The Way Out

Posted by JJinPhila on April 16, 2009 

As many of you know, Mr. Bosak and I corresponded while he was the reporter covering the disappearance of Ray Gricar.  Over the last eighteen months or so, we would discuss details of the case.  Now over that period, and through today, most of the newly released information has pointed toward Mr. Gricar’s disappearance being a voluntary act, either pointing to suicide or walkaway, but in some cases, just walkaway.

            He would write me about a story or would be discussing a point, and I, invariably would write something like this, “Good point.  That should make a good story.  Now, how did Ray get out of Lewisburg?”  Sometimes is would be this short, “Okay, what were the means?”  It was so common that he’d laugh every time he would read it.  I would chuckle every time I wrote it.

            This still is the key question.  In looking at all the evidence, nearly everything (with but one possible exception) could point to Mr. Gricar walking away from his life; much of it could point in several directions.  It is circumstantial, but there is a lot of it.  If Mr. Gricar did walk away, there will be evidence of his passing.  If that evidence is not there, he probably did not walk away.  That is why the evidence, or lack thereof, becomes the key question at this point in the case.

            Look at what we just found out this week.  Mr. Gricar, in his own home, did searches on his computer about erasing the laptop (another piece of circumstantial evidence).   This obviously is more of a tiny detail as compared to getting out of Lewisburg.  Getting out Lewisburg would have to produce more evidence than searching on the Internet.

            We also know several things about the ways Mr. Gricar could have used.  First, Mr. Gricar didn’t use public transportation and didn’t rent a car under his own name; early on, the police reported that he checked.  There is some evidence that Mr. Gricar had access to a different vehicle.  The dog handler said that the dog following Mr. Gricar’s scent acted as if he had gotten into another vehicle; there was no trace of scent outside of the parking lot where the Mini Cooper was found.  Ms. Fenton saw Mr. Gricar driving an unknown car behind the Courthouse in Bellefonte at 3:00 PM on the day he disappeared, 4/15/05.  On 4/18/05, in the evening, two witnesses saw Mr. Gricar in Wilkes-Barre, in a restaurant/bar just off I-81; that is about 70 miles away and it hugely unlikely he walked there.

            If these reports are correct, Mr. Gricar had access to another car.  How did he get it?  (Where is it now is another question.)  Here are the possibilities.

            First, in general, there are two ways Mr. Gricar could have accessed a car.  He got it himself, or someone got it for him.

            Let’s assume he got it himself.  There are several ways he could have done that.

1.  Mr. Gricar purchased it under a variation of his legal name, like “R. Gricar” or “R. Frank Gricar.”  He could have used a secondary address, such as a Post Office box or a mail service as his “home” address.  Registrations take some time to enter the PennDOT database (mine took nearly two months and it was at my address).  Mr. Gricar could have made the purchase within a few days of 4/15/05.  If the police checked on 4/18/05, or even 5/18/05, it might not have been in the database.  The paperwork would clutter up a P. O. Box or mail service for potentially the next year.  He could have disposed of the car a long time before that.

2.  Mr. Gricar established a false identity in Pennsylvania.  It does happen, and with Mr. Gricar’s experience in the field, he’d know how to establish a false identity.  He purchases the car in that name, pays cash (it’s probably a used car), and drives off.  The car may be sold later, but it gets into the database at PennDOT; there is a record of it.

3.  Mr. Gricar established a false identity in another state.  PennDOT would only look at the sale and perhaps inform the other state.  It is very easy to lose track of that.  The other state may not be prompt in inquiring about the transfer.

            All of these things have point of geography in common.  Mr. Gricar would have to do all these things in about a ten mile radius of Lewisburg. 

            Why?  Mr. Gricar has to get the other car to Lewisburg.  He could by it in State College, (or Lock Haven or Altoona) and drive it to Lewisburg, but he couldn’t get home.  If he did any of these things, he did it within walking distance of Lewisburg.

            What if he had help, or had a “helper?”  Most of these problems go away.  The helper could purchase or rent a car in his/her own name.  Mr. Gricar, in theory, could still use his own name and leave the area, say to Butte, MT (I just love typing Butte, MT).  Okay, who could this helper be?

            First, the helper would have to be close geographically, to deliver the car.  That eliminates a few people, like his daughter Lara; she was about 2,500 miles away.  Even his nephews live a fair distance and the closest, Tony Gricar to have about an eight and half hour gap he couldn’t explain.  That’s a pretty big gap in the time line and would be easily noticed.  Who else?

            A stranger?  Maybe he pulled name from book, but that would create problems.  To buy or rent the car, Mr. Gricar would have to give this helper money.  The helper could take the money and not follow through with buying or renting the car.  Maybe the helper does and Mr. Gricar pays him some cash, hypothetically, let’s say $5,000.  In a week the reward for information on what happened to Mr. Gricar was $15,000.  If it was me, and I was just doing it for money, I’d say “$5,000 versus $15,000,” and sing like a canary.  The probability that it was a stranger is very low; Mr. Gricar couldn’t really trust the stranger, either to buy or rent the car, or to keep his/her mouth shut afterward.  Who else?

            Mr. Gricar’s staff and friends from Centre County; his former “significant others” might also have the characteristics needed.  It would someone geographically close to Mr. Gricar, trustworthy enough to be counted on to by the car, and personally loyal enough to him to not to be tempted by that reward.  Maybe 25-30 people, at most.  It any of them purchased or rented a car, or even spent 2-4 hours chauffeuring Mr. Gricar around, there will be evidence.   Where were they?  Did they purchase or rent a car in that time frame?  If a car was purchased or rented by any of them, there will be a record.

             One last point on this aspect of the case.  Ms. Fenton is sure that she saw Mr. Gricar behind the Courthouse in Bellefonte at 3:00 PM on 4/15/05.  I’m somewhat skeptical that it was really Mr. Gricar.  What if she is right?  What was Mr. Gricar doing there?  One possibility I’ve come up with is that he returned to Bellefonte to drop off the helper.

            I’m not convinced, by a long shot, that Mr. Gricar walked away from his life.   My guess is that the police have checked these possibilities, but they are not even telling us what the checked and ruled out.  It might be a dead end, but even that would be useful in the investigation.   Without ruling these things out, walkaway remains a solid possibility.  If it is ruled out, or largely ruled out, we can focus on other possibilities.

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