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ACTS MATTER

Has the Grubbs murder changed you?

 Posted: 2:00 AM February 18, 2012

David Michael Grubbs, a 23-year-old walking to his Ashland home after working at Shop'n Kart on Nov. 19, was murdered with a long blade on the well-traveled Central Ashland Bike Path.

Sunday marks three months of Ashland residents living with this violent, unsolved crime.

The Daily Tidings asked community members to share how their lives have changed because of the tragedy. Here are their responses:

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Acts Matter is a series of essays written by community members about issues in Ashland.

Join the discussion by posting your comments at www.dailytidings.com or on the Tidings' Facebook page: www.facebook.com/dailytidings

Also, send future essay ideas to jeastman@dailytidings.com.

To see a timeline of events and an archive of related stories, go to www.dailytidings.com/grubbsmurder

"I think a lot about David Michael Grubbs and how his family must be feeling. It's so bizarre that we still don't know who the murderer is and it makes me wonder if it can happen again. There is an element of fear."— Maire Murphy

"I thought about buying my first firearm but I did not follow through on the idea. I live near the bike path. I am nicer to the people who work at Shop'n Kart. I do believe quality of life has been diminished. Hopefully, everyone in town will be kinder to one another and watch out for one another. I feel blessed to live in Ashland.

"Two thoughts: Forget about watching stars and light this town up at night. There are many dark spots, including pedestrian crosswalks, and the bike path. Finally, be aware that I-5 brings crime to every community that it runs through. An evil motorist can exit the interstate, commit a crime and be back on the interstate in 5 minutes." — Michael Heathman

"My husband and I use the bike path every day. People now go out of their way to say 'hello,' a confirmation that 'I see you' and 'you see me' and we care about each other and we're safe." — Susan Mock

"Being allowed to share our pain becomes transmutational. That means I feel the deep sorrow and hold it as a heart wound. But, as the pain is acknowledged and shared with others in a protected place, it has the chance to change into love: for David, his family, all of us and yes, even his attacker. This is one way of making peace with his passing.

"Otherwise, I'm left disappointed with our institutionalized protectors, the police. Not in a personal way, but in a sense of deep questioning. It's the biggest questions, too: 'What good are they?'; 'What do we spend those millions of dollars for?'; 'If they can't solve this one, an act of ghastly violence committed in the open, why should I have any faith in them?'

"The most fundamental disappointment becomes my baseline. I'm left having to admit and live with a reality. The police here are generously staffed, funded and loaded with fancy high-tech equipment to lead parades, provide insurance companies with traffic accident reports, keep the hobos and late-night drunks in check, and find dope on hapless students. The myth that we can count on them to keep us safe, at least in the public places, has been shattered. Their effort to relate, connect and inform us throughout this tragedy is dismal.

"As far as altering my habits in the aftermath of this crime goes, I take the same precautions as I did from the day of the killing. Nothing has been resolved to change that. No walking after dark except in the most public of places and, if I choose to go out (which I don't) on darkened streets, alleyways or bike paths, I would be armed and on alert, sorry to say.

"I know my sense of safety in town is not permanently gone. An arrest would have the marvelous effect of restoring that loss and excusing any and all ineptness. So solve the damn case. Please!" — Michael Bianca, former chief of police

"It has changed the way my husband and I feel about our life here in Ashland. Before it seemed as if we were in Eden. Now when we go by the area where he was killed or we go to Shop'n Kart, it makes us sad." — Karen Ripley

"The murder of David Grubbs is horrible, no matter what town it could have happened in. It was a trauma for all: his family, our community and of humankind. The circumstances of the bizarre weapon and the fact that it happened in a rather public place that many of us use and the fact that it happened just before dark makes it more frightening. The fact that so far, there has been no [disclosed] motive and that it might have been a random act contributes to our underlying sense of worry.

"Before this homicide, there was a pervasive sense of freedom and mindlessness about our personal danger in public places. Of course, few of us ventured out alone in unlit areas; however, there was no fear. Now some of my friends always carry pepper spray when they walk and very few of them feel comfortable walking on trails alone anymore. It has forever changed our perceptions of personal safety in Ashland.

"I have chosen to be more community-minded and caring for other individuals. We're small enough in population to extend a friendly greeting and perhaps be more sensitive to each other. A legacy from this terrible crime may be in building a greater sense of community and watching out for each other." — Wendy Eppinger

"It was awful. But we live in a safe place. I just hope they can catch who did this to that boy." — Paula Morrison

"I'm a T'ai chi teacher and singer-songwriter and I've lived in Ashland since 1999. While the murder of David Grubbs was certainly tragic, shocking and gruesome, it's had very little effect on how I live and behave.

"I've actually had my guard up more than usual for at least the last few years as I've noticed more and more sketchier-looking, sullen, rude, angry and generally unruly characters around town. Some of them have been homeless, but plenty have not.

"Just in the past year, I've had a milkshake thrown at me from a moving car as I biked home from a gig and we've had two bikes stolen right outside our door. Both were locked. I hear people yelling and screaming and swearing in full voice as late as 3 a.m. almost every night, with no concern whatsoever that anyone might be sleeping or might not want to share in their dramas.

"Maybe it's my martial arts training, maybe it's just my nature, but I think I've got a pretty good radar for people who are not to be trusted and I see more and more of them all the time. With the economy going south along with the basic virtues of respect and civility, I figured it was just a matter of time before someone snapped and did something really violent.

"The gruesome nature of this attack was shocking to me, but not the basic act itself. I fully expect something like it or worse to happen again.

"To be fair, I've lived in New York City, Chicago and Seattle and this is a much, much safer place to live than any of those cities. But relatively speaking, I've felt significantly less safe from violent crime in the past few years than in the previous several, even if statistics don't agree.

"I might be a little more conscious of literally watching my back since David's murder, and I'm a little more wary of going for night walks, but that's about it.

"I'm not advocating living in fear, far from it. But being aware of your surroundings and trusting your instincts is always a good idea.

"Helping people do that is part of what I do for a living. I'm amazed at how many people walk around and drive with their heads down enthralled by their cellphones. Aside from murderers, there are all kinds of ways to get hurt by not watching what's going on around you." — Gene Burnett

"David's senseless death has affected me greatly. He graduated with my daughter. He was a nice kid. I enjoyed running into him when I went to Shop'n Kart, as he was always smiling, friendly and helpful.

"David's murder has kept me off the bike path and will continue to until they start catching these crazy people. I also live on Oak Knoll Drive and I used to walk the entire street, turn on Crowson Road and come back on Highway 66 on a daily basis, but after we lost David, I cut back to only during the daylight hours.

"Then the woman was attacked up the street on Clover Lane and also the jogger near California Street, and I just haven't had the courage to go out on foot and I'm very sad to say that.

"I don't understand why the police don't put a plainclothes female officer out and catch these people. My cousin used to go undercover on the streets of Eureka, Calif., and was very successful catching criminals. Of course, she was wired, armed and had nearby backup at all times.

"Ashland has several female police officers. Let's get them out there and catch these guys. I really don't want to have to buy a handgun, get a permit and learn to shoot, just to get my daily exercise." — Oak Knoll Drive resident (name withheld by request)


"I have not changed how I live and I never look back to see if anyone is behind me day or night. We live in such an amazing, safe, small town.

"What I will never forget was the incredible way in which our community came together to remember David Grubbs — a brother, a son, a grandson, a valued worker and a friend to many.

"To see the faces of the family members at the memorial service was perhaps one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced. I was moved to the point of tears and later wanted to be the first in line at City Hall to make a contribution to the David Grubbs Reward Fund in hopes that the perpetrator or perpetrators of such a horrific crime will eventually be caught.

"I have one son and I cannot imagine facing the incredible loss that the Grubbs family must feel. It would be my hope that as a community we will never forget David Michael Grubbs." — Judi Honore

"It was shocking and it made me really appreciate the people I run into every day, to really ask them how they are and mean it." — Shirley Boyce

"We do not feel safe living in Ashland. The ax-murderer running around, not caught by the police, the cougars in the city park and the bears in people's backyards are too much for us. We are used to a more peaceful, relaxing life.

"We also find the people here to be superficially friendly to the point of being fake. We were fooled at first by the public friendliness but when we tried to find friends, we met brick walls and 'chill' as one minister in Ashland described it.

"Best wishes to the people here." — Name withheld by request


"It did change my life somewhat. I do not think of it as a local crime. I think it was a lost transient who didn't stick around. That it happened in this town seems like nothing but an unhappy detail. But because I can't make sense of this pointless murder, I no longer feel free to walk in the dark late at night. Who wants to be senseless victim number two?" — Jonathan Eisenberg


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