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Dentist’s murder still haunts Christiansburg PD

Sketch courtesy of CPD
A police sketch from 1981 shows a man who is suspected of attacking, robbing and killing of a Christiansburg dentist.

Marty Gordon

One of the area’s oldest cold-case murders has been pushed to the back of a file cabinet at the Christiansburg Police Department, but that doesn’t mean it has been forgotten. Evidence has been reviewed several times over the past 30 years.

Investigators recently threw open files on the murder of Dr. D.B. Jurisson. Documents covered an entire table in the conference room of the CPD. Boxes were stacked on the floor and investigators’ notes lined the chairs nearby. The police had assembled countless interviews, but there was no concrete information.

Around 7:45 on the evening of February 2, 1981, police say Jurisson was walking along Main Street when he was attacked by an unknown assailant and/or assailants. The incident occurred along a route he typically took every night after leaving his dentistry practice, sometimes stopping at the Kroger grocery store, located where the Dollar General Market is today.

The 57-year-old Jurisson suffered several skull fractures, every bone in his face was broken and he was lying in the grass fewer than 200 yards from his Main Street home when a boy found him. Bystanders rushed Jurisson to Montgomery Regional Hospital and, because of the seriousness of his injuries, he was transferred to the Roanoke Memorial Hospital but he never regained consciousness.

Police brought in tracking dogs, and they recovered a wooden board that police suspected was the murder weapon. Blood was seen on both the grass and sidewalk where Jurisson had been found at a spot above West Main and High View streets.

His wallet was missing leading to a possible motive in the case.

Apparently, he had been jogging home after depositing the day’s receipts from his practice at 6 Roanoke Street. He lived at 725 West Main Street.

Witnesses told police it was common knowledge Jurisson would carry large amounts of cash.

The murder weapon was described in police reports as a 4X4, which was found lying nearby. It was determined the wood had come from a window sash of a local store that was being remodeled.

The report also said the victim had bought groceries on the night he was attacked, and the suspect or suspects might have followed him from the store. Jurisson was found lying face down in the grass, and his trouser pockets had been ripped.

The dentist typically followed the same route for years, walking home between 6 and 8:30 p.m.

The police report showed his wallet had contained checks, currency and a Texaco credit card.

Witnesses driving by reported seeing Jurisson staggering as he walked down the sidewalk. When headlights from a passing car lit up the area in question, a man ran across the road and jumped into a car.

Whether it was connected or not, police had recently responded to the Jurisson home after a lock had been thrown through a window at that location.

A 10-year-old girl described seeing a man in vicinity of the crime, and another youngster also pointed to a similar person of interest.  An art instructor from New River Community College put together the suspect’s sketch, which showed a man 35-40 years old, 5-11 to 6-1, weighing 190-200 pounds in a large yellow stocking cap and green sports coat.

Alvin Hale was the police chief at the time and told reporters he felt they had several strong suspects, but each were ruled out after passing lie detector tests.

Police believed the man might have left town after the attack either by bus or private transportation.

Jurisson died two weeks later after being placed on life support never having regained consciousness, and police were never able to talk to him about who his attacker had been.

Three days after Jurisson’s death, three people were questioned after their arrest in Lorraine, Ohio. They were from the New River Valley and were charged with possession of LSD. Two pistols were found during the car search that had been stolen from Christiansburg. But no link was ever established in the Jurisson attack.

More than one hundred people were interviewed by police within the first year. In over 2,000 pages of documents, police listed 11 names they suspected of being involved in the case. Merely persons of interests, their identities are confidential, but police believe one or more might still be the suspect in this cold case.

Tod Burke is a retired Radford University criminal justice professor and former police officer, now a media expert when it comes to cases like Jurrison’s. He admits a cold case this old is tough to digest.

“The longer the case progresses, the harder it is to solve,” he said. “Memories fade and suspects come and go, and probably some have even died. In addition, investigators might have moved on.”
But, if you want to solve any past case, it is important, according to Burke, to go back and look at the original police reports. In many of those cases, there have been arrests and convictions long after the crimes.

The Jurisson family has remained silent over the years, but the incident continues to haunt local investigators even after chairs have changed occupants.

Lt. Randy Bond of the Christiansburg Police Department said a sketch of crime scene has remained intact and the incident reports have been on and off his desk for years. Recently, the department even sent some evidence back to the state forensics lab.
Burke said there have been a lot of technological changes since this incident.

“Some of those (technologies) have helped with cases like this,” he said.

Media expert, Tod Burke said that, in cases like the Jurisson murder, the real suspect might be in jail for something else. But he believes that whoever the attacker was, he knew the dentist’s routine.

Lt. Bond said nothing new was found in the recent analysis, but he does believe a suspect could still be out there.

“Several things have pointed to certain individuals, but we have never been able to link them to the attack.The problem is that they have gotten older and might not even remember details. But who knows, they might have told someone or repeated the incident over the years to acquaintances or family members,” he said.

If you have information into the 1981 Jurisson attack, please contact the Christiansburg Police Department at 382-3131.