The disappearance of Ray Gricar was covered on Nancy Grace American’s Missing earlier this week.1 I watched it. About ten minutes in, I started laughing, for several reasons.
The prime reason was because it was so incredibly biased. After nearly every piece of information, the participants sort of shook their heads and concluded walkaway. There was the claim of “numerous suspected sightings,” of Mr. Gricar after he was reported missing. True, there were numerous sightings, but all but three were ruled out (Lewisburg 4/16/05, Wilkes-Barre 4/19/05, and Southfield 5/27/05); two of them were within 72 hours of Mr. Gricar being reported missing. In many cases, the police actually identified the person who the witness reported as Mr. Gricar. They focused on the sighting in a Texas restaurant, where the witness snapped a photo with her cell phone; the FBI analyzed the photo and concluded it wasn’t Mr. Gricar.
Almost with every piece of evidence, the panelists’ reaction seemed to be to shake their heads and proclaim that Mr. Gricar walked away. For example, they asked hypothetically, why Mr. Gricar would take his laptop on his day off? I have a good, non-walkaway answer. Mr. Gricar wanted, for a while, to get rid of the data on the drive; one of the better ways to destroy it is to toss it into a river. There isn’t one in Bellefonte. Since he was going to be near one, the Susquehanna, one distant from his home, he decided to take it and toss it there.
Now, I’m not averse to looking at the walkaway explanation; if fact, I would say that it is now probable that Mr. Gricar walked away (you may want to reread this sentence, and note that Tony Gricar is not the only one to make subtle position changes). I do recognize, however, that there can be alternate explanations for a piece of evidence. You read them, if you read this blog. You even see the “least weak evidence” for the three main theories, walkaway, murder, and suicide. I’m often accused of “pushing walkaway” on message boards; if I really wanted to, I’d simply get a tape of this episode Nancy Grace American’s Missing and send it out.
There were also minor inaccuracies, like Ms. Fenton being an assistant district attorney at the time (she was a law clerk to Judge Grine), the dogs not finding Mr. Gricar’s scent in the parking lot (they did, but not beyond its boundaries), or the parking lot being a half mile from the Susquehanna (it’s less than 75 yards). There was nothing new mentioned, even though there was something new; it was reported that Mr., Gricar’s assets were, “forensically,” too low. Ironically, the person who wrote that story, David Lohr, was a guest. I think those of us that follow the case incessantly either laughed, or were angered by it. One poster reported turning off the television after six minutes.
The family chose not to participate; I can understand why. I can laugh it off but they will, no doubt, have a harder time doing so. As noted in the previous blog, family spokesman, Tony Gricar, did participate in the article written by Mr. Lohr.
I also laughed because I knew the probable reaction of some in the chattering class. A few are actively pushing murder and have been for years. I have to admit that I don’t recall ever watching an entire episode of any show done by Ms. Grace prior to that night; I have, however, seen parodies and I know what the evidence and public reaction has been to the evidence. I was not expecting Nancy Grace American’s Missing to be “The Murder of Ray Gricar,” but I was expecting that possibility to be more greatly emphasized. Much more greatly emphasized. There were no negative comments about Ms. Grace prior to the show, but a string afterward. About her, not about the show. I could see it coming, and that has given me some laughs.
To be honest, based on the evidence, I expect any television program, news story, or book to veer into the walkaway theory. There simply is a fair amount evidence that Mr. Gricar walked away, but much of it is not particularly strong evidence. I did not expect that evidence to be hyped as much as it was. I am, however, happy that the disappearance of Mr. Gricar did get some exposure; at least it becomes another milk carton that bears his face, at least for an hour, minus commercials.
E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org