[This is the eighth part of a series on the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.]
On December 31, 2005, the curtain rose on Act Two of the Gricar case. The newly elected Centre County District Attorney Michael T. Madeira took the oath of office and addressed the disappearance of his predecessor, now former District Attorney Ray Gricar. He said, at the time, that Mr. Gricar, “…deserves that because he's been our district attorney for 20 years. And he's been a friend. I just want to make sure we've done everything that we can."1 That is what he said, as reported in the CDT.
This is what Mr. Madeira actually did. On January 10, 2006, he had a ninety minute meeting with Bellefonte Police Chief Shaun Weaver and Det.2 Zaccagni.3 He spent an hour and a half to cover an investigation that had been actively pursued for nearly nine months. That works out to slightly over ten minutes a month. Also, note that the meeting was not with a familiar figure in this case, Chief Dixon. The now former Chief Dixon had retired; Chief Weaver, the new chief, was sworn in on the same day as Mr. Madeira, less than a fortnight before this ninety minute meeting.
After this ninety minute meeting, Mr. Madeira did not claim to want to investigate the case further or look through the files and reports. He said, “From my overview of what I've seen from them today, they have done a great job looking into all information that has come in and exhausting every lead," Even by his own statement it was an “overview.” (He said more, which I’ll mention in the next blog.) There was no in depth probing by Mr. Madeira, but based on this “overview,” his word, he determined that the State Attorney General’s Office need not be involved.3 This was actually the first public comment on the investigation from the District Attorney’s Office under Mr. Madeira’s tenure that I can recall.
Around I/1/06, two incumbent District Attorneys from the region, Ted McKnight of Clinton County, and Bob Buehner of Montour County, had called on the investigation to be turned over to the Attorney General’s Office4. Both praised the investigation to date, with Mr. Buehner quoted as saying "Bellefonte has done an outstanding job, ... but they're limited in resources and scope." Mr. McKnight said that the Bellefonte Police had “gone above and beyond the call of duty. They have done a wonderful job.”5 Both called, publicly, for the case to be given to a larger agency. It wasn’t a question, as they saw it, of competence, but a question of resources.
Other than what has, unfortunately, become a standard anniversary story, nothing much happened in the case, until May of 2006. Dateline NBC was running a story on the Gricar disappearance.6 The report itself gave a few details, but what happened before that is perhaps more interesting.
On 5/9/06, the police announced that they were looking for the person that has since been dubbed the “Mystery Woman.” 7 This created a “media firestorm” in the case, even though, as noted, she had been a matter of public record for nearly six months, if not longer. See: http://tiny.cc/Part6212 Tony Gricar, perhaps in a moment of forgetfulness said, "To me, that's an odd little bombshell."8 It should be noted that Tony Gricar had actually been quoted in the Renner article where the “Mystery Woman” was mentioned. Both Mr. Madeira, in the same story, and Chief Weaver, the next day9 noted, correctly, that the story had been out for a while. Det. Zaccagni stated that the reason the woman was not so strongly emphasized was out of “sensitivity” to the family. As noted in a previous blog, http://tiny.cc/Part4, by not releasing this information, it did actually help with public opinion; it minimized the possibility that Mr. Gricar’s disappearance was voluntary.
This, however, marked one change in the release of public information. Information previously disclosed, or close to what was previously disclosed, was put out with a bit of fanfare. This is a pattern that will be repeated. In a future blog, we will see another.
While the emphasis on the “Mystery Woman” was thought to be a “media firestorm,” we will see in a future entry that it was but a prelude to the media hurricane that would envelop the case in a few days.
[Part 9, Mr. Madeira’s Strange Comment, Part 1, is next]
1 CDT, 12/31/05 http://tiny.cc/Sworn774
2 Detective Zaccagni had been returned to uniform detail at some point in the mid summer of 2005.
4 CDT, 1/1/06 http://tiny.cc/McKnight
5 AP, 1/12/09 http://tiny.cc/Stones82
6 Dateline NBC, 5/13/06 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12756052/ns/dateline_nbc/
7 AP, 5/9/06, http://tiny.cc/21I0g
8 CDT, 5/10/06 http://tiny.cc/YZpeM
9 AP, 5/11/06 http://tiny.cc/rniby