[This is the sixth part of a series on the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.]
This might come as a surprise to many people reading this, but the famous report that a Mystery Woman was seen with Mr. Gricar in Lewisburg was a matter of record on 11/16/05. If I recall correctly, it was mentioned several months earlier in the CDT’s Q and A Forum as well, but beyond question, the Mystery Woman story was out by that date, for anyone following the case closely, or people in Cleveland.
The current surviving reference appeared an article in the Cleveland Free Times. on 11/16/05. The writer, James Renner, quoted Det Zaccagni as saying:
Two people in the antique mall are positive they saw him in there. One man is positive he saw Gricar talking to a female on several occasions. I asked him, Were they together? He said, ‘Well, in my mind they were together, but they weren’t holding hands; they weren’t lovey-dovey or anything.’
Renner also noted:
Theory Three: Hoax. Gricar was seen with a woman at the antique mall, though witnesses can’t say for sure if they were romantic. She could have been a smoker, though Gricar abhorred the habit. Was Lewisburg their rendezvous before skipping town and starting a new life? 1
As for running off together, that can be disproved to an extent. No woman was reported missing. It is possible that Mr. Gricar left, changed his identity and started a relationship with a woman, but the hypothetical woman retained her identity. Since Mr. Gricar had no legally binding relationship to walk away from, I’d question why he’d feel a need to do this.
The interesting thing about the article is the candor that is displayed by Det. Zaccagni. He lists a number of witnesses, one of the most extensive in the media. While I have some questions if he confused the Friday and Saturday witnesses, it was refreshing to see this amount of information released. Of course, unless it was someone Googling the name “Ray Gricar” obsessively (like me, for example), or someone that was a regular of the Cleveland Free Times, the story had little impact. Likewise, a local reader would have to have had a computer and stay abreast of the CDT Q and A Forum to discover that the Mystery Woman, known to the police within the first 36 hours of the case, existed.
I must admit to seeing something that could be the best of both worlds. What would it be like if Det. Rickard’s noted willingness to examine the files before giving answers was combined with Det. Zaccagni’s candor? I, for one, would like to see it.
Another development was the result of the analysis of the hard drive. Renner reported that the drive was discovered as September 23, and he might be correct. I have heard suggestions that the police were hoping not to tip their hand if there was recoverable data. Getting that data was crucial in the investigation at that point. Det. Zaccagni was quoted as saying, “"If they can't get anything off it, we have nothing."2
Det. Zaccagni also said this, in the same story, “He [Mr. Gricar] made a conscious decision to go upstairs, take the laptop out of the case, get into his car and leave." One might wonder how he knew it was Mr. Gricar that took the laptop. However, I sometimes think that Det. Zaccagni gets too little credit for his work on the case.
On 12/8/05, the result of that testing was released. The lab used by the FBI could not read any data on the drive.3 In many ways this marked a change in the case, both in the analysis of evidence and what police were releasing. Certainly the police activity in the case began to wane; Act One of this play was ending. There would be a new characters added to the dramatis personæ of the Gricar case in Act Two.
[Part 7, Mr. Smith’s Role, is next]
1 CFT, 11/16/05 http://tiny.cc/MysteryWoman
The second citation may not be accessable at that site, but it has been copied here: