How Similar?

Posted by JJinPhila on October 22, 2009 


            One point that has been discussed in the disappearance of former District Attorney Ray Gricar has been the presumed “similarities” between the Lewisburg area and the site of the suicide of Roy Gricar (Ray’s1 brother).  

Tony Gricar (Roy’s son) more than six months afterward, noted the similarities in discussing the disappearance in the press 2.   Some posters on message boards, who are convinced that Ray had to have been murdered, think Lewisburg was chosen to “stage” a scene and convince everyone that it was suicide.

Tony also indicated that both he and his brother thought as suicide as a possible explanation when they were told that the car was found near “Water Street.”  This was on 4/16/05 while he was in route to Lewisburg, well before he saw Lewisburg.  Considering the tragic, and probably traumatic, family history Tony had to deal with, I can very easily understand why he thought suicide.  I also understand how that would affect his view of the site.

The site and similarities have been debated on Internet message boards.  A few posters have claimed that the site was chosen by a murderer to “make it look like suicide.”  One great problem is that, unless Ray Gricar was taking friends on “Gricar family tragedy tours,” the only way that they could have known what the site of Roy’s suicide looked like was from photos on the Internet.  In other words, they would see the same similarities and differences that I do.  Any list of who knew what the sites had some similarities in topped by the name Ray Gricar.  Perhaps only those people that were very close to Mr. Gricar in 1996 would have seen the site of Roy’s suicide firsthand at the time.  Most, if not all, of those people live nowhere near Bellefonte or Lewisburg.

            One of the problems, either for someone trying to “stage” it, or researching the case afterward is figuring out where in Ohio the site of Roy’s suicide.  Part of the article on the discovery was found in the online news story, copied to a message board.3  It stated that Roy’s body was found in the Great Miami River, and his car was found in a parking area in Veterans Park.  Since Tony had mentioned the bridges, I had to look along the Great Miami for two bridges (highway and railroad), near Veterans Park, which has a parking area.  That takes me to Hamilton, OH, fairly easily.4

            Here is a link to some very detailed aerial photos:   I would suggest you type in this address in the search box . “526 S B Street, Hamilton, OH,” to get to the map and photos.  Veterans Park should be just to the left (west) if you type in that address.  The railroad bridge is a bit north.

            Well there are some similarities to the two sites:

            1.  There is a highway bridge crossing a river near a railroad bridge at both sites.

2.  The railroad bridges, at both sites, have metal girder supports (this can be seen by the shadow on the river in the aerial photo of Hamilton). 

3.  The railroad bridge is north, or upstream, from the highway bridge at both sites.

            4.  Roy’s car was stated to be in a parking lot on the western side of the river.  I’m assuming it was in the parking lot in the middle of the park.

All of these things are common characteristics to both sites.  I couldn’t find a photo taken from the ground of the highway bridge, called the Columbia Bridge, to make a comparison.

There are also some notable differences.

1.  The railroad bridge is over three times further away from the highway bridge than the Lewisburg site.

2.  There are not two bridges, like Lewisburg, but three.  The third bridge is north of the railroad bridge.  If is the High-Main Street Bridge.   Here is a photo:

The High-Main Street Bridge should be fairly easily seen from the Columbia Bridge; it is less than a mile north.

3.  From the west back of the river, anyone looking across would see the town of Hamilton, which has a population around 60,000, 5 on the east bank.  Looking across the river from Lewisburg, there are virtually no buildings at all; it is a tree lined bank.

In fairness to Tony, he has mentioned this difference in the settings on message boards

4.  Note where the parking lot is, north of the Columbia Bridge and south of the railroad bridge. 

5.  The Columbia Bridge has four lanes, at least currently.  It would be substantially larger than the highway bridge in Lewisburg. 

Basically, while there are some similarities, there are some striking differences,

like the town on the wrong side of the river, a closer railroad bridge, a four lane bridge and a bridge that should be there, but isn’t.

 Point 4 is the most telling.  Anyone looking up the Roy’s suicide on the Internet would find out where the car was parked, relate to the bridges.  Roy’s car, if parked in or by Veterans Park, was parked to the north of the highway bridge (barely) and well to the south of the railroad bridge.  Ray’s Mini Cooper was parked to the north of both bridges, not between them.

            It would have been easy for someone to park the Mini in the same relative position to the bridges as Roy’s car was parked.  The witnesses actually put Mini and Ray Gricar in that relative position, across from the Packwood House.  After that, the Mini was moved to the parking lot across from the Street of Shops; witnesses placed Ray there.

            I tried looking at other places along the Susquehanna and found places with the same number of similarities and differences.  Milton has two bridges, including a railroad bridge and is on the east side of the river. Lock Haven has three, but no railroad bridges and they are further apart than those in Hamilton; Williamsport is in the same situation.  Sunbury/Northumberland has three bridges, including a railroad bridge, that are slightly closer than those in Hamilton; the bridges are in sight of each other even though one spans a different branch of the Susquehanna than the others.  We could find a lot of “similar” places in Central Pennsylvania to the site of Roy’s suicide.

            I can understand why Tony would think about suicide conclusion initially.  He had faced the situation of a close relative, his father, committing suicide by drowning.  That obviously could affect his viewpoint.  Interestingly, it did not affect the viewpoint of his brother, Chris.  Chris said, in July of 2005, “If I was a gambling man, homicide would be a heavy favorite.”6 Admittedly, there are some similarities between the two locations.  There are also some big differences.  These similarities may be more of Tony’s perceptions, honestly held, than a more objective view.

            As to this being “staged,” why would a murderer stage it so poorly?  If a murderer knew Ray’s family history well enough to know of the circumstances of suicide, why not position the car in the same place relative to the bridges.  Even if a murderer didn’t know, and wanted it to look like suicide, why not park the car closer to the river and highway bridge, across from the Packwood House?  That would have been consistent with the press reports on Roy’s suicide/

            Why the Mini ended up where it did probably had nothing to do with any similarity between Lewisburg and the Hamilton, Ohio site of Roy’s suicide.  The only real similarities between the two locations are that they were both by bridges that crossed rivers.  That is similar to several other towns along the Susquehanna.

Now that said, the fact that Ray Gricar had a brother that committed suicide by drowning in a river was probably well known by his friends and staff; I would suspect that, because of his absence from the office, it was well known in the Courthouse.  It could have also been discovered by Internet searches.  It was obviously known by Ray Gricar.

Could Ray Gricar have decided to park his near a river before walking away, hoping that the police would focus on the Susquehanna (which they did)?  Yes.  It would also explain the Mini being parked where it could not be easily seen from the street; it would delay the finding of the Mini.   

Could a killer have arranged to meet Ray near a river, hoping that someone would remember Roy and focus on the river (which the police did)?  Of course.  It would also explain the Mini being parked where it could not be easily seen from the street; it would delay the finding of the Mini, and given the killer more time to escape detection.

            Could it all be coincidental?  Yes, it could be.  Ray might have walked away, or even committed suicide, and had no intention of conjuring up the memory of Roy’s suicide.  Likewise, Ray might have been murdered, and the killer never thought that anyone would think this was suicide and never heard of Roy Gricar.

            My cyber trip to Hamilton, Ohio yielded the same results as my real life trip to Lewisburg.  It helped show that the "similarity" was basically a river with bridges.   It also showed that a lot was possible but that nothing was definite.

1 I generally refer to Ray Gricar as “Mr. Gricar.”  However, because of the number of “Mr. Gricar’s” discussed, I’ll refer to each by his first name in this blog.


2 CFT, 11/16/05


4 There are about four other places where a railroad crosses the Great Miami River, two are nowhere near a park.  The third is next to a baseball field called Veterans Field Park, with no parking lot.   This looks like the right location.


I should point out while online mapping programs (and the article about finding Roy’s body) existed 2005, I am not certain if the online aerial photos were as detailed in 2005; further the Columbia Bridge could have been widened between 1996 and when the photo was taken. 


The High-Main Street Bridge, the third bridge, was rebuilt in 2007, but there was a bridge on that site since at least 1915.   A photo of the original of the bridge that was there in 1996 and 2005 is here:


5 To give some perspective, State College Borough has a population of roughly 38,000, Williamsport has a population of about 30,000.  Altoona is possibly the closest in population, at just under 50,000.  Lewisburg has a population of about 5,600. West Chillisquaque Township, across the river from the park, has a population of less than 3,000.


 All figures are from the 2000 Census.   


6  CDT, 7/24/05

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