[This is the seventeenth part of a series on the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.]
The investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar took a turn to the political. The reason for this was quite simple; the District Attorney, the actual and formal leader of the investigation, is elected by the voters of Centre County. That election occurred on November of 2009.
The result was the ouster, characterized as the “repudiation” of the incumbent District Attorney, Michael T. Madeira, by the electorate.1 The reasons for this repudiation was largely due to Mr. Madeira’s record as District Attorney. This was characterized by the challenger, and victor, Stacy Parks Miller, as “a lot of mistakes.”2
While Mr. Madeira’s action, or inaction, in the Gricar case could easily be one of those “mistakes.” The Gricar case was an issue in the election, but it certainly was not the issue in the election. One reason was that neither candidate really discussed what they would do in regard to the case; it was pointed out that, as only Mr. Madeira had access to the files, no challenger could discuss what he or she would do.3 The most recent public comments from the candidates on the case were during the primary. None of the challengers, excepting Anthony De Boef, really officered a new investigative proposal, other than to look at the files.4 Ms. Parks Miller said, "I don't think the community can ever really rest until we have an answer to Ray's disappearance."5
This led some in the chattering class to question if there would be any difference with a change in administrations. One, a guest blogger named B-2, said, “Some Gricar case followers appear to believe Stacy Parks Miller will be the ‘worker of magic’ for the Gricar case, if only she can get into office and ‘tear through the files’ as she has promised. Others aren't as sure. You can put me in the ‘not so sure’ category.”6 There were legitimate questions about what Ms. Parks Miller would do in the case.
The day after her election, some of those questions began to be answered. Ms. Parks Miller public cited the Gricar case as one of her priorities.7 In all fairness, so did Mr. Madeira at his swearing in ceremony nearly four years before. There was more. Behind the scenes, people with an interest in the Gricar case were communicating with her, soon after the election was over. They were not necessarily trying to persuade her, but forwarding information and outlining theories. She was at least politely receptive to this, from what sources have indicated.
In January of 2010, Ms. Parks Miller was sworn in as Centre County’s District Attorney. There was not a “no stone unturned” comment and there was silence for three months. On March 31, 2010 that changed.
Ironically, Ms. Parks Miller chose Holy Week to resurrect the Gricar case. After reviewing the files on the case, and talking to people interested, she announced the formation of a review board for the case. It would include, but not be limited to, the Bellefonte Police.8 The idea of a Gricar task force had actually been suggested by Montour County District Attorney, and friend of Mr. Gricar, Robert W. Buehner, Jr., and was mentioned in his 2008 letter to Mr. Madeira.
This was a marked departure from Mr. Madeira’s treatment on several accounts. First, before making any pronouncements about the case, Ms. Parks Miller did an in depth review. Second, unlike Mr. Madeira, negative press did not spur new investigative initiatives. Even from the chattering class, there was not a lot of negative comment, especially compared with Mr. Madeira’s tenure. Perhaps most importantly, Ms. Parks Miller was willing to lead a proactive investigation. Mr. Madeira was waiting for new leads to come in; Ms. Parks Miller was attempting to look for them.
It was not until August of 2010 that the public was given a glimpse into the investigation. The police were talking to friends of Mr. Gricar, engaging in “fact finding mission.” According to one of the interviewees, former Assistant District Attorney Steve Sloane, the police were learning new things about Mr. Gricar. Law enforcement personnel from State College, Ferguson Township, Penn State, state police and the FBI would join the Bellefonte Police Department.9 There were “fresh eyes” in the Gricar case that extended beyond Ms. Parks Miller, though she was the facilitator of them.
The chattering class continued to chatter, but in more organized fashion, as bloggers, both at the CDT and at other sites, like Slamdunk’s. The much ignored “Southfield Sighting” was more greatly explored, on-line, over the summer of 2010; that brought forward some interesting, perhaps tantalizing, points, but nothing conclusive.
Perhaps there was one unusual thing, not new evidence, but a new impression from someone fresh on the case. In announcing the formation of the review board in March, Ms. Parks Miller said, “The only thing I will say is that I believe homicide is the least likely, but we rule out nothing.”8 These twenty words might end up under the heading of “Ms. Parks Miller’s Strange Comment.” It might also be accurate. Based on what information is publicly available, I would not have reached that conclusion. Then again, I didn’t spend three months looking at the files either.
Arguably, this period in the investigation was marked by changes, a substantive difference in how the investigation was conducted. It is clearly a better investigation in terms of style of the District Attorney, but the question remains of if it will produce a change in the substance of the case.
It was a period of a more proactive investigation, a most definite improvement. However, it did not a solution to the mysterious disappearance of Ray Gricar. As one commenter, “Erasernut” asked in my comment, “OK ‘friend’ --- now what?”10
[This part 17 of a continuing series on the investigation into the disappearance of Ray Gricar. Hyperlinks to
the first sixteen parts, with some conclusions, are here: Index of the Investigation, April 2010 ]
4 Mr. De Boef suggesting using retired police officers to further investigate the case.
10 See comments page.
E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org