Moving the Mini, the Packwood House

Posted by JJinPhila on May 2, 2010 

            There is an aspect of behavior of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar on 4/15/05 that was strange.  The strange part is it seems to be before he disappeared and there were multiple witnesses to it.  He couldn’t seem to decide where to park.

            Well, it wasn’t so much Mr. Gricar being unable to find the optimal parking place.  It was that, according to the witnesses, he moved his car to different spots.  He parked in two different locations, and, at each location, he moved the car around. 

            The first location where Mr. Gricar parked the Mini Cooper was across from the Packwood House on Water Street, very close to the bridge around lunch time1.  The parking spaces are shown here:

Now the parking spaces are parallel to the street; to park in them, you have to head towards the Street of Shops or cross a lane of traffic and park facing traffic.  At least three witnesses saw him there, and saw him moving the car from one of the spaces to the other.  He got out and sat on one of the park benches.2

            The second location was in the parking lot across from the Street of Shops.  I’ll be looking that in a future entry.  I will note that what Mr. Gricar was doing there, moving the car, then getting out, was the same as here, across from the Packwood House.

            Well, there are multiple theories.  Two, including one of mine, can be debunked.

            First up is my bird dropping theory.  I could have seen a reason.  Mr. Gricar, known to be fastidious about the Mini, was worried about bird droppings, tree sap, and “dings” from other cars.  He didn’t want to park under a tree or near other cars.  Look at the photos; there are no trees overhanging the parking spots on Water Street; I looked for evidence that there were trees there on 4/15, and I didn’t see any.  Getting a “ding” in a parallel parking spot is next to impossible.  Drop that theory.

            Second, it was the theory that Mr. Gricar mimicking his brother’s suicide.  Roy Gricar’s car was found in a parking area in Veteran’s Park in Hamilton, OH; it was just north of a highway bridge and south of a railroad bridge.  The Lewisburg Park’s name is also Veteran’s Park.  The first parking spot is south of the railroad bridge and very close to the highway bridge.  The spot where the Mini ended up, in the parking lot across from the Street of Shops, was north of the railroad bridge and further away from the highway bridge.  There were not a lot of similarities:   How Similar?  Another theory can be sunk in the river.

            Third, they was the “getting noticed” theory.  Mr. Gricar wanted to attract attention by doing something that would stand out, like senselessly driving his car back and forth into different parking spaces.  This one is generally as a prelude to Mr. Gricar voluntarily walking away from his life.

            I was in Lewisburg on a summer Friday afternoon; school was out, it was warmer, though rainy.  You’d expect at least the same amount of people out over the summer than on a relatively cool April day.  There was not a lot of foot traffic along Water Street; it was just Mr. Buehner and I.  As far as can tell the Packwood House was the only “business,” and people were not lined up to get in.  It wasn’t a good place to attract attention.

            If Mr. Gricar wanted to establish that he was in Lewisburg on 4/15, there were better ways.  He could have done what I did, call someone on his cell phone.  He could have used a credit card.  Of course, both would have left an electronic record and the police could have much more quickly traced Mr. Gricar’s location to Lewisburg. 

There was still another option, and a fairly simple one.  He could have walked into a store, paid cash for something small, like a bottle of water, and gotten a receipt.  The receipt would be time stamped and there may have been a video of him entering the store.  The receipt could have been left in the car.  So far as I know, he didn’t do that.

Trying to attract attention by moving the car, at least in front of the Packwood House, wouldn’t guarantee that Mr. Gricar would be spotted.  The behavior is strange, but not too strange.

There is one theory that does work for parking on Water Street.  Mr. Gricar was waiting for someone.  He moved the Mini for two treasons.  First he wanted in ensure that the other person could have a space.  Second, he wanted to make sure that the other person could readily see the Mini Cooper. 

The location also supports this.  Prior to last summer, I had not been in Lewisburg since the early 1970’s; they were not letting eleven year olds drive back then.  As I was crossing the bridge on Route 45, from the east side, I realized that the turnoff literally right ahead.  It would be easy give directions to someone directions like “Cross the bridge and take a right turn immediately,” if they were approaching from the east, especially the southeast, like Harrisburg or Sunbury.

Likewise, the parking spaces are about 75 yards, maximum, from the intersection of Water Street and Route 45 (Market Street).  It would easy to tell someone approaching from the west, like State College or Bellefonte, to “Take Route 45 to Lewisburg, and take a left right before the bridge.”  The bridge approach literally ends at the intersection of Route 45 and Water Street.

When looked at, in that context, that Mr. Gricar was meeting someone, the strange behavior doesn’t look too strange.

End Notes

1  This is from “Gricar reward up to $15,000” by Mike Joseph, Centre Daily Times, 4/29/05.  It unfortunately isn’t on line.

2 CFT, 11/16/05,




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