Police search farm, apartment in probe into Ashland killing

Jeff Barnard / The Associated Press /

Published Nov 16, 2012 at 04:00AM

ASHLAND — Police divers have searched a murky farm pond in Southern Oregon, acting on what investigators described as a major tip in the year-old slaying of a grocery clerk who was nearly decapitated walking home on a popular bike path.

Ashland police Chief Terry Holderness said Thursday the divers used metal detectors to probe the bottom of the one-acre pond on the outskirts of the neighboring town of Talent.

Police also searched a vehicle and an apartment unit in a Southern Oregon University student housing complex located right along the bike path, a 10-minute walk from where 23-year-old David Grubbs was found dead.

“We have no reason to anticipate making an arrest in the near future,” Holderness said after the searches were completed. “We have quite a bit of information to process.”

Authorities think Grubbs was attacked with a sword, machete or large knife walking home from work at dusk last November when he was killed. Holderness would not say whether any of the searches turned up any such weapon. Police also have not speculated on a motive in the slaying.

Over the past year, police have interviewed nearly 2,000 people and sent several potential weapons to the state police crime lab for analysis without a break in the case.

Holderness said that despite the recent tip and renewed searches, authorities do not have a solid suspect.

About 50 people, including police from neighboring cities and counties, joined in the searches that started Wednesday.

While six divers probed the irrigation pond in the middle of the mule pasture, others using dogs and metal detectors poked through fields, blackberry patches, old barns and sheds, junk piles and a home on the 18-acre Talent property. An FBI serial killer specialist was on hand, Holderness said.

Joanne Haddad, who lives near the farm, watched authorities search the pond from the road about 40 yards away.

“If they did dispose of a weapon it would be very easy to just walk in there,” she said. “It’s very easy to climb over that fence.”

Holderness said police got the tip about a month ago, and in that time developed enough information to ask a judge for three search warrants. Police have previously executed six other warrants in the case without making an arrest.

“Just because we are doing search warrants doesn’t mean the people who own the houses are involved in the case,” Holderness said. “It just means there might be some evidence in the case at those properties.”

Leonard Parrish, the owner with his wife of the Talent property, told the Ashland Daily Tidings he had no idea what was going on with the search.

The newspaper also reported that a vehicle registered to a woman living at the Ashland apartment was at one time registered at the Talent address.

Grubbs grew up in Ashland. He played double bass in his high school orchestra and worked at a grocery store. He had been walking home on a bike path, past a park and an elementary school at dusk on Nov. 19, 2011, when he was killed, authorities say. Two passersby found him lying on the ground with horrible wounds to his head and neck.

Police have said no one witnessed the attack, and have spent the past year largely in frustration.

If the tip leads to an arrest, it would qualify for the reward, which has grown to $21,000 with contributions from the city and individuals, Holderness said.

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