Wiley and Gricar, the Timing

Posted by JJinPhila on February 22, 2009 

One of the more intriguing aspects of this case has been the intersection of this case, the unexplained disappearance of Ray Gricar, with the explained disappearance of a small town Ohio police chief, Mel Wiley, in 1985.

            To properly explain this intersection, I must look back to my salad days, the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Four things happened:

A.  Mr. Gricar with his then wife and daughter, moved to Centre County from Cleveland, in about 1980.  Mr. Gricar was then hired by the District Attorney’s office.  In Cleveland, Mr. Gricar had been an assistant district attorney.

B.  In late July 1985, Chief Mel Wiley, the police chief of Hinckley Township, OH, vanished.  His car was found near a lake in Cleveland.   Initially, he was thought to have drowned, but evidence was found that he deliberately left his life behind.  The story is here:  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,959737,00.html?iid=digg_share

C.  In 1988, J. Karen Arnold left her job as a public defender, and became an assistant district attorney.

D.  In 1992, Steve Sloane was hired as an assistant district attorney.  He was almost immediately laid off, due to budget concerns.  He was recalled to work in early 1993.

There has never been any indication that Mr. Gricar knew Chief Wiley.  While Hinckley Township is relatively close to Cleveland, it in a different county, so it is in a different jurisdiction.  It is somewhat rural, and not a suburb.  It is described on its website as “Small town, big heart.”  http://www.hinckleytwp.org/  It isn’t exactly a place where criminal connections will interest a Cleveland ADA.

Ms. Arnold, in her “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury” posting, indicated that she has “vague sense that perhaps Wiley's name was once mentioned in the office.”  http://gricar.disappearance.googlepages.com/partiii:onlinediscussion  If her “vague sense” is correct, someone was discussing Chief Wiley’s disappearance in the office three years after the event, minimum; she wasn’t working in the office prior to that.  Mr. Sloane remembers Mr. Gricar discussing the Wiley disappearance; Mr. Sloane didn’t start there until 1992 and likely wouldn’t have had this type of in-depth conversation about a case with no ties to Centre County immediately after being hired.  That in itself is strange.

While I am not entirely clear on Ms. Arnold’s background, Mr. Sloane lived, went to school in Central Pennsylvania most, if not all, of his life.  He doesn’t have any ties to Hinckley Township or Cleveland.

It has been suggested, on-line, that perhaps the case of former Cambria County judge, Joseph O’Kicki, who fled the country in 1993 after numerous convictions, might have triggered this discussion.  Maybe, but Judge O’Kicki’s flight from the law was no mystery; he left from the University Park Airport, and unlike Chief Wiley, he was fairly easily tracked.  We all knew where he ended up seeking refuge.  On top of that, Judge O’Kicki’s flight from the law was just that, a flight from the law.  There was never any suggestion that Chief Wiley had done anything criminal; he was not “on the lam” like Judge O’Kicki was.

Look at the situation.  Mr. Gricar showed at least some interest in the voluntary disappearance of Mel Wiley, with whom he had no known personal connection, which had no connection to Centre County and which was not a criminal case.   Mr. Gricar also seemed to be interested it a long time after it happened.   This might have been “water cooler talk” in the summer/fall of 1985 in the DA’s office, but these conversations had to have occurred years later, a minimum of eight years after it happened.  It is unusual that Mr. Gricar would exhibit this interest in a frankly obscure non-criminal case, so distant from Centre County and so old.

There is something else unusual.  I read about the Wiley case in Time magazine in 1985 and while I remembered some of the details, the year, that it was an Ohio police chief, where I read the story, I did not remember Wiley’s name.  I used a search engine to find it.  I did so when I began reading on-line discussions of the Gricar disappearance. 

            Someone asked me, on-line, if there were ever any cases where a responsible adult walked away without any real reason.  I cited two cases, Wiley and the case of Julian "Jay" Carsey, a Maryland community college president who voluntarily walked away from his life in 1982.  He returned after several years and was the subject of the 1989 book Exit the Rainmaker, a best seller.  Dr. Carsey, and the book, was even mentioned in a press story about Mr. Gricar shortly after his disappearance.   The Jay Carsey case was obviously better known than that of Mel Wiley.  The only one of these two mentioned, in the opening, the section on the online discussion, and the conclusion of “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury” was of Chief Mel Wiley.  Consciously or not, it must have triggered something.

            So, what does this point to, if anything?  It points to Mr. Gricar’s voluntary departure, if anything.  Mr. Gricar may have interested in the Wiley case or in cases where people voluntarily leave their former lives behind and start anew, in general.  Heck, I find it somewhat interesting myself.  I have not walked away and have no plans to.  

I could be interested in the subject and still commit suicide.  I’m not planning it, because I have too many life memberships in organizations where I’ve paid a lot of money upfront and want to get the benefits for that, first (in other words, I’m too cheap to do it).  I could be interested in the subject and be murdered.  I’m not planning on, or hoping to, be murdered either (but if a robber would pull a gun on me and say, “Your money or your life,” I’d have to think about it for a while).  Just being interested in a voluntary walk away case does not mean I, or Mr. Gricar, would be thinking of doing it.

Mr. Gricar’s interest, such as it was, in the disappearance of Chief Wiley either points to a voluntary departure or is unrelated to what really happened to him.

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