In looking at the public comment on the disappearance of Ray Gricar, the missing former Centre County District Attorney, there has been a retreat by those close to him. It has been retreats of public comment by those that were close to Mr. Gricar. This retreat has spawned some myths, which do not really hold up upon close inspection.
People that I talk to have at least considered these myths were possible at some point; some were very seriously considered by serious people looking at the case. You might be surprised who they are. I have looked at them and you’d be surprised at which ones I considered seriously at some points. In looking at these, and the pattern of public comment, they are myths, totally untrue.
Myth #1: Mr. Gricar read on-line that Lara Gricar was polygraphed, then he contacted her; the reason for her retreat is that she is covering for her walkaway father.
In looking at Ms. Gricar’s retreat, to things are apparent. First, it was gradual. It started over the summer and she was still commenting on the evidence for “Missed Leads.”1 Second, in terms of commenting on evidence, she began her retreat in the summer of 2005,2 before she was polygraphed (which she passed). This is not a retreat indicative of Ms. Gricar getting a phone call from her father that said, “I’m alive. Shut up!”
It also would not make a great deal of sense for Mr. Gricar to have contacted his daughter if he did actually walk away. She may, at some point, have to testify at a hearing should the family ever wish to have Mr. Gricar declared dead. If he told her, and she where to testify that he did never did, Mr. Gricar would be exposing her to perjury charges.3 It would be a massively stupid risk for Mr. Gricar to take and one thing Mr. Gricar was not was massively stupid.
Ceding the role of spokesman isn’t too unusual either. Ms. Gricar lives more than 2000 miles, and three time zones, from Centre County. It would difficult for her to speak in person or even respond to early morning events. It makes sense for Tony Gricar to take over the role.
Myth #1 can be debunked.
Myth #2: Patty Fornicola was somehow involved in Mr. Gricar’s murder, or knows who was; she is covering up for murder.
If Ms. Fornicola was covering up for murder, why not try to advocate another theory?
In the summer of 2005 the major theory was suicide. Tony Gricar was noting the supposed similarities between Lewisburg and the site of his father’s, Mr. Gricar’s brother, suicide.4 Former Commissioner Vickie Wedler described Mr. Gricar as being “depressed” when she saw him walking with Ms. Fornicola in Talleyrand Park on the evening of 4/14/05.5 Even more than two years after Mr. Gricar disappeared, former Assistant District Attorney J. Karen Arnold described him as being “deeply distraught” in the week before he disappeared.6 A number of people indicated unusual behavior on Mr. Gricar’s part in the month prior to his disappearance.
Ms. Fornicola’s public statement on his demeanor only indicated that he was “fatigued” and napping,7 not exactly a suicidal demeanor; she gave no public hint of Mr. Gricar being “depressed” or “distraught.” This was not even close to pushing suicide.
In 2005, several pieces of evidence came up that could point to Mr. Gricar leaving voluntarily.
The first was the Wilkes-Barre sighting and the second was the Southfield sighting. In the witnesses in the Wilkes-Barre reported that Mr. Gricar was wearing a suit.8 Ms. Fornicola indicated that none of his clothing was missing, saying “and I do the laundry.”9 She commented on the Southfield sighting as well, indicated that Mr. Gricar had no connection to the Detroit area, saying that, “The Ray prior to April 14 I believe would contact me.”10 Both tended to downplay walkaway, neither could classified as pushing walkaway.
There were also rumors of other women; Ms. Fornicola actually addressed these rumors in December of 2005, calling the idea “gut-wrenching.”11 She speculated about the possibility of Mr. Gricar having amnesia or suffering a memory impairing stroke, but not a voluntary departure. The “Mystery Woman” was mentioned, prominently, in the Dateline piece, in which Ms. Fornicola participated.12 On top that, she commented on the emphasis of this “Mystery Woman,” though was said to be “near tears.”13 This could have easily been portrayed as a motive for leaving Ms. Fornicola, but she did not do so.
“Missed Leads,” the pivotal reporting of Mr. Bosak, was published in the CDT on May 13. “Missed Leads” was a game changer; much of what Mr. Bosak reported was consistent and, in some cases, exclusively, point to the voluntary departure of Mr. Gricar. No “medical option” like this was possible if Mr. Gricar acquired a different car, or had made financial arrangements, both things suggested in “Missed Leads.”14
Had Ms. Fornicola wished to “push” walkaway, this was her big chance. There was audience willing to hear it; there was a media hurricane that she could have strengthened had she wished. What did Ms. Fornicola do? She abruptly retreated, in the face of information that could indicate Mr. Gricar left voluntarily.
Myth #2 can be debunked.
Myth #3: Tony Gricar knows where his Uncle Ray is; Tony is hiding him.
This one is perhaps the easiest one to debunk. For years, Tony Gricar was urging that the investigation be expanded. He spoke, publicly on it in the aftermath of “Missed Leads,”15 He complained about not enough being done after Pennsylvania State Police investigation. He supported Mr. McKnight’s and Mr. Buehner’s press conference calling for the case to be turned.16 Tony was out there talking to the press, posting on message boards, and maintaining a website to increase the visibility of the case. When I started posting on message boards, Tony Gricar encouraged me via personal message. Certainly through this period, these are not the actions of someone who was trying to cover anything up.
Myth #3 can be debunked.
Myth #4: The Gricar family thinks Mr. Gricar is dead; that is why there is a retreat.
This one is also easily dispelled by both words and actions. In terms of actions, Mr. Gricar’s daughter could go to court today to have him declared dead. There is no requirement that the family wait seven years.17 They could settle the estate and move on. To date, they have not.
The Gricar family, through its spokesman, has not been consistent in its words. On the second anniversary, for example, Tony Gricar said, “Neither one of us [Tony and Lara Gricar] believe he is alive.”18 This statement, however, is not the current family statement.
The stated family position has changed. Tony Gricar, said this at the fifth anniversary: “I think everybody has their opinions on it, but there’s nothing really factual that can lead to one theory over another.”19 At the announcement of the review board, he said, “There’s just not enough evidence to rule anything in or out.” 20 One of things obviously not ruled out is that Mr. Gricar is out there some place. It isn’t just a question of if Mr. Gricar was murdered or committed suicide, but if he is alive or dead. The family position has shifted subtly.
Myth #4 can be debunked.
Believe it or not, at some points I seriously considered Myth #1, Myth #2, and Myth #4 at various points. I actually spent about six months seriously considering Myth #1 and Myth #2 (a different six months).
Of course, this is a retrospective view. Mr. Gricar, if alive, could call his daughter or nephew today; for that matter, he could contact me. The family, or more specifically his daughter, could change her mind, and go to court to have her father declared dead. The actions of the family do not point to this of happening in the past.
These myths are sometimes considered the reasons for the various retreats. Close examination, however, strongly points away from any of these myths.
E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org