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