23-year-old David Grubbs was brutally murdered on his way home from work at the local Shop’n Kart in Ashland, Oregon on November 19, 2011.
Tighe O’Meara, one of the responding officers, is now the chief of police for the Ashland Police Department.
“Pretty much all of my 2012 was investigating David's murder,” Chief O’Meara told Dateline.
He said that he’s held David’s case close to his heart ever since that rainy Saturday in November of 2011.
“It was about 5:35 p.m., and the reason I remember that so well is, it was just getting dark,” Chief O’Meara said. “One of the other units was dispatched to a ‘person down’ call. It was more of an assisted medical call.”
But the chief told Dateline that he thought something more might have been going on. “I heard it on the radio and I said, ‘That doesn't sound right to me. Let's go over there, because that sounds like something's going on,’” he recalled.
When O’Meara and his partner at the time arrived at the bike path behind Hunter Park, it was already too late. ”It was completely dark, like pitch black,” Chief O’Meara said. “I encountered the paramedics who were coming out and they said, ‘That guy's definitely dead. It looks like a gunshot wound.’”
O’Meara, who has responded to quite a few crime scenes over the years, told Dateline he knew immediately that this was not a gunshot wound. “We were scanning our flashlights around,” he said. “Our beams of light kind of came across David's body at the same time and I saw right away that there was no way it was a gunshot wound.”
According to O’Meara, it was clear that David had been brutally attacked.
Detectives were called to the scene of the crime almost immediately. Since it was raining, O’Meara said he helped preserve the crime scene. "One of the things I did because it was raining, was: I drove to Walmart and I bought three pop-up canopies, to help keep the crime scene,” he said. “And I took David's cell phone to the high-tech crimes task force that night so that the cell phone could be dumped.”
Authorities later determined that David was killed with an edged weapon. The weapon has never been recovered.
"Until this case came up, I was oblivious to how many people carry machetes and how many people carry swords," Chief O'Meara said. “We were getting tips left and right and up and down and from every angle. It turns out an awful lot of people carry swords around for one reason or another.”
The chief said they followed up on the tips. “So we contacted countless people that were carrying heavy-edged weapons,” he said. “We confiscated a lot of large bladed weapons and unfortunately none of it really led anywhere."
The police chief remembers the community was extremely anxious after David’s murder. “The bike path is a focal point of life in Ashland. It struck home with a lot of people that the bike path isn't safe,” Chief O’Meara said. “People were very scared.”
Dateline spoke with David’s best friend, Garrison Mau and his mother, P.J. Mau, who both remember the feeling in the community following David’s killing.
“There was a lot of upset in the community, especially in the first week because Ashland Police Department is not equipped to handle something like this,” Garrison said. “There was no motive and there was no right or any reason, so people were afraid. I was afraid.”
He added that he feels David’s case wasn’t given enough attention in public by police. “I feel, personally, that a lot of David's case was kind of swept under the rug to keep up appearances,” he said. “When the reality is bad things happen everywhere.”
As the investigation went on, officers learned more about David. According to Chief O’Meara, they could not imagine who could have wanted to hurt the down-to-earth, mild-mannered 23-year-old.
“To this day, I've never met anyone like David who just had a natural capacity to get along with everybody,” Garrison Mau told Dateline. “David did not have an enemy in this world.”
Garrison’s mother, P.J., told Dateline that she remembers meeting David for the first time. “When Garrison brought him home from high school the first time, you know how sophomore/freshman teenage boys sort of shuffle into the house and they look at their shoes and they run upstairs really quick?,” she said. David wasn’t like that. “I answered the door. David put his hand out and said, ‘Hi, I'm David Grubbs. Nice to meet you.’”
She said David quickly became like a second son to her. “David was the gentlest, funniest man -- young man -- I've ever met in my life,” P.J. said. “He had great musical talent and he was just so gentle.”
In fact, said Garrison, “Music was how we connected.” He told Dateline that David has been a huge inspiration throughout his musical career. “David was the reason I became a musician and he was very -- maybe I won't even say naturally gifted, because he had been doing it for so long -- but he was, he was gifted,” he said.
Garrison was not just one of David’s closest friends, he was also his co-worker at the Shop’n Kart grocery store. “We had a lot of fun at work. David actually got me my job there. He was so just naturally funny and had the gift of gab,” Garrison told Dateline. “He had the best sense of humor. David was our token funny guy.”
Authorities investigating David's murder began interviewing his family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, but nothing significant came from those conversations.
“The randomness of it is one of the most jarring parts about it,” Chief O’Meara told Dateline.
According to the chief, there was “no motive thread that we found to pull on.” There was “no scorned partner, no beef at work” and “David was very well-liked.”
Chief O’Meara said that in the past 11 years, the Ashland Police Department has identified a man named Christian Delaurentiis as a person of interest in David’s case. “We know that he was living here at the time and we know that he was a severe heroin addict,” Chief O’Meara said. It is unknown if David had ever met Delaurentiis.
Chief O’Meara told Dateline that they are unable to move forward with Delaurentiis as a suspect in David’s murder. “We're just kind of stuck, because he won't talk to us and people don't have to talk to the police,” O’Meara explained. He added that they do not have any direct evidence that Delaurentiis was involved. “It's not direct evidence, it’s circumstantial evidence,” Chief O’Meara said.
Delaurentiis is currently serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole for aggravated murder and first-degree abuse of a corpse in an unrelated case. Dateline reached out to Delaurentiis’s legal counsel for comment but they have not yet responded.
Having been one of the first to respond to the scene that night, Chief O’Meara told Dateline he feels a personal connection to the case. “This case has stuck around as I've made my way up to the Chief position,” he said. “I do feel like this is something that is personal to me, and I know it's personal to a lot of people.” But no matter how much time has passed, Chief O’Meara told Dateline that David’s case will always remain a priority for the Ashland Police Department. “It’s omnipresent. It doesn't fade into the background and become a memory, it's always there,” he said. “I take the dog for a walk through a cemetery sometimes, and David's tombstone is there…”
Chief O’Meara emphasized that he is determined to ensure David’s case doesn’t get forgotten, especially among his colleagues at the Ashland Police Department. “I really want to get to a point of resolution for this,” he said. “I have made it quite clear to my partners, my teammates here at the police department, that if I ever get left with the impression that we're not doing everything humanly possible to move this forward, then there will be serious repercussions for whoever is failing to move it forward.”
Garrison Mau is also determined to keep his friend’s case and memory alive. He and his mother, P.J. plan to install permanent memorial at the site of David’s murder. “There's a bench down there,” he noted. “But we'd like to put something in that is a little more permanent and a little more like, ‘Hey, this is what happened here. Don't forget about it.”
They have also set up a scholarship in David’s name that raises money for other young musicians in the Ashland area.
“I would like him to be remembered as exactly who he was. I have never known a better man in my life,” Garrison said. “I would ask the community to open their minds and open their hearts again and realize that this is still very real for a lot of people, and get out of their own little bubble. Pay attention to what's around us. Because when we don't, this is what happens.”
The chief told Dateline he feels confident that the Ashland Police Department is doing everything they can to solve this case. They just need a break. “Somebody out there knows something. And I have to imagine that over 11, almost 11 years now, carrying around the burden of knowing who's responsible for such a grotesque attack on David – and by way of David, his family and the entire community – that's got to be a lot of pressure and a lot of stress to carry around,” Chief O’Meara said. “I am hopeful that at some point, somebody gets tired of it and that they pick up the phone or type out an email or whatever -- send a telegram -- and say, ‘Hey, I want to unburden myself of this information and give it to you. I'm tired of carrying it around.’”
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Ashland Police Department at 541-482-5211 or the APD Anonymous Tip Line at 541-552-2333.