The Data and Erasing It

Posted by JJinPhila on February 26, 2009 

Over the summer we had a bit of a revelation in the Gricar case.  It wasn’t from a super secret source, but was announced at a press conference by Centre County DA Michael Madeira and Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver.  That “revelation” was that, well before he disappeared, Ray Gricar expressed an interest in seeing that the data on his laptop would be destroyed.  Interestingly, since the laptop and drive were tossed into the Susquehanna, Mr. Gricar got his wish.

            What was released was that, around the time that Mr. Gricar moved in with Patty Fornicola, his girlfriend, she thinks she saw a box for an erasure program for the computer.  This was about fourteen months prior to his disappearance.  It was also revealed that, more than a year prior to his disappearance, perhaps even before he moved in with Ms. Fornicola, he asked at least one other person how to erase the data.  That person was not a member of the District Attorney’s Office staff (I’ve been told) and was not his tech savvy nephew, Tony Gricar.

            How significant is this?    

            In January 2004, Mr. Gricar moved in with Ms. Fornicola, and for about a year they did not have a desk top; the used the laptop as the home computer.  Ms. Fornicola indicated that the laptop was largely unused when she mentioned it to the police.  Ms. Fornicola, obviously, could use the computer.  The may have been something Mr. Gricar didn’t want seen by Mr. Fornicola.  The timing fits very well.

            What nefarious secrets was Mr. Gricar keeping from his new housemate?  Maybe nothing too nefarious and the same kind of things I’d would really want a new girlfriend to stumble across, photos, e-mail, and letters from old girlfriends.  No one has ever suggested that Mr. Gricar took a monastic vow, and women he dated in the past, the “nurse,” the “Harrisburg woman,” have been mentioned in the press.

            There is also another reason.  Ms. Fornicola wasn’t just his girlfriend, she was his employee.  She worked in the District Attorney’s Office.  Mr. Gricar could very easily have had evaluations, notes, relating to her job performance, and to those of other employees.  He may not have really wanted to put Ms. Fornicola in a position where she could stumble across them, even by accident.  We have seen staff issues at the District Attorney’s Office after Mr. Gricar disappeared and there could have been ones during his tenure.  This would be another possibility.

            If Mr. Gricar committed suicide, he may not have wanted to leave this loose end, and decided to destroy the laptop.  

            What if Mr. Gricar left voluntarily?  He might have destroyed the laptop for the same reason.  He might also have had details relating to his departure on the hard drive as well.  Because of the deteriorated condition of the drive, the technicians at the Kroll company could not even tell if the drive was erased. 

            The destruction of the laptop might not even be directly linked to Mr. Gricar’s disappearance.  As seen, at some point, Mr. Gricar did want to have the data erased.  He could have said, hypothetically, to a trusted friend, “If anything happens to me, go to the house, get the laptop, and destroy the data on it.”  I kind of doubt it, but it remains a possibility.

What it Mr. Gricar was murdered?  Incriminating information could have been on the laptop.  That information would have to be destroyed by the killer.  That a murderer would have to know several things about the laptop.  First, the killer would have to know where the laptop was; the house wasn’t ransacked when Ms. Fornicola returned home from work.  Second, the killer would have to know that the information was exclusively on the laptop’s hard drive.  Mr. Gricar could have copied the data to a CD, flash drive, to his home desktop or his office desktop.  To be sure of destroying the incriminating evidence, the murderer would had to have been with Mr. Gricar’s laptop every minute since the incriminating data was put on the laptop’s hard drive, i.e. sometime on the day he disappeared.

            Was Mr. Gricar’s desire to erase the hard drive tied to the ultimate destruction of the hard drive?  Maybe it was, but it might have been for some other reason as well.  The only thing that can say is that Mr. Gricar expressed an interest in making the data on the laptop’s hard drive unreadable by anyone prior to his disappearance.  After he disappeared, the data on the laptop’s hard drive became unreadable by anyone. 

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