Hollywood 'Murder' Mystery: Newlywed Actor Found Dead Under Mysterious Circumstances
Before Dina Gregg's husband said good-bye as she dropped him off, he assured her that he would walk the dogs when he got home.
LOS ANGELES, CA – On September 19, 2017, Jason Murphy, a 34-year-old actor, headed out to a movie premiere in North Hollywood.
Friends and family say that Jason, a native Texan who had made Los Angeles his home for 15 years, had never been happier. He had a movie role to celebrate, and had just arrived home from a dream honeymoon in Ireland with his new wife, Dina.
A few hours later, Jason's body was found at the bottom of a 33-foot concrete wall near the Los Angeles River, a no-man’s-land area that is bordered by freeways covered in graffiti.
The coroner ruled that Jason’s death was an accident. In the autopsy report, cause of death is listed as “drowning with contribution of ethanol intoxication." But Dina believes that foul play was involved. She told CrimeFeed that she believes that the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death resemble something “straight out of Chinatown.”
“I believe that my husband was attacked and left to drown in the L.A. river in two inches of water,” she said in a video she created for a GoFundMe campaign that was created to help Dina with legal fees and to continue to investigate her husband’s demise.
Since that fateful night, she has been fighting to find out what happened to the man she calls the "love of my life."
Jason’s blood-alcohol level was .230%, indicating that he was intoxicated, according to the report. But Dina said that this does not explain how – or why – her husband would up "unconscious in two inches of water with a black eye, a herniated diaphragm, and other unexplained injuries.”
These questions have haunted her for almost two years while, she says, “the police are saying that he was drunk and ended up dead. And they can’t tell me how it happened."
According to Dina, her husband was "a really big personality."
“Although he was small in stature, he was larger than life,” she says. “He was smart, funny, very endearing, and fascinated by every single person that he encountered.”
The couple met on Tinder. Jason was the first – and last – person Dina matched with on the app, and from the beginning, she knew that her life was going to change forever.
On the night he disappeared, Jason headed out to a movie theater in North Hollywood for the premiere of From Jennifer, a horror movie in which he had a small role. “I was supposed to go with him, and in the end, we both got home too late. I could have gotten ready, but that would have made him late for the red carpet portion of the party,” she said. So she decided to skip the party. “Jason hates being late. We decided together that I was going to drive Jason to the event, and he said that it wasn’t a big deal if I didn’t come with him.”
Dina said that her husband was thinking of leaving his phone at home because the battery was running out. She insisted that he take his phone and charger because, she said, she knew that he would need it to get home safely.
Before her husband said good-bye as she dropped him off, he assured Dina that he would walk the dogs when he got home.
At the screening, Jason hung out with many of his improv partners and actor friends. They would later tell Dina that Jason had seemed happy and in a good mood.
When the movie was over, Jason and his friends headed to an after-party at a nearby private event space. He never came home.
“When I woke up the next morning, I knew immediately that my husband hadn’t been home. The lights were on; the dogs hadn’t been walked,” Dina says. At first, she tried not to panic, telling herself that Jason could have crashed on a friend’s couch.
After calls to his iPhone went straight to voicemail, Dina tried to use the “find my iPhone” features on Jason’s iPad. When it failed to locate the device, she started reaching out to Jason’s friends from the party.
Shortly afterward, Dina’s mother-in-law called her – and broke the news that she had been contacted by the coroner’s office.
“At approximately 2:45 A.M., a homeless individual alerted authorities of a body found in the river by Figueroa Street and Avenue 19 in Elysian Park. The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the call,” the Los Angeles Police Department Northeast Division reported.
But apart from the GoFundMe and a few amateur sleuths who have weighed in on a Reddit thread, there have been few public details released or media coverage of Jason’s case.
In in attempt to understand what happened, Dina tried to re-create a timeline of her husband’s last movements. She was able to obtain video of surveillance footage that showed Jason walking into the North Hollywood subway station, where he could be seen on video charging his subway card and his phone before entering the turnstiles. “LAPD never attempted to secure metro CCTV footage from the platforms or stations where Jason traveled that night, so I had to get it myself,” she explains.
Dina said that she does not have footage of him exiting the subway, but based on where he was found, she believes that he exited at the Lincoln-Cypress Metro on his way home. From there, she believes that Jason would have walked home. According to weather reports, the weather that night was clear with a low in the mid-60s.
According to Dina, Jason’s route would have taken him through an area known for gang activity. The concrete-lined L.A. river basin is the scene of some of the most iconic car chase scenes in movie history: The Dark Knight Rises, To Live and Die In L.A., Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and the infamous drag-racing scene in Grease were all filmed there. But at night, the area transforms into a place that one law-enforcement source told CrimeFeed “looks like a scene from The Walking Dead.”
Footage posted on YouTube of police investigating the scene shows police and paramedics standing over Jason’s body in very shallow water.
So how did Jason end up there? Was it an accident – or could he have been running for his life when he went into the river basin? The autopsy report does not give definitive answers.
“Given the fact that Mr. Murphy was found face down in the water of the river with a blood ethanol concentration of .230 gram% and no potentially fatal trauma was present, the most probably cause of death is drowning while intoxicated,” the report reads. “Although not a feature definitive for drowning, the presence of foam in the airways further supports drowning. The microscopic features suggestive of early acute hypoxic/ischemic changes in the brain could also be consistent with drowning.”
But how did Jason end up in the water in the first place? And, as Dina points out, what about the other injuries on his body?
According to the autopsy report, Jason had scratches on the palm of his right hand that appeared to match the barbed wire that surrounded the river, as well as “scattered minor abrasions and contusions.” There was evidence of blunt-force trauma to Jason’s head, including an abrasion on his forehead and a contusion on the left side of his face. He also had abrasions in his abdominal area, on his legs, and on his right foot.
Dina believes that the injuries would have been much more severe if he had fallen from the wall. But her attempt to get answers was unsuccessful. “The [LAPD] determined that it was an accident very quickly, and told me that it was a coroner case,” she says.
Jason was found with his phone charger cord, his wedding band, and approximately $200 in cash. “They decided that because he wasn’t shot or stabbed or robbed, that he had money in his wallet, that there’s definitely no robbery,” Dina said. “But his phone was missing – which, to me, is a huge red flag.” She believes that Jason’s attacker could have stolen his phone “to destroy evidence.”
“A possible proposed scenario was that Mr. Murphy was pushed or dropped from the top of the wall or the road above (the road was even greater than 33 feet above the concrete riverbed) but the lack of significant trauma is not supportive of this scenario,” the autopsy report reads. “No fatal or potentially fatal trauma was identified.”
“I want the LAPD to seriously investigate,” Dina says. She wants the LAPD to speak to Jason's friends who were at the party, ping local cell towers, and obtain a warrant to get Jason's phone records. Those records could be crucial, Dina says, because she says that records indicate that at least one phone number was called after Jason’s estimated time of death.
Dina has hired a private investigator to look into the case further. She also says that she is exploring filing a civil lawsuit against the LAPD – and that she wants to make people aware that this could happen to them. “We pay taxes to a police department to protect and serve us. My husband was treated like it’s his fault that he’s dead,” she complains.
“Jason deserves justice, and I deserve to know what happened to my husband. He was the love of my life,” Dina says.