Posted on April 28, 2011 

            In chatting back and forth with the chattering class, and I’m part of that class, I’ve noticed that sometimes people miss a detail about the disappearance of Ray Gricar.  Often, it is minor, like when the Lewisburg Mystery Woman was first reported to the police, or if Mr. Gricar asked other people about how to eliminate the data on his hard drive, well before he disappeared.  I’ve got to admit to missing something as well.

            What I missed was a simple sentence from the former lead detective in the case, now Sherriff’s Deputy Darrel Zaccagni.  He said it on the television show Disappeared and was referring to the call that Mr. Gricar made to his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola.  The subject, according to Ms. Fornicola, was that Mr. Gricar was on Route 192, and couldn’t be home to let the dog out.  Deputy Zaccagni said:  We pinged his cell phone and where able to determine from the cell phone towers where the conversation initiated from. 

            The key word is “towers.”  Plural.

In 2006-7, I looked at the cell towers and did what a former geography major would do; I made a map of there they were located.  Ms. Arnold, in her LGJ, even noted my interest in the cell records.2  Some new ones might have been added between 4/15/05 and the time I made my map, but it is highly unlikely any were removed.  I noticed something; west of Madisonburg, there are not any “towers,” but just a singular tower.

As you know, if you live or have ever driven through Central Pennsylvania, there are numerous hills and mountains.  While there is variability, the range of cell towers is limited is by this terrain.  One site indicated that in such terrain, a tower might have a range as low as three miles.3  I used five miles on my map, and I still didn’t get “towers.”

There are “towers” however that cover the area west of Madisonburg, but fairly close to Centre Hall.  It looks like the call “initiated” fairly close, within ten miles, of Centre Hall.

Now there is another factor.  If there were “towers” plural, it would be possible to triangulate the location of the call. You could tell, from how long it took the call to reach the tower, how far the phone was from the tower.  A second tower, picking up the same signal, would tell you how far the phone was from that call.  The area of overlap is the area the call originated.4  The more towers, the smaller that area is.  We could know, approximately where the phone was when the call was made.

Now, the police have Ms. Fornicola’s report of where Mr. Gricar said he was calling from.  They had a generated location from where the call originated at approximately 11:12 AM.  According to Disappeared, they sent out a fixed wing aircraft after checking the origin of that call.  The plane did aerial searches of Route 192 between Centre Hall and Rebersburg.  That makes perfect sense, and is good police work, if the call originated generally along Route 192.

That wasn’t all the aircraft searched, however.  The flight continued over Route 45.  This search started at 10:30 AM on 4/16/05.5, 6  I had considered, when I first read this, that a single tower, that covered both Route 192 and Route 45 (and there are two) might have been the explanation, but based on Deputy Zaccagni’s comment, and the fact that the search included the area closer to Centre Hall, it looks like more than a single tower.  If the signal was carried by the towers well east of Madisonburg, and Mr. Gricar said he heading east, why search the area west of Madisonburg?

Well, why then search Route 45?  The answer may lie in yet another triangle.  Driving eastbound on Route 144, from Pleasant Gap, and desiring to go to Lewisburg, a driver has a choice of routes; he can either Stay on Route 144, which intersects Route 45 or turn left and take Route 192.  Because of a witness that saw Mr. Gricar turn on 192, we know his choice.  The police didn’t have that witness at 10:30 AM on 4/16; they had yet to hold their press conference.  They did know where the call originated.  The logical reason to search both routes is because the call was made from a location west of or in Centre Hall; they couldn’t tell which route he took (until the witness reported).

This appears to be the case; Mr. Gricar was intending to get on Route 192 before he turned onto Route 192.  Centre Hall is less than 10 miles from Bellefonte.  If this was a pleasure trip, why wouldn’t Mr. Gricar just leave perhaps 20 to 40 minutes later, after letting the dog out?

End Notes








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