Ray Gricar wasn’t one to be intimidated by high-profile cases.
He didn’t dabble in politics or enjoy the limelight.
Centre County’s former district attorney, who went missing in 2005 and was declared dead in July, was an introverted man who affiliated himself with few and wasn’t easily swayed by others.
“He was a very kind of private but independent guy,” said Bob Buehner, the Montour County district attorney. “He didn’t belong to a lot of organizations. I would say he was fiercely independent.”
That’s actually been one major roadblock for investigators in his missing persons case: It’s hard to get inside his head.
The state Attorney General’s Office said Gricar is the one who made the decision not to prosecute Jerry Sandusky in 1998, when two children reported that Sandusky washed them during a shower.
Gricar was also the county’s top prosecutor when many of the other inappropriate acts were alleged to have happened.
But before the allegations brought by a boy in Clinton County in 2009, the 23-page grand jury presentment says police were only ever notified once: in 1998.
According to those who were present during that investigation, Gricar seemed to be the one who made the decision not to prosecute.
Gricar disappeared April 15, 2005, after taking a day off work to drive to Lewisburg. His disappearance has been the subject of a lot of speculation.
His laptop hard drive, which was found dumped in the Susquehanna River near where his car was parked in Lewisburg, was too badly damaged by water to be read.
The information on that computer that was destroyed is left to conjecture.
A member of law enforcement who was in the room with Gricar when police presented him with the 1998 allegations against Sandusky said Gricar led the investigation.
He tried to get information by having officers hide in the home of one of the victims as the mother confronted Sandusky.
But that source said he isn’t sure how Gricar came to his final decision not to prosecute the case.
Jerry Lauro, the investigator for the state Department of Welfare is mentioned in the grand jury presentment as having interviewed Sandusky, along with now-retired Penn State police Officer Ron Schreffler.
The presentment says Sandusky admitted to showering naked with the victim and admitted it was wrong.
“I had no decision-making authority or power in any of these cases,” Lauro said, when contacted Saturday. “They are left up to the district attorney to decide. In all of the hundreds of cases that I ran, I never let anyone influence me.”
Schreffler declined to comment.
Gricar pursued several controversial cases involving football players and the prosecutions of students involved in the 2001 downtown State College riot.
Steve Sloane, an assistant prosecutor in his office, handled most of those cases, and is known as one of Gricar’s closest work confidants.
“He wasn’t media savvy,” Sloane said. “He didn’t read local papers and follow local gossip. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was Joe Paterno or a 10-repeat felon. He would treat them the same way if they were legit suspected of committing crimes.”
But he wasn’t a rash prosecutor, either, Buehner said.
“I would say this about Ray: He would be extremely cautious in proceeding because he wanted to make sure that there would be a reasonable likelihood of conviction. You don’t want to go after someone high profile unless you have a compelling case.”
There’s no indication that Gricar was notified in 2002, when a graduate assistant reported to head football coach Joe Paterno that he witnessed Sandusky and a young boy engaged in a sex act in the shower of the Lasch Football Building the day before spring break.
That’s the case in which the grand jury panel found that Athletic Director Tim Curley and top executive Gary Schultz should have reported to police, but didn’t, according to the indictment from the state attorney general.
Under law, certain educational leaders are required to report possible sex abuse.
By then, however, the 1998 report that was labeled “unfounded” because Gricar decided not to press charges, and would have been expunged. State law requires Children and Youth Services to delete all notes after one year and four months.
First Assistant District Attorney Mark Smith, who is still with that office, took over Gricar’s position for eight months after the disappearance until an election was held. Smith said he doesn’t recall anything being brought to his attention about allegations against Sandusky.
The next district attorney to be elected in Centre County was Michael Madeira, and there’s no indication he knew about the older reports, either.
He is the prosecutor who referred the most recent case — in Clinton County — to the attorney general soon after it was reported early in 2009. Madeira gave the case up, citing a conflict of interest.
By the time his successor, Stacy Parks Miller, took office, the Attorney General’s Office had been working the case for a year and a grand jury already was hearing testimony.