Community members turned out in droves Tuesday night for the opportunity to discuss the investigation into the violent murder of 23-year-old David Michael Grubbs.
At the hourlong meeting, which drew about 500 people, Ashland police walked the audience through a chronology of the investigation, addressed the murder's effect on the safety of the community and answered what questions they could about their efforts to solve the case.
"How safe am I in Ashland?" asked Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness, calling it the major concern in town.
"Unfortunately, you're probably not going to want to hear this," Holderness continued, "but I don't know."
He said people should take extra precautions while walking in secluded areas, and maintain a heightened sense of awareness.
"If this is a random act of violence, then it's probably less safe," Holderness said.
Curiosity about details of the case and general safety issues dominated the questions from the audience.
"What about footprints?" asked one woman, mentioning that a killer might have stepped in blood during the attack. "Is there any way to track that?"
Holderness said he could not provide an answer to her question.
"We withhold information for a couple of reasons," he said.
Withholding telling details helps police ensure witnesses are legitimate, he said, and not just repeating what they heard somewhere else.
He said empathy for a victim's family is another reason police wait to release some of the details.
The owners of a skateboard and helmet found near where Grubbs was murdered were identified by police Tuesday, said Detective Sgt. Jim Alderman, after one woman questioned the significance of the two items.
Two young boys who stashed the board and helmet there while walking to school were the owners, Alderman said. They are not suspects in the case.
Grubbs did not appear to have been robbed after the attack, as he still had his wallet and money in his pocket when police found him, Alderman said, in answer to another question.
So far, Holderness said, evidence point toward the attack being random, because police are not finding any reason for Grubbs to have been targeted.
Brittany Hamer, 23, of Ashland, who said Grubbs was one of her best friends, was passing around a petition to light the entire central Ashland bike path.
"This could have been prevented," she said, as most of the audience applauded.
Since starting the petition at 4 p.m. Tuesday, she had over 200 signatures.
Holderness addressed the possibility of the attack being related to a gang initiation. He said, it is unlikely, but that police have not ruled it out.
In addition to Holderness and Alderman, Ashland Mayor John Stromberg, and Anne Kellogg, a Medford therapist specializing in coping with trauma, spoke briefly during the forum, which was held at the Ashland High School gymnasium.
Police took about 15 questions before ending the meeting and answering questions one on one with those who still wanted to speak with police for another hour.
Camp Kayne, 55, of Ashland said the meeting was a good idea, and necessary, but that he would have liked to see more time given to the audience for out-loud questions.
"It's good for people to hear what their neighbors have to say," he said. "If the police want to make this community safe, it will be impossible for them to do that without the community," "… people were just starting to brain ways of doing that, you could see the potential."
Tiffani Griffin, of Ashland said she didn't like how some people seemed to be blaming police for the incident taking place.
"I feel like they are doing all that they can," she said "This reassured me of that."
The investigation into the incident is ongoing and police continue to request public help. Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call Ashland police at 541-482-5211 or leave a tip at 541-552-2333.
Grubbs was found murdered on the 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.
"We're going to need more information in order to solve this," Holderness said.
Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler can be reached at 541-499-1470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.