The Investigation, Part Three: Police Action Until 4/30/05

Posted by JJinPhila on August 12, 2009 

[This is the third part of a series on the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.]


            From 4/18/05 until 4/30/05 the investigation continued.  It involved massive searches, canvassing of witnesses and looking at potential suspects, in the event that it was determined that Mr. Gricar met with foul play.  The witnesses previously discussed surfaced during this period.  A few things were ruled out and the “usual suspects” were cleared.

            It was exceptionally good police work.  It however was not perfect.  There were things missed, and misstatements.  Most were corrected, eventually.  I will look at the problems in the next part of the series, but in this one, I will limit it to what the police got right.  There is a lot.

            One of first things announce was the involvement of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to check Mr. Gricar’s bank and credit card activities1; there was none after 4/15.  The police searched the banks of the Susquehanna on foot and by helicopter on 4/19/05; the same day, they started canvassing Lewisburg for witnesses2.  They had checked the workers at the Street of Shops the day before, which proved negative.  3  The next day, they used boats as well4.  Some of the helicopter searches that occurred prior to 4/22/05 extended to Harrisburg5.

At some point during this time the police (as well as Mr. Gricar’s first wife, Barbara Gray, and his daughter) checked hotels in the Lewisburg area6.  The police also checked hospitals and rest homes, in the unlikely event that Mr. Gricar was having a psychological problem.7  The possibility that Mr. Gricar had a mini-stroke and was walking around in a confused state, was raised by several people; he had not been admitted to a hospital and there were no reports of anyone wondering around in a confused state. 8 Mr. Gricar’s records were subpoenaed mid-week.8  Nothing unusual turned up in his medical records.

On 4/22/05, the river was searched by divers; over the weekend, land cut off by the then high Susquehanna was also searched.9  If you note Tony Gricar’s photo of where the drive, taken when the river was lower, one the “islands” mentioned in the article, was connected to the bank in lower water.  This might help illustrate the depth of the river at the time.  Note as well that there was a mass of debris, tree branches, trash, that covered the area.  This, and possibly several feet of water, covered this area at the time of the search.

Several more aerial searches were conducted during the weekend of 4/25, including searches of the Susquehanna, Routes 45, and, again, Route 192. 10 

There was another search, that went unreported until the Fall; the police searched the house that Mr. Gricar shared with Ms. Fornicola.  It was a few days after Mr. Gricar disappeared.  Police went through the house looking for "any signs of obvious foul play - new carpeting, fresh scrub marks," according to Det. Zaccagni.11  They found nothing, like the other searches.

This search has to be put in context.  Ms. Fornicola was the only other person that belonged in the house; it was her childhood home, so she knew it.  If there had been a break in or a struggle, not involving her, she would have noticed the results.  She certainly would have noticed if she came home and discovered new carpeting.  Both the police and Mr. Gricar’s nephews were in the house that weekend; it is possible that the police were there on the night of 4/15-4/16.  They noted nothing that would indicate a crime took place.

It looks like, at least briefly, the police considered the possibility that perhaps Ms. Fornicola was aware of an act of foul play against Mr. Gricar.  It would not necessarily be that she committed the act, but was hiding it.  The police checked, and found nothing to support that. This probably indicates the wide range of options the police looked at, and ruled out after investigation.12

Another ruled out possibility was Mr. Billy Joe Leathers.  Mr. Leather’s body was found early on 4/17/05. A very extensive investigation, including a time line compiled by the State Police, rule out his involvement.13  In this, my predecessor here, Pete Bosak, did extensive research on Mr. Leathers and reached the same conclusion.  The police also looked at released criminals that Mr. Gricar had prosecuted14.  No leads.

As noted, the witnesses began to be uncovered during the first week.  Even very early on, witnesses put Mr. Gricar in Lewisburg both on Friday 4/15/05, and 4/16/05, Saturday14.  While there have been extensive blogs on the witnesses, two details need to be noted.  The police checked the video tapes from the Courthouse, including that of Ms. Fenton’s sighting; it showed her but it didn’t show Mr. Gricar.16   The police officer that saw Mr. Gricar in Wilkes-Barre on 4/18, reported it on 4/22.17  The police then checked the business and found a second witness, the bartender who reported that he served Mr. Gricar.18  Likewise, during this period the report of a “construction worker-type” came out during this period, though it was not released until later.19

From the 4/18/05, the police made great strides in investigating the disappearance of Mr. Gricar.  However, the investigation was not perfect.  Mistakes were made, and there are several potential mistakes as well.  I will be looking at those next.

[Part 4, Misstatements, Mistakes and the Media until 4/30/05, is next]



2DC, 4/20/05,

3 CDT 4/17/05,

4 DC, 4/21

5 PPG, 4/22/05,

6CDT, 7/24/05 :

7 These were reported in the old Q and A Forum in the CDT, which unfortunately no longer exists.





11 CDT Q and A Forum, Archived form:

12 It makes sense that the police should check out Mr. Gricar’s significant other, Ms. Fornicola; that is a simple precaution.  Ms. Fornicola seems to have consented to this search, as there has been report of a warrant being issued.  The police indicated that none of Ms. Fornicola’s actions or statements raised suspicion.







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