After two men go drinking at a bar, one is later found drowned in a nearby river with wounds that indicate foul play.

David Chase

David and Judi Chase

CASE DETAILS

On October 15, 1995, private investigator Phil Harris heard a disembodied voice after he fell asleep in his easy chair.  The voice said: “I’m David Chase. I was murdered. I want you to investigate my murder. Go buy the Sunday paper.” It seemed crazy, but Phil searched the morning paper for any mention of a David Chase. According to Phil’s friend,  Janet Harris:

“He said to me, ‘A strange thing happened. A voice came to me about four this morning as I was sitting here studying. The voice told me his name and said that I need to look in the paper and that he was murdered and I need to help.’”

The body was found in Bear Creek River

David Chase was a local cabinetmaker who had drowned four months earlier. His wife was convinced he had been murdered. Phil Harris believed that, for some reason, he had been “chosen” to solve the case. When he met with David’s widow, Judi Chase, Judi said she was skeptical, until Phil began to talk about things only David could have known:

“There were a lot of very personal details about my relationship with David that nobody else knew. About our life together, our love for one another, pet names that David called me, he called me Honey Bunny and Sugies, things like this. There’s no way that Phil Harris could have known that.”

Phil and Judi struck an unusual deal. For one dollar, Phil agreed to investigate the case until it was solved.

David and Judi Chase had lived in Evergreen, Colorado, for eighteen months. They had no children but were planning to adopt two foster kids who were living with them.

Phil Harris

On June 6th, 1995, David was scheduled to work with a local handyman named Matt Orahoske. They needed to finish a roofing job and clear away brush from the local Elk’s Club. By noon, the work was done. The two men went to lunch, then stopped at the bank, where David cashed a check for $1800. Then he and Matt went to a local bar.

Judi was concerned when David didn’t come home that night, and by the next morning, she knew something was wrong. She immediately drove to Matt’s house. Matt told her he  had left David at the bar shooting pool. Later that morning, Judi claimed, Matt’s girlfriend called her:

“She said he had told her when she asked about David, that David had said, ‘Oh, I’m going for a swim. I’ve got a raft.’  I found this completely bewildering. I mean, my husband was a very experienced mountain climber, and had studied hypothermia, and knew full well the dangers of jumping into a snow-fed river. So the story was absolutely completely impossible for me to believe.”

The Bear Creek River runs right by the bar where David and Matt were last seen together. By this time, Judi didn’t believe anything Matt had to say, so she went to the police.  When Sgt. Brian Scott of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department questioned Matt, he told the same story he had told his girlfriend:

“Matt has told us that he and David had been drinking most of the day. And then after they did that, they went out into the parking lot and unloaded these tree limbs from Matt’s truck into Bear Creek. As they finished unloading, Matt told us that David jumped into the river, and said, ‘Pick me up in Morrison.’”

Phil was awakened at 4am by a voice

Six weeks later, David’s body was found in the Bear Creek River, three miles downstream from where he was last seen. The autopsy supported Matt’s story. The coroner ruled that the cause of death was “consistent with drowning.”

But Judi said some of the coroner’s findings made her suspicious. For instance, even thought Matt claimed they had been drinking all day, the autopsy didn’t show that David was drunk at the time of death. Sgt. Scott said David’s neck was broken and there were unusual cuts on both of his legs:

“His clothes were evidently ripped from his body. He had partial clothing around his legs from his pants. And his shoes and socks were still intact but the rest of his clothes were missing.”

Matt’s girlfriend Judi suspected foul play:

“There’s was no way David’s blue jeans would come off, no matter how long he’d been in that water because he tucked them into his boots and the only way to get those jeans off would be to cut them off.”

Police questioned Matt again. This time, he changed two important details in his story.
He now said he and David left the bar and drove down the street to dump the brush from the job. He also said that David fell into the river, and didn’t jump. If it really was an accident, Judi wondered why Matt didn’t try to get help from the nearby fire station:

“This location was fifty yards from the fire station. It was ten yards from where people were still playing pool. You could have gotten someone to come and help within one minute, and David’s life could have been saved.”

It was three months later that Phil Harris contacted Judi to say that David had been speaking to him from beyond the grave on a regular basis. Phil said that the voice gave him details about what happened the day David disappeared. These are the exact words he heard:

“Before I deposited the check for $1800, he talked me into cashing it, and keeping the money in my pocket, under the guise of possibly buying a decent truck from him. I had second thoughts about buying a truck from Matt, and I told him that as we were leaving the bar. Matt was furious with me at the time, but I didn’t realize it. As soon as we got back to his truck, he started to tell me that I had promised him this money and therefore, it was his. Matt shoved me in the chest. I shoved him back and he hit me in the face. I immediately hit him back and all of a sudden he started bleeding very hard from the nose.  This made him extremely mad, and he flew into me. I went down very near the edge of the water. In fact, we were up against the small retaining wall, fighting on the ground.  We rolled around, and tried to punch each other and I feel Matt got in a couple of good punches. I only remember him hitting me in the back of the neck with a hard object. I don’t know what he hit me with, but it broke my neck.”

Phil went on to say that Matt had an accomplice who helped get rid of the body and the bloody clothes. Phil said that David’s voice told him the cuts on his legs came from a knife belonging to the accomplice:

“The knife that was used to cut my clothing off belonged to the other person. You were right, Phil, about the cuts on my legs. This is where Matt cut my clothes off, rather than take my boots off.”

On June 7, 1996, exactly a year and a day after David’s death, Phil took Judi to the local reservoir. He pointed out the area where he believed the murder weapon and the bloody clothes had been dumped. Phil recalled what David had told him about the murder weapon:

“David told me that they had tied David’s clothes around the murder weapon. He told the kid to throw them out in the middle of the river as far as he could throw ‘em.  I’m not sure whether it was a hammer, crowbar, or even just like a gardening tool.”

A week later, Phil died of a massive heart attack, leaving Judi to carry on their investigation alone:

“He was a hero in my eyes. I mean, he put everything else in his life aside to stand by my side and help me find the answers that I so desperately needed.”

Sgt. Scott said more evidence is need before an arrest can be made:

“Well, obviously, if we were going to develop a criminal case, we have to have something that we could present in court, that would be a prosecutable situation, and in order to do that, you have to have evidence that you can put your hands on and witnesses that you can talk to. So, the information that Phil Harris was presenting, although not discounted, needs to be corroborated through some other source.”

Matt Orahoske declined to be interviewed for this story. It’s important to remember that he has not been charged with any crime and the source of the accusations against him is highly questionable.

According to Phil Harris, the voice of David’s spirit told him there was, in fact, a witness to his murder.  If true, police are hoping that person will come forward.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Evergreen Man

    I have a few problems with this story. I live in Evergreen. The bar is right in the center of the small downtown area, just below a spillway. The story keeps referring to Bear Creek as a river (“Bear Creek River”, to be exact). It is only 20ft wide at best and typically 2-3ft deep at its deepest, and its name is “Bear Creek”. This fishing guide even refers to it as “a small creek” (check out the pictures). https://thecatchandthehatch.com/bear-creek-colorado/

    Usually, the Creek’s depth and width would make it virtually impossible to drown in. The current can be swift, but all you would literally have to do is to sit up, to stay to keep from drowning.

    This happened in early June, so the water could have been high from Spring melts. The creek can get petty high and can even flood. When it does get high, it still isn’t that deep, and when it floods, the bar they were in (now called Cactus Jacks) can flood as well because it literally sits on the creek banka, so it is unlikely it would have been open for them to drink in, if the creek was flooding bad enough to drown in. Here is a video of the last flood at Cactus Jack’s. Note the creek width, even with this bad flood. The current is very fast, but clearly the bar is closed.
    https://youtu.be/_tXT1eV-ySs

    When the Creek does flood, it can become violent pretty quick, and there are downed trees, boulders, low culverts/ bridges and debris that would make it nearly impossible to go down, even in a kayak. Nobody would jump in to swim, ever, and again the bar may have been closed. If the creek was not flooded, it is small, and nobody could swim it even if they wanted to.

    This adds creedence to the story that he either fell in or was thrown in, but again, if it was deep enough to kill him, would the bar have been open? That makes it more likely that he was dead or unconscious when he hit the water, because he could have likely just stood up. But if the water was just high and not flooded, could the body have traveled 3 miles? You need to live here. It is hard to imagine a scenario where a body would not get hung up on something within the first half mile, much less 3 miles, without a big flood. Again, the bar would likely have not been open with such a flood.

    The article says that the investigator stated, “He told the kid to throw them out in the middle of the river as far as he could throw ‘em”. Again, the it is a creek that is 20ft wide. Even when flooded, a 9 year old can easily throw a rock across it. Later, the article says the weapon and other items were thrown in “a local reservoir”. Maybe that was what he meant the first time.

    The article does not name this reservoir, but I can only assume it is Evergreen Lake, just above the spillway, only 50 yards upstream from the bar. The lake is not that big, and only as deep as the spillway. It would have been easy to drag, or check with a small towed magnetometer. Also, it seems pretty stupid to ditch the evidence in a lake so close to the bar…it is really close. If Evergreen Lake is not the “reservoir” they refer to, then it must have been pretty far away. The closest would have been ~15miles downstream below Morrison. I certainly would not call that the “local reservoir”.

    Either this story was poorly told here, or they were were not given the proper story to begin with. As a resident, this article leaves me more confused than ever about this event, because it doesn’t match what is on the ground here.

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Is anyone working on this case?
    Same bar, same story, a guy was playing pool and drinking a beer with someone who asked him if he wanted to make some money. He said yes, they left the bar and were gone approx. 1 hr. When he returned he seemed nervous and wanted to leave right away. When asked what he had to do for the money he said; I helped a guy get rid of some things from his truck, and some other items, he said he told me to throw them as far as I can into the water. Q; what items? A; some tools
    Q; why didn’t he just do it himself. A; he hurt his arm Q; why was he throwing away tools?
    A; I didn’t ask.
    Oh, Q; what did that pay? A; $200.00
    What? That’s crazy!! ( later the story changed to $40.00 ).
    The guy had a big bankroll on him. I wanted to play him some pool for money.
    Wow…
    Q, where did you throw the tools? A; way far into the water.
    Oh
    Q; why didn’t you play him pool, your a pretty good pool player?
    A; He was getting drunk and acting mean.
    Oh

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Bill Blaski

    I find the voices that Phil Harris was hearing was really the big part of this case. David really wanted Phil to tell his story. There are too many cold cases in America. I love that Netflix is relaunching Unsolved Mysteries! I hope that they will open up some of these old cases as well as some new cases. Maura Murray, Dan Colarso, David Chase, Blair ADAMS just to name a few of my favs.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    Russell Coleman

    How come no one dived into the reservoir to get the items? At least use sonar from a boat to find it.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    Ross Harris

    Did anyone look in the river for clothes and murder weapon ? And somebody said his neck broken. Give someone a lie-detector test ?

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    Former Resident

    I worked for and with Matt many of times. I was just getting into the tree business in evergreen when I was 19, 7 years ago. He took me in, showed me the ropes and was good to my family (mother and brother). Yeah he was rough around the edges but had the softest heart. It’s hard to believe that same person could be accused of something like this. I pray for him and everyone envolved.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Alisha Morrison

      This story did not verify Cactus Jack’s specifically. They could have well been at The Little Bear. It wouldn’t shut down during flooding and is a quick hop across the street. (I grew up in Evergreen) Regardless, it’s a difficult creek to accidentally drown in. Also REALLY strange that it took them that long to find the body? Wonder if it made more towards Morrison by that point…

      Reply

  7. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Judy was going out on his, and using him.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Aubrey Gamboa

      What a horrible thing to say about someone whose husband was murdered in cold blood! I have reached out to Judi and she is a genuinely kindhearted person and I could never believe that! It takes a seriously sick and depraved person to speak so lowly of someone David loved with all his heart.

      Reply

  8. Avatar

    Anamous

    It’s crazy to think it’s been so long ago, but I just found the DVD from Robert Stacks Unsolved Mistories that I recordered from David’s murder/drowning. I didn’t know Dave very well but living in the Brook Forest area, I knew and avoided Matt as much as I could. A day or two before his demise he came to my house asking me how well I knew Matt, and went on to tell me that he didn’t enjoy working with him. He said: “I don’t really like drinking that much, but he always wants to drink beer after work.” The old saying of ‘let’s have a beer’ is an oxymoron since there is no such thing as ‘a beer.’ Also a few days later his wife showed up to ask a bunch of questions I couldn’t and still can’t answer. So I am not a lot of help but as crazy as Matt is, there’s no doubt that this was an ‘unsolved’ murder!!!

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    Chanita

    OMG! Why Did Matt Betray David Like That? That’s Wrong! I Think Matt Had Committed The ultimate Betrayal! He Was Posing As His Best Friend To Gain David’s Trust! I Will Pray For Both David And Matt! I’m Wondering This… What Had Triggered Matt’s Mind? Who Had Made Him Angry?

    Reply

  10. Avatar

    Mean mystery

    Yea the guy Matt did it. It sounds like LE in their town consists of a bunch of buffoons. At the very least hopefully the town now shuns this parasite Matt.

    Reply

  11. Avatar

    Nicole

    Im from Bailey and my dad knew Matt, they weren’t friends, they had competing businesses doing the same thing. I met him and even as a child he scared me. The hair on the back of your neck stands up when you’re around him. We remember seeing this on TV and were not surprised. If you knew him, the idea that Matt would be capable of doing this isn’t crazy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it before or again since this case. If he was angry, he was so scary. He showed up to our house once and my dad was pissed about it, my dad’s the most kind person in the wold but he knew Matt was dangerous. For my dad to think that way about someone says alot because my dad’s not scared of anyone, he wasn’t even scared of Matt but did not want him near our family. One of the scariest people I’ve ever crossed paths with.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Evergreen Native

      I’m an Evergreen Native and have met Matt many times while working at the brook forest inn while I was in high school, everybody and their mom in Evergreen knows that it was him and he’s a very very strange creepy guy, he isn’t known as murderung Matt for no reason, I believe it was him.

      Reply

  12. Avatar

    harmony

    Praying for those involved that God would bring light into the darkness.

    Reply

  13. Avatar

    Johnny

    This should have been solved many years ago. Matt’s story changed a few times plus he had the means and the opportunity. Strong motive too. He saw David cash the $1800 check. He wanted the $ and David decided not to buy his car. That’s 2 motives. It seemed out of character for David to jump into the Bear Creek River after drinking several beers. Doesn’t make any sense. I’ve seen people convicted on much less. Phil would have got to the bottom of the case. Too bad he died from the massive heart attack.

    Reply

  14. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Sounds real awful…what happen to David. I do believe that Matt had something to do with his death. I do believe to was over that check David cashed. Its very unfortunate. Especially sense there really isn’t any hard evidence. However if both man went to have a drink at the bar. Someone might have seen or heard something. The cops should looked there first and started asking questions. Matt’s story has a bunch of holes in it. Who would just jump in the river? If I was the cop’s I would keep a closer eye on Matt. He is diffently a shady character.

    Reply

  15. Avatar

    Leah Hagins

    David Chase is here!
    I watched a small portion of his segment of unsolved mysteries. His presence is so strong! Since father Phil passed, it’s up to me now. It was a crowbar by the way, this what they hit him with. I first met David in Florida about two years ago. I think he had bee sizing me up because he knew I have the gift. After seeing his story yesterday, I have renewed since of urgency to help him. He is here with me right now. I know things…. details…
    Leah hagins
    I’m scared

    Reply

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