I never expected to the “Gricar Guy” at the Centre Daily Times website. If in July of 2005 you would have told me that four years later I’d be doing this, I would have said “You’re nuts.” Well, I probably would put an expletive between “you’re” and “nuts.” I also expected the case to be resolved by this point. In July of 2006, I might have said, “Well, maybe I’ll start posting on message boards,” but not a blog. In July 2007 and July 2008, I still would never have believed it. A bit under six months ago, I said no to a blog. Yet, I’m here.
Never miss a local story.
In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, the character of Ko-Ko sings of his rise from a simple tailor to Lord High Executioner:
“Wafted by a favouring gale
As one sometimes is in trances,
To a height that few can scale,
Save by long and weary dances;
Surely, never had a male
Under such like circumstances
So adventurous a tale,
Which may rank with most romances.”
And much like Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner, “J. J. the Lord High Gricar Guy,” followed a similar path.
I started out like most of you, hearing that the Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar was missing. I followed the case in the newspaper, the CDT, online and expected a body to be found. I became increasingly confused when no body was found. Finally, I decided to ask a question. I asked it on the old CDT “Ray Gricar Forum” on 11/17/05. It was answered by Erin Neissley. It is still on line:
In the next few months I read all that I could online about the Gricar case, and I happened across various message boards. On one in the mid summer of 2006, I saw a question that I could answer: Could Ms. Fornicola have had Mr. Gricar’s cell phone and placed the call while she was at work? The answer was no, because the cell tower that carried the call would be out of range of Bellefonte; the cell tower was possibly one of two that covered the Brush Valley. I tried to post the answer, but couldn’t; I had to be registered. I tried to register, but the site wouldn’t take my e-mail provider (I’ve since used another e-mail provider for that site).
After a few months I tried the old Court TV message site. It tended to be contentious, but I could ask questions and make comments. I joined on 9/16/2006. Within a few weeks Tony Gricar, who is a member there, sent me a “personal message.” I didn’t know they had personal messages, so there was about a two week delay in my response. I told him my real identity. That is how it stayed until July 9, 2007, two years ago today.
On that date, roughly, Karen Arnold, published her “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.” In that, Ms. Arnold mentioned me more than she mentioned Mr. Gricar1. She seemed stunned by familiarity with Centre County and the District Attorney’s Office. One section is titled: “Statements reflecting familiarity with the DA's Office, court, local bar.” After reciting my research, she noted, “All amazing knowledge for a disabled guy living in Philly.” She also asked, “How does someone in JJ's self-described position have knowledge of … ,“ and then listed a number of points relating to the background of the case. http://gricar.disappearance.googlepages.com/partiii:onlinediscussion
The answer to her question is good research; everything that she asked about came from public sources, generally archived online news stories. I indicated, in a previous blog, how I find information. I use a search engine and a few reference books. I literally wore out a mouse searching.
Well, this drew the interest of Mr. Bosak, the Bellefonte Police, and a few other people, all of whom checked me out to some extent (both Mr. Bosak and Mr. Gricar had my permission to pass my contact information on to anyone in law enforcement requesting it). They found out that I really was a disabled guy living in “Philly,” and was completely honest regarding my background. It’s fairly easy, I went to Penn State and am in the Alumni Directory; there is a limited number of “J. J.’s” from Philadelphia, that are male, mid-40’s, unmarried and members of the Alumni Association (I’m in Who’s Who as well).
Basically, Ms. Arnold made me. She established that my research into the case was very good, and that opened doors. After that, I communicated with Mr. Bosak and others. When I use my real name, people say “you must be J. J.” When I finally was able to join the message board I originally wanted to, somebody said, “ You are sort of 'known' for your wealth of knowledge in the Ray Gricar case.” Thank you, Ms. Arnold! (I do see the irony that I am now doing a blog for the CDT on the Gricar case, while Ms. Arnold went down in defeat in the spring primary.)
Well, after that, Mr. Bosak, and a few others began talking. I might have been a good, and very skeptical, guy to talk to. Occasionally, I could connect the dots. Mr. Bosak left for warmer, if not greener, pastures in the summer of 2008, but continued his blog.
In late January, Mr., Bosak, asked me about taking over the blog. I said no, for several reasons. First, I’m not a journalist; I do write scholarly articles (and I did a small text book), but that is not reporting. Second, I have no true law enforcement experience. Third, I’m not a local resident. I did decide to start “Sporadic Comments,” which was intended to look at some of more arcane details of the case, like why the media markets play a role in this case. It was intended to be, well, sporadic.
Then, on February 11, 2009, I got an e-mail from Mr. Bosak entitled, “The Torch is Passed.” I knew from the title what it would say. It was a choice between me or nobody. I could help keep the case in the public eye, get a bit of new information out, maybe make the reader be a bit skeptical, and not rush to any conclusion without evidence. I also hope that I or someone might just ask the right question or make the right comment.
How did I get here? Chance, a cheap Internet service provider, mixed with research, and a strong desire to see the Gricar case solved.
1 In all fairness to Ms. Arnold, there was some newer information on Mr. Gricar’s demeanor, a reasonably detailed account of part of the initial investigation (first 48 hours) and a hint of Mr. Gricar’s interest in the Wiley case.