Dots On a Map

Posted on March 2, 2011 

            In writing about the disappearance of Ray Gricar, the former Centre County District Attorney, I often use the phrase “connect the dots.”  On 2/28/11, I found out that I wasn’t the only one trying to connect the dots.  Mr. Gricar had, on a map, before he disappeared.

            This was revealed on the television show Disappeared and was possibly known by the police on 4/16/05.  The Bellefonte Police indicated that they checked Mr. Gricar’s office computer and that he had Googled a map of a route from Bellefonte to Lewisburg.  This is significant.

            The police did check Mr. Gricar’s office computer on 4/16/05, which was password protected, according to his then coworker, J. Karen Arnold.1  The show indicated that they check his Google history and found the search.  While there is a long term history of the sites you, or Mr. Gricar, actually visit, a record of the searches may last only a few days, usually less than a week. There probably is a longer term record on your hard drive, but what can be found and seen easily doesn’t last.

            On the 2/21/11, I was looking for colleges that had majors in Byzantine art history (University of Texas, in case you’re interested).  There is no record of that.  There is a record of me looking up children’s book author Scott O’Dell on 2/26/11, however (I know his brother-in-law).2 Those search records don’t last forever, unless you a forensic computer expert.

            So, the first thing is that prior to Mr. Gricar going to Lewisburg on 4/15/05, he had some interest in the Lewisburg area.  It looks much less like a random pleasure drive and a more deliberate focus on Lewisburg.  Mr. Gricar gave no indication to either his girlfriend or his coworkers any reason for this focus. 

            Well, why would Mr. Gricar generate a map like this?  First, Mr. Gricar had lived in Centre County for about 25 years and had been to Lewisburg many times; he was definitely not addlebrained.  He did not need directions for himself.  If he did, why wasn’t the map with directions sitting on the front seat of the Mini.

            Some suggestions were that he wanted a map of the area and that, at the time, that was the only way to get it using Mapquest, planning a route.  Maybe, but why would he want a map of only part of Centre County and most of Union County?  If he wanted just a part of that, why not type in something like Rebersburg or Centre Hall as one of the end points?  It would generate a larger scale map, one that would show details.

            Some others suggested he was giving directions.  Nearly everyone who had contact with Mr. Gricar on a regular basis, i.e. his staff, lived in Centre County and has for a long time; some even went to college there.  Even if they didn’t realize how to drive down Route 192, Centre Hall is less than ten miles from the office.   It strains credibility beyond the breaking point to suggest that anyone, even if they were not too familiar with the area, wouldn’t be told, “Go to Centre Hall and turn left on 192.”  It would almost have to be someone that managed to get to Bellefonte, but had no idea how to find Centre Hall.  No, I wouldn’t think that anyone on staff was totally addlebrained either.

            Well, what if someone outside of the county wanted directions via e-mail.  The office computer is intact and even “secret” e-mail accounts will be on that computer’s hard drive.  There will be a record of the account, and e-mails at the time of the search would be on the server used by the county.  E-mails related to Lewisburg, or send around or after the time the map was generated are bound to be checked.  A link in a “chat” function would be possible, but there should be a record of that on the hard drive, at about the same time as the map was generated.

            Printing and handing someone the map is about the only realistic possibility, but Mr. Gricar would have had to hand it off personally.  That remains a possibility, but why would he need to, and need to generate it at the office?

            There are other purposes for maps in the computer age, however; they provide other information, mileage and time of trip.  Mileage relates usually to the cost (or tax deductibility) of the trip.  The cost would be minimal and there was no known business reason for Mr. Gricar to even worry about a tax deduction for a supposed pleasure drive that ended in Lewisburg.  Suppose, however, that Mr. Gricar wanted to meet someone and split the difference in distance.  He could have easily, while on the phone with the person he wanted to meet, created the map, and determined Lewisburg was a good midpoint.  It’s possible, but a bit unlikely to go to that level of research just for a midpoint.

            Trip time is a different matter.  If Mr. Gricar wanted to be in Lewisburg at a specific time, and wanted to make sure he was there on time, he’d generate the map.  He could think that in, in order to get to Lewisburg at 1:00 PM on Friday, he should leave Bellefonte by no later than 11:30 AM, for example.3  Likewise, if he wanted to tell someone else when to leave Bellefonte in order to meet him in Lewisburg at the right time, all while talking, by his office phone, to the person he wanted to meet.  That is probably the best possibility, that the reason he generated the map was related to meeting someone in Lewisburg, someone he’d planned to meet.

            Now, how does this fit the theories?

            It weakens one theory, tremendously, suicide.  Mr. Gricar obviously didn’t need a map to get to Lewisburg.  If he was planning to commit suicide, being on a schedule was obviously not important, nor was mileage.  When the odds come out again, the odds on suicide should drop.

            That leaves two of the more major theories, voluntary departure and foul play.  Let’s start with voluntary departure.

            If Mr. Gricar walked away from his life, he might have had a helper, i.e. someone who provided a car for him to leave; this might have been a map for the helper.  The helper is, by the nature of being of a helper, loyal to Mr. Gricar, trustworthy, and close to Lewisburg.  Because the route is between Bellefonte and Lewisburg, if this map was for the helper, the helper would have to be in one of those locations; anyone close to Mr. Gricar was familiar with the routes to or from Lewisburg and wouldn’t need a map.  Anyone not from Centre County wouldn’t need to go to Bellefonte at all.  That is the prime reason for a map in that context.

            There are, however, several possible reasons why Mr. Gricar might have created the map if he was planning to leave.  He may have been meeting the person bringing him the car and wanted to arrive in time.  He might have wanted to be near Rebersburg at a specific time in order to make the call and used the map to schedule that.  Considering that witnesses put him Lewisburg for a while on 4/15/05, it becomes less likely that he’d need to schedule the trip so tightly.  While possible, and strong, it isn’t the strongest explanation.

            Mr. Gricar was seen in Lewisburg beginning around lunchtime.  It is possible that he had scheduled a late lunch with someone or that he was otherwise meeting another person.  He may have wanted to make sure he got there on time, say 1:00 PM.  He was initially parked in a spot across from the Packwood House Museum; it would make him very easy to spot by the person he was meeting.  Of the two more likely murder scenarios, both involve Mr. Gricar being in Lewisburg to meet someone.3  This map is more consistent with murder, but not by much.

            The map points very strongly to a few things.  First, it points strongly to Mr. Gricar’s trip being thought out some time before, if not planned.  It becomes a something other than a pleasure drive.  Second, it points to the possibility of Mr. Gricar meeting someone in Lewisburg.  It strengthens voluntary departure a bit, and it strengthens foul pray a little bit more.  It does greatly decrease the odds on suicide.




End Notes


2 I checked in the late morning of 3/2/11.



E-mail J. J. in Phila at

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