The Public Case, Part Two

Posted by JJinPhila on June 7, 2009 

In my last entry, I said two things.  First, for the first two years (actually a bit longer) after former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar disappeared, all my information about the case came solely from public sources.  Second, it has been obvious that the police had held back information that points away from foul play (they admitted it). 

            I’ll add a third point, that I’ve made in previous blogs, I have yet to come to a point where I can say that one possibility is what probably happened to Mr. Gricar.  I would be willing to say that his disappearance was probably a case of foul play or walkaway, but I would not say he probably walked away or that he was probably the victim of foul play.  That’s based on what I’ve heard or read publicly (and privately).  I’m skeptical.  I give the odds on walkaway at 48% and on foul play at 42%.  Foul play is a bit weaker, but not by much and neither option passes that 50% mark, where I’d say that either option was probably.  I’m very skeptical (and my numbers will change based on new evidence).

            The general public may be less skeptical than I am.  There was an online poll taken just after the fourth anniversary of Mr. Gricar’s disappearance.  Now, online polls are noted for not being hugely accurate, but they can give a general indication of public sentiment.  Here are the results:

Former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar was last seen on April 15th, 2005. What do you think happened to him?

He Was Murdered (23.3%) 


He Committed Suicide (8.1%)


He Ran Away (58.1%)


Not Sure (10.5%)

Personally, I would have voted “Not sure.”  The 58.1% people who voted, 571 of them, said that they think, based on most of the same evidence I’ve seen, maybe some of them that are readers here, said, “He ran away.”

Now, let’s turn the clock back a bit to May of 2005.  About two months ago, I shared with you my first (and totally wrong) impressions on the case, which were: “Suicide, maybe he had a heart attack while walking along the river and went in, but maybe foul play.”  No mention of walkaway.   In May of 2005, the police knew these two things.  First, Ms. Fenton reported seeing Mr. Gricar in a different car behind the Courthouse on 4/15/05.  Second, two witnesses, including a police officer from out of town saw Mr. Gricar in Wilkes-Barre on 4/18/05, two days after he disappeared.  What would that have done to my first impressions?

I would have thought:  No body in the river.  Somebody who knew him spotted him in a second car on the day he disappeared.  Spotted by a police officer and confirmed by a second witness.  He walked.  After that, I doubt that I ever would looked in depth at the case again.  I seriously doubt that there would have been the level of public interest in the case that there was, like the old Centre Daily Times “Question and Answers” website.  We obviously would not have seen Mr. Bosak’s “Missed Leads,” and I doubt that Mr. Renner would have written “The River’s Edge.”  I would not be doing this blog.  There would be much less public interest in the case that there is even today. 

Had this evidence not been held back, it is doubtful that there would have been the public interest in this case.  That is good, for this reason.  There is not enough evidence out currently to say even that it is probable that Mr. Gricar walked away, and much less than enough to say that, beyond a reasonable doubt, Ray Gricar walked away.  The chance that his disappearance is due to foul play is almost equally high.  The police, even as they to an extent today, would be met with comments like, “He walked away.  Why are you wasting your time and our money looking for him?”

Now, both walkaway and foul play are possible; I give each as being greater than 40% likely in explaining why Mr. Gricar disappeared.  Slightly more evidence points to walkaway, but that is not conclusive.  I’ve suggested two scenarios, nearly equally strong, with the results being either walkaway or murder; I’ve also suggested a weaker murder scenario.  What if one of those foul play scenarios, or something like them, is what happened?  By releasing the evidence that pointed to walkaway early on, the police could have lost multiple early leads by releasing that information.

Now, however, there is a down side, that is now playing out.  This evidence is trickling out.   Really, with one exception, all the evidence that has been disclosed since 2006 points away from foul play.  The public case, public opinion, is drifting strongly and perhaps wrongly, in the direction of walkaway. 

If wrongly, it might be well for the police to release that information that could stop that drift.  In the film The Usual Suspects the character Verbal says, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone.”  That would be the greatest trick a murderer could pull as well.


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