Five years without answers: The unsolved murders of Dave Lewis and Troy Carney

BY VANESSA HOUK

Two men were killed sometime in the early hours before dawn on September 4, 2008 within a thirty-five mile radius in Jackson County. Nearly five years later, both murders remain unsolved and the families of Dave Lewis and Troy Carney are connected in a way that words can’t reach as both families have had to find a way to keep going without any resolution, despite their grief and pain.

 

It’s been five years without closure, but the answers are out there somewhere.

 

Forty-six year old Dave Lewis lived in a cabin on the summit of Dead Indian Memorial Road just on the outskirts of Ashland. Photos taken before his murder, captured a man who seemed quick to smile and his obituary noted he was, “intense and unforgettable, a rascal and a live wire.” Dave loved fishing and spending time with his sons.

 

The first call came in shortly after 2:30 AM on September 4 when a passerby reported a fire on Dead Indian Memorial Road. Fire crews were dispatched and before they were finished cleaning up the site of a burnt vacation home, a second call came in, alerting officials to another fire about five miles up the road. By the time the fire crews arrived at the scene, Dave Lewis’ home was burnt to the ground and within the charred rubble, the crew discovered the body of this father of three and friend to many. Photos from the crime scene show tall, jagged, burned columns against ash and yellow crime scene tape flapping in the breeze.

 

Later the sheriff’s office would speculate that Lewis’ killer crept quietly up the mountain road to his cabin, used accelerant to ignite the fire and then slipped away into the dark shadows of the wilderness before being discovered. Investigators found Lewis was killed before the fire was started and it is not clear whether he was killed inside his home or at a separate location. While fire erases clues from a crime scene, it does not erase memories for those who bear witness and investigators know that there were traces and clues left behind.

 

 

In his mid-forties, Troy Carney was by all accounts an adventurer. “He was a free spirit,” his mom, Linda Wood said in an email. “He enjoyed the adventures that life had to offer.” Carney traveled the country, often finding day laborer work at truck stops, loading and unloading cargo. He was between jobs, so after spending time with old friends in Medford,Carney telephoned his mom to update her on his plans. He was [going to] “camp out while waiting to get more work on another truck,” she said. That was the last time his mother heard his voice.

 

Before his death, the last time anyone remembers seeing Carney was on September 1 when  a surveillance tape at the Pilot Truck Stop caught him walking away from the building. The Pilot was a place he’d been showing up regularly to eat, use the phones and earn a few dollars doing quick, odd jobs for the truckers. Described as a “likable guy”, Carney was quick to help others. His mother stated,“Troy was killed by someone he had met just a couple day’s before, someone he trusted as a friend and it has to be someone that was camped very near to him cause he would never tell anyone where he was camped, said it was safer that way. That person knew he was supposed to leave town that next morning and he would not have left without saying goodbye to a friend.”

 

Carney was camping along the edge of the Bear Creek Greenway, a  normally tranquil path that follows the creek for a 17 mile stretch from Ashland to Central Point. It is a place that many transients call home and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office makes semi-annual sweeps and had just rousted campers a few weeks before the murders. Carney might have  pitched camp near the Pilot Truck Stop, expecting to catch some quick work and a ride back East, but he never got that chance. Sometime between when he was last seen and on the afternoon of September 4, when a passerby found his body inside his sleeping bag, a killer walked the greenway path. There was no sign of a struggle as Carney was shot in his head while sleeping. Other campers nearby must have heard that shot echo through the darkness of the evening. While investigators have talked to people who were in the area, they have not been able to root out answers.

 

The killer did not rob Carney and police have been unable to identify a clear motive for his killing. “Troy was not a drug user,” his mother said. Autopsy results did not find any trace of drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death.

 

Then in the early morning of September 14, someone set fire to the crime scene and a flames ravaged the area. The rough terrain and wildness of the Greenway prevented firefighters from being able to  arrive  quickly at the scene. The arsonist was never found.

 

In 2010, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department released a statement which says that “through the course of the investigation, an evidentiary link between the two homicides was discovered.” They have not released any information and  there is no new information available on either case.

 

In June 2012, “Fishhook Dave’s” memorial stone was placed against the edge of the bike path along the Greenway and Mountain View Cemetery in Ashland. Standing next to it, one notices the growing birch tree nearby and a spectacular view of the rolling hills off in the distance. The face of a wolf and an eagle’s feather envelopes the words “Beloved son, brother, father, and friend David Edwin Lewis, Aged 46, Born December 23 Wilmington Delaware, Killed September 4, 2008 Dead Indian Road, Ashland Oregon. The most loving man on the mountain. He said it the way it was and it was the way he said.” There is an uneasiness there at the edge of the cemetery where the red winged blackbirds come to rest on the top of the fence, on what should be a sacred and peaceful place, as the community still waits for answers.
What do you know about Troy Carney and/or Dave Lewis’ murders? Rewards are being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person/person’s involved in their murders.Troy Carney’s family is offering a $2,500 reward and Dave Lewis’ family  has a $20,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to an arrest. While the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department is the lead on these cases, ANY law enforcement officer can take your report, from ANY jurisdiction. The Jackson County Sheriff ‘s telephone number is 541-774-6800. The Ashland Police Department’s telephone number is 541-488-2211 and their anonymous tip line is 541-552-2333.