When Ben Treiger waded into Wagner Creek behind his Talent house last December after a rainstorm, he expected to pick out the standard debris that flows into town after such an event.
This time, however, he discovered a hand-made hatchet crudely fashioned from what appeared to be a saw blade. He showed it to his wife, Rachel, who turned ashen.
"I looked at it and I was like, oh my God, that's what they were looking for," Rachel Treiger said.
A month earlier, Ashland detectives investigating the grisly November 2011 slaying of David Michael Grubbs had searched a large pond adjacent to the creek about a half-mile upstream.
"I couldn't even touch it," said Rachel Treiger, who photographed the blade before turning it over to Talent police on Dec. 22. "It just made me sick."
The hatchet is one of about 80 blades, including machetes, inspected by Ashland police during their investigation of the Nov. 19, 2011, murder, which has turned cold without a suspect, police said.
"There are no active leads now and when information comes in, we follow up on it," Deputy Police Chief Corey Falls said. "There are very few loose ends out there. I think we've dotted every 'I' and crossed every 'T'.
"It's slowing way down, but our lead detective still hasn't closed the case," he said.
The body of Grubbs, 23, was found by a passer-by on the Ashland Central Bike Path less than 30 minutes after he was slain, police said.
An autopsy showed that he was nearly decapitated from a weapon with a medium to large blade, police said.
Investigators said Grubbs, who'd been walking home from his job as a grocery clerk at Shop'n Kart, did not appear to make any defensive moves in the attack, and that his wallet and money were left in his pocket.
Almost a year later, police searched an 18-acre property on West Rapp Road and a Wightman Street residence and vehicle in Ashland, and at the time they declined to name a suspect or say whether any evidence was found.
Police have meticulously considered hundreds of tips, interviewed nearly 2,000 people and analyzed hundreds of hours of surveillance footage collected from businesses around Ashland.
That evidence includes the hatchet-like weapon found in Wagner Creek, Falls said.
"It's come onto our radar," he said. "We have all that information and we're not going to comment on any of that.
"We don't comment on any of the stuff we have," Falls said.
Michael Grubbs, who is David's father, said he last talked with investigators about the case more than a month ago.
"They told me they ran out of leads and they'll react when they get a new tip," Michael Grubbs said. "They've run out of things to look at.
"They're calling it random," he said. "David was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Rachel Treiger said she has heard "nothing" about the hatchet since she turned it over to Talent police. It was officially listed as Talent police case No. 12-4133 on the receipt she was issued for it.
"I asked for the receipt because I wanted proof I found it," she said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.