The Investigation Part 18: Death and Life

Posted on January 8, 2012 

[This is the eighteenth part of a series on the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.]


            From 9/1/10 to 11/1/11 the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Ray Gricar has changed.  The changes were strong, even dramatic, but they were subtle.  Some made headline, but some rarely got mentioned.  They occurred on line, on cable, and in court.  Mr. Gricar was declared dead, legally, but new life was breathed into the investigation and more information was released.  Arguably, there has been more information released during this period than since perhaps the beginning of the PSP-CIA review. 

            The review panel moved forward.  By mid-October, it had talked to friends again.  It also did a second look at Mr. Gricar’s finances.  Finally, it was considering getting facial recognition software to check other identification to see if Mr. Gricar had gotten an identification card in another area of the counrty.1  Some of the people involved with the case when on the record with the Investigative Discovery Channel program Disappeared.

            Disappeared brought forward a wealth of information.2  Participating directly were the current lead investigator, Bellefonte Police Department Detective Matt Rickard, former lead detective Darrel Zaccagni, Tony Gricar, former assistant district attorney and close friend Steve Sloan, and Centre County District Attorney Stacey Parks Miller.3  The program bought a lot of new information to light.  Mr. Gricar googled a map on his office computer on how to get to Lewisburg.  He was seen by at least one witness driving to Lewisburg; the witness saw him turning at Centre Hall.4  It also appears that Mr. Gricar was quite close to Centre Hall when he made his call to his girlfriend, a conclusion partly based on comments on the program.5

            On 1/26/11, there was another program on Mr. Gricar, by CNN’s Nancy Grace.  No new information came forward.

            On 3/31/11, Sara Ganim, formerly of the CDT, now with the Patriot-News, broke the story of the grand jury investigation into former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.6  The sole public ripple that it created at the time was the question of why the Sandusky case was referred to a grand jury and the Gricar case was not given similar treatment.7

            In late June, Lara Gricar, Mr. Gricar’s daughter, filed to have him declared legally dead.  That the process could take place was not expected, though the timing was a bit surprising.  It is “traditional,” though not legally required, to wait seven years from the person is declared dead.  The petition and hearing gave no new information, except the statement by Detective Rickard that the case was still under investigation.  When the petition was granted, family spokesman Tony Gricar said,  “We view this as an administrative declaration. "We don't look at it and say, 'We have to have a funeral,' or, 'We have this kind of closure.'"8

            In combination with a John Doe in Provo, UT, (quickly identified as Phillip T. Beavers) that bore a strong resemblance to Mr. Gricar, Internet speculation swirled that Mr. Gricar was alive.  Some of the comments were downright brutal towards him and the Gricar family.  Even after it was noted that the then John Doe was several inches taller than Mr. Gricar, and had different eye color, the speculation continued in almost a cyber-feeding frenzy.9  It was clear that a sizable group out there thought that Mr. Gricar was still alive, even with scant evidence.

            The feeding frenzy subsided, but a few other things bobbed to the surface in its aftermath, almost unnoticed.  Several people close to the case in past years talked about it.  One was former Bellefonte Police Chief, Duane Dixon, who said that he thought that Mr. Gricar had probably committed suicide.  The second was former Centre County District Attorney, Michael Madeira, who thought that Mr. Gricar probably walked away.10

            There was also a comment from the current District Attorney, Stacy Parks Miller.  She backed off of her prior comment that homicide was the least likely possibility.10  The Bellefonte Police Department didn’t speak directly.  They took some action, following up on a lead that Mr. Gricar’s body was in Blair County.11  It looked, from current law enforcement, that homicide was not off the table.

            Even before this, based largely on the episode of Disappeared, and some additional research, I had increased the odds that Mr. Gricar’s disappearance was caused by foul play.12

            As the summer melted into the seventh autumn since Mr. Gricar disappeared, the public new more about the case, and the police investigation.  The investigation was moving forward, slowly.  A new day seemed to have dawned on the Gricar investigation.  There was the morning light, but the sky was still overcast.  Some of that light from the lightning of an approaching storm.  It is doubtful that anyone saw the full extend to storm that was coming.

An index for the first 17 parts is here:

End Notes



3 The appearances of Lara Gricar and Patty Fornicola appear to be from the 2006 Dateline program, according to the 2011 Dateline program.






8 PPG 7/26/11

9 PPG 7/26/11

10 Phila Inquirer 7/31/11






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