The Public Case, Part One

Posted by JJinPhila on June 4, 2009 

          I was to start out with a stunning admission.  Prior to July of 2007, I had no inside information on the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.  Every question I asked, I asked in a public forum.  My contact with the family spokesman, Tony Gricar, was minimal; and did not begin until I started posting on public message boards in September of 2006.  Other that posting questions on the old Centre Daily Times questions and answers website, I had no contact with the press or anyone in law enforcement regarding the case.  Believe it or not, Ray Gricar is not a hot topic of conversation in Philadelphia.

            Where I got my information was from public sources, i.e. press stories and reference works.  Here are just two examples of how I acquired my “amazing knowledge,” to coin a phase. 

How did I know what Mr. Gricar’s salary was in 2003?  It was published in an annual reference work published by the state, The Pennsylvania Manual.  I make no secret of being interested in politics and this book basically lists everyone at the state and county levels.  (If you check one edition, you’ll find my name in it.)  I have a number of old ones, that I use for looking at historic election data (ask me about Pennsylvania “Southwest Swing” and “Southeast Slump” one day.)  You can do the same thing with a good library. 

How did I know that the license plate on the Mini Cooper was “PFO” and meant as a reference to Mr. Gricar’s girlfriend, Patty Fornicola (P Fo’ like J Lo’ for Jennifer Lopez)?  It was in the old Q and A website.   You could have gone through it and read (and remembered) it.

            Now, after July of 2007, that changed; people started talking with me behind the scenes.  It is no secret that Mr. Bosak and I communicated, as I do with others. However, for almost two years after I asked my first question on the old Q and A site, I got all my information from the media.  Because I didn’t live in the area (and still don’t), I probably had less information, and certainly less gossip, that you had about the Gricar case, before that date.  What I found out the case I found out through the media and on-line.  (And, had I known on 4/17/05 that I’d be writing “Sporadic Comments,” I would have been paying much closer attention.) 

            What is in the media about the Gricar case shapes public opinion about the Gricar case.  What is released, especially when it was known by the police, has an impact on public opinion.   Some folks, on-line at least, have asked why the media has been “pushing” one theory over the others, with that theory being that Mr. Gricar walked away.  Has the media and the police been “pushing” walkaway?  Let’s take a look at some of this “new” evidence.

            In May of 2006, Mr. Bosak’s excellent investigative article “Missed Leads,” was published.   The article revealed several new things.  First, it revealed that Carolyn Fenton, then law clerk to Judge Grine, reported seeing Mr. Gricar, driving an unknown car, behind the Courthouse in Bellefonte at 3:00 PM on the day he disappeared, 4/15/05.  Second, it reported some of Mr. Gricar’s change in demeanor (which Ms. Arnold also noted, more strongly, in her “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury”).  Third, it revealed something about Mr. Gricar’s assets, or lack thereof. 

            When did the police know about the Fenton sighting?  It was reported sometime during the first week of the investigation.  The change in demeanor?  According to Ms Arnold, that was reported before noon on 4/16/05.  Mr. Gricar’s financial situation?  Probably within the first month.

            Last November, Mr. Bosak, in his blog, that one of the Wilkes-Barre witnesses was a veteran police officer; he saw Mr. Gricar on 4/18/05.  When did the police have this information?  Within two weeks of Mr. Gricar’s disappearance.  It was reported that two witnesses, one not identified, saw him Wilkes-Barre.  The one not identified publicly was the police officer.

            Last summer, after the famous dueling press conferences, the police released the information that Mr. Gricar asked people about how to get rid of data on a hard drive.  Just before the fourth anniversary of his disappearance, the police announced that Mr. Gricar did searches on his computer regarding how to destroy a hard drive.  I don’t know when the police learned of the first piece of information, but they had discovered the searches in 2006.  Yes, the police knew about it for two and a half years.  There may be more out there.

            Now, not everything points away from foul play.  There is the famous “mistakement” (Tony Gricar’s term) by the former lead investigator in the case regarding finding Mr. Gricar’s fingerprints in the Mini Cooper; there were prints, but they were unreadable.  Still, there was no evidence of anyone else driving the Mini and only a cigarette ash and the scent of smoke to indicate that maybe someone else was in the Mini.

            Most of the evidence that has come out since the initial weeks after the disappearance points away from foul play, generally.  That Mr. Gricar was interested in eliminating data does point to him being the one that tossed the drive.  It points to a voluntary act, but it neither precludes foul play nor directly points to walkaway.  The change in demeanor also points to a voluntary act.  Two things that do strongly point to walkaway are the Fenton sighting and the police officer sighting in Wilkes-Barre on 4/18/05.  These are two things that were not disclosed by the police, in the second case, for more than three and a half years.

            The police, the media, and I guess you can include me in that, are not “pushing” walkaway.   The police, as noted, have actually held back evidence that could support walkaway.  Why?  I hope give a possible answer in a future blog. 

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