice, 68, of Ashland, and the other was the stabbing death of Samuel Rath, 23, of Ashland. Both victims knew their attackers.

Police said at this point in their investigation, they do not believe there was any connection between Grubbs and his killer.

Working in unison with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and police from Medford, Phoenix and Talent, Ashland police will bolster its presence on the bike path, said O'Meara.

"We'll be performing extra patrols and performing some high visibility patrols," he said, "both to further the investigation and provide a visible presence."

Police on Monday stopped passersby around Hunter Park, seeking any information about Saturday's attack.

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

The Ashland School District sent an email Monday morning to parents of students at Walker Elementary, John Muir and Ashland Middle schools, warning them to exercise caution on the way to and from school, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said.

Grubbs' body was found only a few hundred feet away from the playground at Walker Elementary, and just a few hundred yards down the bike path from the middle school.

"Police are calling this a random act of violence," said Di Chiro. "That definitely heightened my level of concern around the safety issues with our students walking and biking to school."

While she stressed that the schools are safe, her message to parents advised students to walk to school in pairs or groups and avoid the bike path if possible. Elementary school students should be accompanied by an adult on the path and shouldn't walk any route alone, the email said.

"That goes for all students "… the older students should be walking in pairs or groups, and keeping their cell phones handy," said Di Chiro. "He (Grubbs) was just a kid walking home from work."

Di Chiro said that until police can identify a suspect, those precautions will remain in place.

On Sunday, Southern Oregon University public safety officials sent out an email to its students as well, asking them to stay alert in the wake of the attack.

"Please be aware of your surroundings when you are out and about," the email from SOU campus public safety co-director Rich Walsh read. "We recommend if you use the bike path to travel in pairs or groups."

The email also recommended students inform others before they use the bike path, and to carry a flashlight, whistle and cell phone if traveling at night.

Grubbs, who lived on California Street and worked at the local Shop'n Kart, was believed to be walking home from work, said some of his fellow employees and friends.

Store manager Vernon Hull said Grubbs walked to and from work on the bike path frequently.

"He was just a great kid," said Hull, turning away before becoming too emotional. "I don't think there is anything left to say."

Andrea Venenable of Ashland works at Shop'n Kart and was a good friend of Grubbs', she said.

On Monday, she knelt down sobbing beside the still visible stain of blood left on the bike bath where her friend was killed.

"I just can't believe someone would do this to him," she said. "He was too good of a kid for this to happen.

"If there is any truth behind what they say about only the good dying young," she said, "then David was one of them."

After about 15 minutes kneeling beside where Grubbs died, Venenable rose to her feet.

"What a sick criminal."

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

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