Even before the recent, and largely discounted, Hell’s Angels report, I’d planned to write a blog on this subject. I had been planning to write one since August 5, 2013, around 11:00 PM. That is when I heard the news of a shooting at a Township Supervisor’s meeting in Ross Township, Monroe County. There were three dead. Two were James V. LaGuardia and Gerard Kozic; they were doing nothing more than many Americans do, attending a public meeting of their local government.1 Also killed was Dave Fleetwood, who was the Ross Township zoning officer, along with being an elected Supervisor of the neighboring Chestnuthill Township, was also killed; I looked at the minutes of some of Ross Township’s and he had attended before, to speak about 250th anniversary of the founding of Ross Township.2 I wonder if that was why he was there that night. In what only can be described as heroic, he pushed a woman out of the way, and took the fatal bullet himself.3
The shooter, and I will not mention his name, had an ongoing legal battle with Ross Township, and was angry that his land was condemned, though he was compensated for the condemnation. He opened up with a rifle from a distance and then entered the building. He was subdued, and shot in the process.
One of the first things I did, when I heard the news was to contact an old friend of mine, who had been a township supervisor in central Pennsylvania; I’d managed one of her earlier campaigns for the position. It was a shock, and a horror, for both of us. People serving their communities (for minimal or even no pay), gunned down because one individual did not like something they did. That is a strike against the concepts of democracy and the rule of law. Both my friend and I realized that. We both, because we have served in public office4, that these people were people just like us.
This was not the only time that someone with a grudge struck against a public official. In the first half of this year, Kauffman County, Texas was stunned by the murders of District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia, and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse. The alleged killers were a former district justice and his wife. According to the police, the alleged killers blamed the victims for the husband’s removal from the office.6 It makes it more shocking is that the alleged killer could have been the victim of someone with the same motive.
There are killers that will target public officials, usually because they feel that they were wronged. This was the supposed motive in the recent reports that former Centre County District Attorney Ray was murdered by a former Hell’s Angel and hidden in a mine shaft (with four other victims and a cache of guns). Even that lacks something these others do not, a body.
Public officials can become public targets, and frankly, during the first several years after Mr. Gricar’s disappearance, I thought it could explain what happened to him. I have noticed some things about these types of killings.
First, they are very rare. There are more than 15,000 county and local officials in Pennsylvania, and some are victims of crimes because of their official positions, but not generally murdered. The Ross Township killings were noteworthy because of their rarity. There are many threats, but seldom do they have the ability to carry them out. Current Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler and current District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller were threatened with quite gruesome deaths by a defendant, who was telling this to his cellmate.7 His ability to carry this out any of these threats was questionable.
Second, when these things are carried out, the perpetrator makes no effort to hide the body. The perpetrator may be motivated by revenge and not care if he will be caught. Either that or the perpetrator may want to, without being caught, send a message, i.e. “Don’t mess with me.” The impression that Mr. Gricar’s disappearance was murder certainly is not there clearly.
It is the second point that points strongly away from the possibility that Mr. Gricar was a “public target.” I went to a site call “The Political Graveyard,” and looked at the public officials that have vanished without a trace. 8 There were eight on the site’s list. Four disappeared at sea, including one in battle during World War II when his ship was sunk and one who disappeared with a ship in the Bermuda Triangle. Three (and I remember each) disappeared when the aircraft they were on went down in an inaccessible area. Only one, Judge Joseph Force Crater, clearly looks like foul play; it happened almost 75 years prior to Mr. Gricar’s disappearance.
I certainly would not rule out the possibility that Mr. Gricar’s disappearance is due to foul play; I would not say it is the most likely possibility, but it is a close second. I would say that the possibility that Mr. Gricar was a “public target” is very unlikely.
4 though not in a township in my case.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org