For Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver, turning over the investigation into the disappearance of Ray Gricar to state police was not a matter of saying goodbye to the case that has been part of his department for almost nine years.
“I felt it was time,” he said. “After years of investigation, it deserves to have a fresh set of eyes look at it.”
Gricar, the longtime Centre County district attorney, was last seen April 15, 2005. His red Mini Cooper was found the next day in Lewisburg. His computer was recovered from the Susquehanna River.
Speculation has run rampant for years regarding his whereabouts. Did he just leave town without a word to his girlfriend or daughter? Was he killed?
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His involvement in cases ranging from a drug bust shortly before his disappearance to early investigations of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky have fueled conspiracy theories.
In the Bellefonte Police Department, all of the bits and pieces of the case were boiled down to files and boxes. Evidence collected, statements taken, tips called in.
“When I carried the boxes out, looking at the files, it was very humbling to see how much work has gone into it,” Weaver said.
The files went to the Troop G Major Case Team, including investigators from both Rockview and Lewistown. The move came at Weaver’s request, he said.
In recent years, tips have come in not only from in and around Centre County, but from all over the state — sometimes across the country.
Weaver said the resources of the small municipal department are just not the same as those at the disposal of the state.
If a tip comes from Philadelphia, for example, the state police can have it investigated by local troopers instead of having someone drive five hours to chase it down.
Weaver said he and his department will continue to stay involved in the case, as will the rest of the small think-tank of agencies and investigators that have been involved over the years.
That includes the Gricar Task Force, which Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said remains a top priority to her office.
Parks Miller formed the group in 2010.
“There was a consensus to ask (state police) to take over as lead due to manpower reasons,” Parks Miller said. “I am very appreciative of Commissioner Frank Noonan and the Pennsylvania State Police for agreeing to do so.
“Bellefonte Police Department has expended many years of hard work, resources and chased many leads in this matter and will continue to be a strong, central part of this team as we move forward.”
Weaver said he expects forward motion on the Gricar case.
Over the years, there were times it seemed as if the case were about to close.
“About three or four times, we thought it was going to happen,” Weaver said.
Once, human remains were discovered nearby. They turned out to be too recent to be Gricar’s.
But every time there was a chance of new evidence, the chief said he knew just one break could turn the tide of the investigation.
“I truly think that this case will be solved with one piece of information that someone knows,” Weaver said, “and they might not even know they know it.”