Friday, December 2, 2011

Small Town Marked By Inexplicable Murder

Although murder and crime are not unknown in less-urban parts of the United States, I must admit I hadn't thought of anything quite so disturbing coming to my current home town of Ashland Oregon, a place Ive called home for almost twenty years. 

There have exactly six murders in the last 30 years here.  Most of them, save one which was ruled only a "possible homicide",  were settled fairly quickly I gather Then came the brutal killing on November 19th of David Michael Grubbs, a 23-year old grocery clerk, musician  and student at the local Southern Oregon University.  His nearly-decapitated body was found along a paved bike/walking path called the Bear Creek Greenway, a path I am familiar with.  He died around 5: 30 that evening, just after sundown. 

The assailant apparently used some kind of a large sharp instrument to do this heinous deed.  There was no robbery here.  It was more like an execution.    


Grubbs was apparently a nice, upbeat  young man.  No one appears to have had it in for him.     A crowd of about 500 people came out to   the local high school on the evening of November 28th to hear the local police talk about the case.  The authorities seem  baffled and appear to be grasping at straws. 

Grubbs wasn't a drug dealer, just  a hard-working student with roots in the town who got along with others.  Some people think it might have something to do with a video game he played online, but so far that's a lot of hype.   

There are no real leads, despite having 16 detectives from all over the area working on this case.  The FBI has been called in.  A forensics expert is coming next week from all the way back in Pennsylvania to try and sort out what type of weapon was used in the victim's death. 

For the last two weeks this town has been on edge.    As much as you say, "Of course something like this COULD happen here", you're not prepared when it actually does.   


  1. It is frightening to think of a killer being lose.Back in the 80s we had two murders, and it took weeks to find the killers.I had small children and I do not think I slept until I knew no one was going to break in. It is sad when senseless things like this happen.

  2. Yes, Tess, it's quite unsettling because you really don't know why this happened and it seems the longer it takes the less clear what the motive might have been. Was this the first act of a serial killer? Is this a local or a regional situation? No one feels safe walking alone anymore that's for sure.

  3. I know how you feel Doug, we had a murder here a few years ago in my itty bitty town of Glide and it was scary until they caught the person who did this. Most times its a robbery gone bad but with your situation, who knows what the motive was. Take care and be careful until this person is caught.

  4. It's a very different time Doug as there were a few killed recently up within these parts and the police can't keep up with it all. Senseless it is.

  5. Sorry to hear of the death and the way it has affected your town.

  6. Yes, that's what I thougth at first--a robbery situation. They cleared some homeless-peoples camps up the walkway a couple days before this and so I thought someone moved by the police might have been in need of money. But that idea seems unlikely. It's more like a pure act of derangement.

    Thanks Marty.

  7. Yes, Jack, this is a semi-tourist area, more used to small-time crime. I've walked literally all over this town in good weather and semi-good, and never once felt any threat whatsoever. Luckily the city of Medford police have pitched in with their detectives.

    No none of it ever makes sense does it?

  8. Doug, I think people tend to be more shocked~and understandably so~~when something like this happens in a town that's been so free of violence. In cities, the murder rate is so high people seem to be immune.

    This is very sad, he looks such a nice young man, and I can't imagine a murder so bizarre, with no apparent motive, unless as was suggested, this is a serial killer. My heart goes out to all of you. What the young man said toward the end of the clip was thoughtful, and wise. Perhaps there isn't any place to walk alone anymore?

    I watched on youtube because I couldn't get any sound here, and there were very short 'forum' questions if anyone cares to look. You all take very good care and blessed be~~~

  9. Thanks Sigurd.

    Everything you say here I think is right. I lived in the San Francisco area and grew up hearing about these sociopaths like the Zodiac and Zebra killers of the 70's and various other crazy preps who are just part of the civic world. This killing, had it happenedin Oakland or San Jose, would have been only a forty-eight hour story.

    Sorry you had problems with the site. I don't want anyone to think I feel less safe than I did when I worked in a metro area. I just hope they catch this person or persons who did this crazy soon.

  10. That's terrible, Doug.
    It seems that no one has much idea of why this has happened and that the victim seems an unlikely one.
    There was actually a conviction of a man in the UK last month who murdered another man by almost decapitating him. The two worked together in a kitchen at a swanky golfclub. The motivate appears to have been a hatred born out of a clash of personalities at work. One of Jack the Ripper's victims also had simliar injuries.
    This and the savage nature of the injuries suggests that your killer killed with passion and anger. Massive force.
    A Samurai sword would do severe damage though a hunting knife would do just as well.
    On the one hand it would be horrible to think that the innocent young lad had in any way contributed to his own death by "courting the wrong lady" or "giving the wrong change". Such things could trigger off a massive overreaction by a violent and deluded, even paranoiac individual. On the other hand, it seems even more worrying if the killer killed for "fun", choosing a quiet time of night to pick an opportunist victim.

    Either way I do believe that the people of your town should take sensible precautions as the killer is clearly derranged.
    Hopefully the local police, with any outside help that they get will quickly establish if this is a crime that can be linked to others elsewhere, if the victim had anything "dark" in his past, and if anyone in your midst has been behaving unusually or has left town recently. I'm not sure forensics will find much. The post-mortem will be more informative.
    There should really be an offender profiler involved due to the incredble nature of the murder.
    I'd expect the police to apprehend the killer sooner rather than later as the type of person who commits such a crime is likely to be arrogant in the extreme and may slip up, especially if interviewed on a door to door basis.
    I suppose there may be a tendancy to suspect out of towners, but statistically it is more likely to be someone who knows the area well.

    If this happened in my locale I would be angry, and scared, and scared for my folks. It is a sickening event but there is always an explanation to such actions and always a response.
    Only last week in Essesx someone dropped two buckets of hardened cement of a motorway bridge, severly injuring a 57 year old women and also hitting the car of a lady and her mum. The police are rightly calling it attempted murder.
    Whoever did this has long crossed the line of humanity into a psychopathic world of self-delusion, like your killer.
    Fortunately, such things don't happen every day. I can see why people believe in capital punishment under the circumstances. I don't, but I can see why.

  11. Oak, great comments. I'll focus on just this one. I believe that capital punishment is vengeance. It shouldn't be determined by the nature of the crime. Some people think it should be, how heinous, etc. But grading on a scale of one to ten, in this or any in case is profoundly subjective.

    I hope this person is found very soon. I'd say he's definitely psychopathic.

  12. Thanks Lurchie!

    I agree that it is vengence in many cases. But the USA shows how innefective it is as a detterant. The Death states have higher murder rates than non-death states, which I think proves that CP is actually an incentive to kill.
    If a person has already killed once he will kill again and again to avoid capture. Wheras a long prison sentence gives him an opportunity to evade justice via police errors, a fancy lawyer or a public campaign. So police officers, witnesses and bystanders are all put in much greater danger by CP. More people are murdered because of it. Thus it is dysfunctional and bad for a society. There are other arguments against it as well, but for me the fact that it worsens things for everyone outwieghs the sating of our understandable bloodlust.
    I believe that some people, like this killer, certainly deserve to die. I just don't think that killing them works for us, that's all.

    Yes, I think that he is psychopathic, which means that deterrants mean less to him than opportunities to exploit others if he thinks that he can get away with it. Like any criminal, risk verses reward has a determinent effect on his behaviour.

    If the police can work out how experienced the guy is at killing they should be able to predict how soon, if at all, he will be likely to kill again.

    The fact that he made no attempt to hide his crime suggests either he is inexperienced and quickly fled, or that he has deliberately "displayed" this poor lad to send a message out.
    In my opinion he fled in panic. I believe that this man has been consistently violent in his lifetime and may be known to the police and even to the wider community. Though this may have been the first time that he has killed. I think that he has thought about killing a lot.

    I have a hunch that his college might be connected, after all, a lot of people mill in and out of educational establishments and not all of them are nice people. It does not seem like a mugging that went wrong.

    I just hope that people will support the young man's family. I'm sure that they will. Christmas is a family time and they have an awful burden to bear now.

  13. Gosh, I don;t half witter on these days!

  14. You bring a lot of excelllent background to this subject, Oakie. Thanks for covering similar cases as well. We sometimes forget people just do crazy things seemingly for the hell of it like dropping heavy objects off a highway overpass bridge.

    I think the fact that there is no clear reason (at least known to the public) why this young man was so brutally attacked makes it extra frightening to the community at large. A "fun" killer, picking victims at random, is harder to take precautions against.

    It's pretty clear the police are not quite sure what the weapon was. I'm just guessing, but I suspect it might be something rare like a samurai sword--that would warrant flying in an expert.

    Yes, I imagine he could very well be a local product, a college student perhaps, or a disgruntled ex-student. If he has ever attacked before chances are he's been locked up in a psych ward I agree. And also since guns are obscenely plentiful around here, there is something of a "show-off" aspect to a gruesome and close-range murder in such an ordinary and very public place.

    Yes, capital punishment is a huge issue over here. As a tool of vengence it has its proponents. As a deterent to crime, I doubt a maniac who would do something this abomidible even thinks about getting caught, much less put to death. This has to be totally pre-meditated after all, so whomever it was thought about it.

  15. I think its quite possible this killer is a younger man, and one who hasn't come to the stage when, for instance he would be taunting the police with bizzare clues and cocoky letters, as some killers seem to enjoy. And if it is random, chances are he will kill again.

  16. Yes, I agree. The people who taunt the police tend to be "pros". They see themselves in a duel of wits with the authorities and play such silly games, always failing to remember that they have broken hearts and destroyed lives.
    They usually see themselves as the only good in a world of bad. The deluded vanity of such creatures truly reeks.

    And a random killing will certainly be followed by another, or at least the fantasy of another. It all depends upon how screwed-up the guy is. If there is any kind of attack with a similar, but not identical, modus operandi, it might suggest another killer linked to the original (Thus with a theme, philosophy and culture). But I feel that this guy will, if inexperienced, will be too intimidated to kill again soon. He needs time to calm down and to start to believe that he has "outwitted" the police first.

    The problem for residents in your area is that no-one knows much about the situation and so might not know what to do, but common sense measures; keeping eyes and ears open and walking around in twos or threes, or with a large dog can't hurt.

    Even when a crime seems similar to another it is impossible to be sure without a more comprehensive amount of information. I'm sure that the police will announce something positive soon. A good lead, a piece of evidence.
    Indeed, they may well be holding something back as we write.

  17. Actually, random killers still tend to have a "type" of victim meaning that their attacks are not truly random.
    It is rare that someone like the Dusseldorf Ripper (attacked all kinds of people), Washington Sniper (All kinds of people) turn up. Usually there will be some age differentiation, gender differentiation and ethnic differentiation.

    As the victim in this case was a young white male, I would expect young white males to be the most at risk.

  18. I think that seems to be where most people in the community are; using common sense but not in a panic. That could change if there was a second attack, God forbid, but right now I'm hoping, Oakie, the police are unto something and we will have an announcement soon.

    Otherwise , as you say , we face the prospect of an assailant who might attack after he gets over his fears of being caught again.

  19. That's true I think. A crime this viscous--unless committed for an still-unknown personal grudge--would seem to need some type of pathological trigger to set someone to be that violent.

    The Zodiac killer of the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 70's was infamous in part for seeming to have no type of specific target---he would kill seemingly anyone. And was never caught, at least not identified for the crimes he committed as the taunting "Zodiac" man.

  20. Yes, I hope that there won't be another attack. And that is feasible.

    I remember when The Yorkshire Ripper killed many women in Manchester, Leeds and Bradford. I am from Manchester and I can tell you that women stopped dating new men, were scared to go out and had to be chaperoned everywhere. The whole community felt that man's shadow. He was caught in the end, but I think he had killed a total of 14 people.

    Often the first crime is different from the ones that follow it. The Yorkshire Ripper's first killing was south of his home and all the others were north.

  21. Yes, Zodiac is famous over here. I suppose some killers capture public imagination more than others, especially if they are never caught. But they always stop in the end. Suicide, illness, age, apprehension, something catches up with them. Then we have to hope that the more successful killers don't inspire copy cats.

    Obviously, having purely random targets puts the wind up everyone to a much greater extent. But serial killers evolve from childhood into monsters. So it is those early childhood experiences, often around the age of 3-4 and usually before 7-8 that determine exactly what a serial will do.

    Systematic violence seems to feature regularly in the early lives of Serials. As adults they turn the tables and then add sex to the equation because it is a route to getting deeper into a person's psyche in a destructive way.
    The lack of a sexual motive (As far as we know) in this instance reduces the possiblity that the crime was committed by a potential serial killer as most serial killing includes sexual acts by the killer, even if it is only the act of onerism.
    It does not rule it out altogether though. But I do think this guy won't kill again anytime soon.

    If he is a Serial then he will probably be coming around to a new kill at the point where the community has largely forgotton about him.
    The community must not allow him to relax.

    However, he will probably be caught before then.
    This was a spectacular crime committed in broad daylight in a public place. It is hard to believe that no-one knows who was responsible.
    The killer took incredible risks, reinforcing the idea of inexperience and improvisation. He probably fled in panic.
    I also feel that he knew his victim. But that is really just a feeling. I have no good argument as to why that would be other than statistical likelyhood.

    I'm presuming that it is a male who did the killing, though an enraged female could inflict serious injuries with a dangerous weapon. In the US I would expect a violent woman to be more likely to use a gun though, as it reduces the risk of being over-powered in close proximity.

  22. One little point that is positive.

    According to my very experienced criminology tutor, a criminal makes about 30 incriminating mistakes at a crime scene. A very clever criminal spots 7 of them before leaving. That is why forensic science is so successful and is the best form of evidence.
    OK, out in the open a lot of those mistakes get blown away or affected by animal behaviour. Maybe all of them. But a panicky killer will make other mistakes too. Someone out there suspects this guy. Even if he lives alone, he still has to shop, maybe work, maybe not, bank, fulfil obligations. He has to mix with others because a man cannot be an island in a community.

  23. Yes, I don't this guy--asuming this is a guy--just evolved overnight this way. Somebody who is sane does know him. The question is, can they fit enough of the pieces together if they know of the crime?

  24. Well, that's something i didn't know. Another odd thing I didn't mention in the blog was that the initial report from the crime scene was that neighbors heard gunshots fired.

    No shell casings of anything was ever found and it's not likely it was a garbled report put out by the media.

    The important thing though is that a lot of cops convergedon the scene very quickly apparently so that means something this killer missed hopefully was spotted.

    It does seem like they may have a chance to identifIy the weapon used. If it is in any way a special type of implement, something a collector might have, let's say,then that's a big clue. And unless he moves around a lot there has to be some people in the area might know of a peculiar fellow with an odd interest in swords or pikes or whatever.

  25. Or will they have the guts to contact the authorities? I bet he's pretty intimidating on a surly basis.

  26. Really? Gunshots?
    It would be interesting to know exactly how many shots and how many people reported it.
    I suppose a car could have back-fired, which would explain the lack of bullits.

    If the police got there quickly that has to bode well.

    Re the weapon, I have heard of three acounts of individuals wielding Samurai swords over here, in each case leading to serious/fatal injuries. Such a weapon can go straight through bone.
    The individuals wielding them were all messed up people. But were all quickly aprehended too.
    People tend to show such weapons off. They are very proud of them. I'm not too sure that it will be a sword this time.

    But there should be some info from the police because the victim's injuries will define things.

  27. Sounds like the police are getting through the work quickly. They have halved the amount of police on the case to free them up elsewhere.

    They seem confident of solving the case. There were three people that they want to speak to in the area around the time of the killing. They have spoken to one of them and so far. One of the others was on a bicycle.

    Apparently they have recieved about 600 "leads" from the public. So it's just a case of getting through them all.

    This info was given in the MAIL TRIBUNE yesterday so it's up to date.