A few months ago, I posted the odds on what happened to Ray Gricar; I gave a 44% chance of Mr. Gricar being a victim of foul play. A poster on a message board named Big Cat posted this response to the new odds:
Good stuff. I just went from 80% walkaway to 85%.
I think an interesting challenge is for anyone putting foul play at 40% or above to justify such a high percentage. Personally, I just don't see it, not that high.
When a DA is murdered, which doesn't happen often, he is assassinated. He isn't made to vanish. That would be quite a feat.1
Now, I like Big Cat and he/she is a good poster (and one that I wish would post more often); I’ve quoted Big Cat before as well. That said, this was a bit of a challenge from Big Cat, and I’m sure a number of people are asking the same question. Why are the odds on foul play so high?
Well, I’ll be honest. There is no evidence, directly, of foul play. There have been no remains found. There was no crime scene, no blood or a broken watch crystal or broken sunglasses. The laptop wasn’t smashed. The drive had been carefully removed; it would have very easy. There were no witnesses to a murder assault or Mr. Gricar being forced into a car; it would have difficult to do those things in the area where the Mini was found. There were only two things unusual at the site. The first was the smell of cigarette smoke in the car and a trace of ask on the passenger compartment floor; Mr. Gricar was a nonsmoker and didn’t permit smoking in the Mini Cooper he drove. The second, Mr. Gricar wasn’t there. That doesn’t scream foul play, but none of that actually precludes it either. I’ll concede that point to Big Cat.
There are several things we can reasonably deduce from the evidence we do have. Those things are:
1. Mr. Gricar was planning to go to Lewisburg; he generated a map to Lewisburg on his office computer. He did not communicate to his staff or girlfriend that intent. When he called his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, he didn’t say that he was planning to spend any time in Lewisburg. He indicated that he was heading in that direction, but not that was going to be his destination.2
2. Mr. Gricar got to Lewisburg sometime between noon and 1:00 PM and was there at least around 5:30 PM on 4/15/05. We have a string of witnesses that put him in Lewisburg and going to Lewisburg.2
3. Mr. Gricar wanted to eliminate the data on his laptop prior to this trip. He asked people about how to do it, including a defense attorney; he had been asking about get rid of the data about a year before. He bought software to erase the drive. Finally, he did the searches on his home desktop about the effects of water damage on a laptop.2
4. Mr. Gricar took the laptop with him on that day; the laptop was found in Lewisburg. It, and the separated drive, we found fairly close to areas where Mr. Gricar was seen and from where he could have tossed it. There was a witness that saw him with it in the Mini in Lewisburg that weekend.3
Could these four things point to a walkaway (or a suicide)? Of course, but they don’t point to it exclusively. They could point, almost as easily to foul play
Let’s start out with the trip. If this related to a pending case, one in the system, why would Mr. Gricar not tell his girlfriend or some member of the staff? Why nothing in his calendar or on the computers about the meeting? Why would feel a necessity to travel about 50 miles, out of both his jurisdiction and the area he would be unlikely to be recognized? If the 4/16/05 witnesses are correct (I give it about a 50% likelihood they are), why spend the night and why no evidence of where he spent the night?4 A clandestine meeting about a case might explain the first three aspects, but not the fourth. Of course, those witnesses might be wrong, but what if were right?
There would be another reason for Mr. Gricar to drive 50 miles from home, to an area where he would not be recognized, not tell anyone where or why he was going there, not keep a record, and even spend the night. He could have been with a woman. It happens that at least two witnesses reported seeing Mr. Gricar in the Street of Shop on 4/15/05, with a woman. At least one reported this later in the day, after 5:00 PM. So, is it possible that Mr. Gricar went to Lewisburg for a romantic encounter, and not to begin his new life someplace? Yes, that is a possibility.
We can add to that Mr. Gricar was not married (though in a relationship) and did have a number of girlfriends over the years. A romantic encounter might well have been the reason for that trip.
Of course, if those 4/16/05 witnesses are wrong, Mr. Gricar didn’t spend the night. That clandestine meeting remains a possibility. Either situation, that does not go as planned, could have led to an act of foul play against Mr. Gricar.
Okay, you might be asking, what about the computer?
We know that Mr. Gricar had a long term desire, and possibly a reasonable one, to get rid of the data on his computer; he would be retiring at the end of the year and possibly did not personal or employee data to be recovered. He planned to go to Lewisburg, either for a romantic encounter or for a clandestine meeting, and he knew that there was a river there. He decided that, since he’d be in Lewisburg anyhow, he could just toss it in the Susquehanna. He even did the computer searches to make sure that the water would destroy it beyond recovery. Since he would be planning to return home, no one would miss it. He could simply report that he dropped it in water and reimburse the county for a used computer that had been discontinued.
Some of the witness time lines could support that premise. Mr. Gricar was first seen in the early afternoon across from the Packwood Museum, less than 100 yards from the spot where the drive was likely tossed. It would be possible that, whatever he planned to do, he arrived early and got rid of the laptop. One of the witnesses, who saw him with a woman, saw him with her later in the day, so that is consistent with either foul play theory.
Of course, there is other evidence that points to Mr. Gricar’s voluntary departure. If he was in Southfield on 5/27/05, he obviously was not murdered on the weekend of 4/15/05. While that sighting is considered “credible” and there are plausible reasons for Mr. Gricar to be there on that day, it still does not prove that it was him; I only give it a 50/50 shot of it being him. Mr. Gricar’s interest in the Mel Wiley disappearance and the similarities with the Pamela West novel 20/20 Vision are persuasive; they add weight to the premise that Mr. Gricar walked away, but they do not prove it.
So, in that regard, I hope that I can justify a 44% chance of foul play. If I were at 85% walkaway, like Big Cat, I probably wouldn’t still be doing this blog. I would probably say, “Ray Gricar, I salute you! You’re a smarter man than I am,“ and end this blog. I am still writing this blog because I am not convinced this was walkaway.
Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section: http://www.centredaily.com/138/
Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at email@example.com