[This is the twelfth part of a series on the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.]
Never miss a local story.
On various message board there has been discussion of the Gricar disappearance since 4/17/05. It has been reasonably active (I personally didn’t join the actual “chattering class” until September of 2006), and often heated. Many of the posters on these sites have an agenda or pet theory (I started off giving suicide, murder, and walkaway equal weight, though today I say suicide is hugely unlikely). Many try to “explain away” evidence, as can be seen with current comments on the computer searches. Some try to reject the evidence outright. I can cite more than a few instances. Conversely, a number of people, and in some cases the same people, have asked good questions, that are unanswered.
There was a period in time, a fairly long period, when most public aspects of the case, other than the anniversary stories, came as result of the chattering classes. Between the announcements of the PSP-CIA Unit concluding its investigation (December 2006) and the dueling press conferences (July 2008), the information that was revealed came to light because of Internet discussions. Yes, the much derided “chattering classes” got some stuff right. These discussions might actually have provided leads to the police.
There were three key events, two of which were reported nearly simultaneously, that helped frame the public case.
The first was Ms. Arnold’s Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury1 (LGJ), which came out in early July. With one exception, it didn’t provide any new information. It did confirm a lot of the reporting done by Ms. Nissley and Mr. Bosak.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, it gave a chronological account of the first weeks of the investigation from her perspective; that has been something I’ve been trying to do in this series of blogs. For example, it was reported in 2006 that the first witness that saw Mr. Gricar in Lewisburg was the one that saw him with the now famous “Mystery Woman.” 2 That was lost on the chattering class for years. I didn’t realize it, but I wondered why she thought it was being “theorized” on the morning of 4/17/05. Was she wrong? Was she lying? Was this woman known to be Mr. Gricar’s mistress? No to all three questions. The chattering class, including me, had missed that reference stating that the first witness to come forward was the one who saw the Mr. Gricar with the Mystery Woman.3
The second thing to come out of this was possibly a substantive clue. I was asked on a message board for any examples of people who voluntarily walked away. I mentioned two, including an Ohio police chief, Mel Wiley. I was quite surprised when Ms. Arnold mentioned it in LGJ. There were reasons for my surprise. First, she said she though she had heard it mentioned in the office. An Ohio case, with no connection to Centre County, is an odd topic of conversation in the Centre County District Attorney’s Office, especially one that isn’t a criminal case. Second, Ms. Arnold started to work in the office in 1988; Chief Wiley disappeared in 1985. It wasn’t exactly a current event.
I began my conversations with Mr. Bosak after that; the Wiley bit puzzled me and told him about it. He spoke with Steve Sloane and Mr. Sloane remembered Mr. Gricar speaking about it. Mr. Sloane was even more removed from the disappearance in time; he hadn’t started at the office until 1992 (and was laid off within six months). A small piece of the puzzle fell into place, at least potentially.4
Reading all this on the Internet was Pamela West, who had known Mr. Gricar in 1980’s and had authored 20/20 Vision, in 1990; the book was loosely based on the Aardsma murder in Pattee Library in 1969. She began noticing the similarities between her book and some of the details she was reading on the Internet.5 She had talked to him about writing. She talked to Mr. Bosak, who wrote about it. After the story first appeared retired Pennsylvania State Police Corporal John Skerchock confirmed that Mr. Gricar had actually read 20/20 Vision about the time it was published. 6 Another small piece of the puzzle potentially fell into place.
These are small pieces of the puzzle, but each helps create a bigger picture. A group of people, whether you want to call them the chattering class, cybersleuths, or researchers, developed these potential leads from discussions of public documents. Could you imagine what could be gained from a greater discloser of information by law enforcement?
There was one bit of information related to the Gricar case that didn’t emerge from the Internet. The lead investigator, Det. Zaccagni announced in January 2007, that he was retiring. He had been with the Bellefonte Police Department for 28 years. The new lead investigator would be Det. Matt Rickard.7
For over eighteen months, the Internet provided the source of all public disclose in the case. Theories were tossed around; many, including some of mine, were shot down. Reports were discussed. Questions were asked. Occasionally, new leads were developed. These were all good things. Some of the bad things were the incessant conspiracy theories, some of which involved more than ten people and the attempts to explain away the evidence.
The Internet interlude generated more heat than light, but it did generate at least some light; the Internet was where two points, 20/20 Vision and Mel Wiley were discovered. We don’t know how much more might have come from the Internet. Both more heat and light, in the form of fireworks would arrive, just in time for Independence Day 2008.
[Part 13, Mr. Madeira for the Defense, is next]
3 CDT 5/10/06 http://tiny.cc/FirstWitness
4 CDT 2/26/08 http://porchlightinternationalformissinguid.com/ This was mentioned, though not in detail, in the old Q and A Forum prior to this.
5 CDT 2/26/08 http://porchlightinternationalformissinguid.com/
6 CDT 2/27/08 http://porchlightinternationalformissinguid.com/