The Investigation Part Five: Before the Leaves All Fell

Posted by JJinPhila on August 19, 2009 

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


            This entry will cover the investigation from 5/1/05 through roughly 10/31/05.  It was marked by continuing activity, though with less focus on the Susquehanna. 

            The results of a DNA test on the water bottle taken from the Mini Cooper were completed; Mr. Gricar’s DNA was found in the water bottle.1 No more forensic tests were reported from the Mini.

            There were, however, numerous witness reports.  A woman in Texas spotted someone that she thought looked like Mr. Gricar and snapped some photos of him with her cell phone.  These were sent to the Bellefonte Police, who, in turn sent them to the FBI. 2  One of the more unusual was that of Mr. Gricar in the audience of the Oprah Winfrey Show .    The police went so far as contacting that show’s producers, getting a copy and reviewing the tape 3.  Someone thought he was in a store in Columbus, OH.  The police and Mr. Gricar’s nephews checked the surveillance tape.4  All of these were reviewed by the police and ruled out.  There were possibly other witness reports that were similarly discounted.

            One that was not ruled out, and remains a tantalizing possibility, is a sighting in Southfield, Michigan, on 5/27/05.  He made the connection after seeing a rerun of a cable show about the case that night; he then looked up Mr. Gricar on the Internet. 5 The witness was a retired police officer.6   Local police there did check to see it there was any supporting evidence.  This one has never been ruled out.

            At the request of the family (not at the suggestion of the police) a psychic, Carla Baron, was brought in to find evidence and possibly a solution.  Cadaver dogs were sent to the spots she identified.  No body or other evidence was found.7 

            Some less metaphysical evidence was found in the Susquehanna.  The laptop, minus the hard drive, was found on 7/30/05.  It had substantial damage showing that it had been the river for some time.8  The police searched the river again, and found a drive.  This hard drive did not belong to the computer9.  The drive was found sometime in October and was first sent out for analysis10.

            Two polygraph tests were administered during the summer of 2005.  In early July, Ms. Fornicola took and passed a polygraph.11 In early September, Lara Gricar, also took and passed a polygraph. 12 The decision to have Ms. Gricar polygraphed is the most interesting aspect and is telling of what the police were considering.  You could very easily suspect that Ms. Fornicola had some knowledge regarding the disappearance, as you could with any other member of that “Inner Circle.”  It would be impossible for Ms. Gricar to have gotten from the sate of Washington, helped Mr. Gricar get a car or pushed him into the Susquehanna, and gotten back to Washington to get the call on Saturday morning, without leaving a very traceable trail.  The primary reason to look at Lara Gricar at that point would be to consider the possibility that Mr. Gricar told her of plans to walk away, or if he contacted her after he disappeared.  The police were also considering the possibility of walkaway.

            Were there some things missed; it is possible because the police have not disclosed what they did check.  Much was disclosed prior to January of 2006.

 I’ll ask you to put yourself in the position of the police with some of the evidence that is now publicly available (some of was then).  The dog handler thought the bloodhound acted as if Mr. Gricar got into another car.  Two witnesses placed Mr. Gricar in Wilkes-Barre on 4/18/05, which he could only reach by car or public transportation (the latter was checked).  Ms. Fenton saw Mr. Gricar, whom she knew, driving a metallic colored car behind the Centre County Courthouse at 3:00 PM on 4/15/05; her sighting

was not confirmed by any other witness.  This all raises one very important question:  Did Ray Gricar have access another vehicle on 4/15/05?

            In general, the police have never said if they looked or if they have ruled out the possibility (at least using the most likely methods).  They have hinted, strongly, that Mr. Gricar didn’t use his credit card to rent a car; no car was reported stolen in Lewisburg on 4/15/05.  Some methods of acquiring a vehicle have been ruled out, but the police have never, to date, said that they have ruled out this possibly.  If the police failed to look at the possibility of Mr. Gricar driving away voluntarily, this could mark the greatest failure of law enforcement in this case.  This is true even if Mr. Gricar’s disappearance was the result of homicide.13

            If I had to guess, I would guess that the Bellefonte Police did not make a mistake of this magnitude, or at least have checked by the present.  I am continuously perplexed about why, if it was just another dead end, they have not disclosed the fact.

            At least some members of that “inner circle” of those close to Mr. Gricar were not checked.  A close friend, Edward Walker, was not interviewed as of the start May 200614.  This is another mistake that might have been eventually corrected.

            From what I’ve learned, a suggestion similar to the one mentioned by Mr. Buehner, i.e., to look at female registrants at motels, was made in this time.  There was a meeting of local district attorneys on 5/20/05 and it may have been suggested there. 15  Again, even after the “dueling press conferences,” the police have never disclosed it this was checked.  We do know that the police were checking for something in the area, perhaps even out of town. 16  Did the police check this?

            Again, there was a lot of good police work.  Leads were checked out.  Again, there were things that might not have been checked; for some reason, the police have not disclosed what has and what hasn’t been checked.

[Part 6, The Mystery Woman Emerges, is next]



1 DNA Philadelphia Daily News, 5/13/05


2 CDT, 8/17/05


3 CDT,  7/6/05


4 CDT, 6/17/05,


5 AP Story, 6/11/05,


6 CDT timeline,  


7 CDT, 8/3/05


8 AP, 8/1/09,


9 Daily Item (DI), 8/3/05,


10 CDT, 10/27/09


11 DC, 7/19/05,


12 CDT, 9/15/05


13 While it is possible to prosecute a homicide case without a body in Pennsylvania, a very good defense in this case would be that Mr. Gricar wasn’t murdered, but that he just up and left.  Unless some evidence of a crime would turn up, and defendant could argue that the police never checked that possibility.  I am planning a blog on this after this series.


14 CDT, 5/13/05,


15 CDT, 5/20/05,


16 CDT, 7/26/05,


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