Gricar hard drive comes up empty

'No new leads, no recent sightings'

sganim@centredaily.comOctober 1, 2008 

Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira holds a press conference at the Centre County Court House on Tuesday, September 30, 2008. CDT/Christopher Weddle

Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira holds a press conference at the Centre County Court House on Tuesday, September 30, 2008. CDT/Christopher Weddle

CDT/CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE

BELLEFONTE — The best available technology for analyzing damaged hard drives could not determine if former District Attorney Ray Gricar wiped clean the hard drive of his computer before he disappeared, or if the data was destroyed when the computer was dumped into the Susquehanna River.

Gricar’s successor, Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira, said Tuesday he received a full report from Kroll Ontrack, a Minnesota firm that used the latest technology to analyze the drive. It determined that no data could be recovered from Brush Valley. What is thought to be his county-issued computer was found in the Susquehanna River, missing its hard drive, about six months later. The hard drive was found on a bank of the river a few months afterward.

Rumors that Gricar had asked friends and colleagues about software that could erase the hard drive have been floating around the investigation, Madeira and Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver confirmed at a press conference.

Kroll Ontrack couldn’t determine if that kind of software was ever used on the hard drive.

“There was some discussion of having seen Mr. Gricar expressing interest in getting software to erase the hard drive of the computer,” Madeira said.

Gricar kept the county-issued laptop at his home, Weaver and Madeira said. Madeira said Gricar inquired about software to erase the hard drive sometime in the 16 months before he disappeared, but there is no receipt or other evidence that he ever purchased that software.

A box for such software was seen at Gricar’s home sometime after January 2004, but “well prior to Mr. Gricar disappearing,” Madeira said.

“He talked about, or expressed interest in, cleaning up his county laptop prior to retirement so he could return it without any personal information on it,” Weaver said.

Kroll Ontrack “is supposed to be the best of the business,” Madeira said. The firm was able to recover data from the Space Shuttle Columbia after it burned up on re-entry in 2003.

The report says the hard drive had water corrosion and crash damage, plus damage done during previous attempts to get information from it. The firm tried cleaning the disks and replacing certain parts, but it was still unable to get it to work in any way, Madeira said.

Talk of the case going cold has become frequent as investigators say leads are scarce.

“In terms of the technology available, we’re done as it relates to the hard drive,” Madeira said.

The investigation has continued while police awaited the report on the hard drive, Weaver said.

“It doesn’t really change how we are investigating this case,” Weaver said. There are still “no new leads, no recent sightings.”

Sara Ganim can be reached at 231-4616.

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