When I first began reading about the disappearance of then Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, way back in the spring of 2005, I remember reading about the Wilkes-Barre witnesses soon after it hit the press. Witnesses make mistakes, I thought. Two people in a bar may not be too particularly good witnesses, I thought. I asked myself, how would Mr. Gricar get there, since the Mini Cooper was left in Lewisburg?
Even as late as January 2008, this sighting was for me a “maybe” sighting. Yes, we now had good witness reports of Mr. Gricar having access to another car. Yes, Wilkes-Barre is fairly close to Lewisburg by car. Yes, one of the witnesses, at least, was sober. Yes, the witnesses saw the same thing at the same place at the same time. It became a bit more solid, one to find out a bit more about.
Never miss a local story.
Then, in the late summer of 2008, I heard something that brought this particular sighting to the forefront. The second witness was a police officer. Well, my eyes got wide and my mouth dropped opened, but I’ve heard rumors about the case before, that didn’t lead anyplace. Maybe there was something to this, but I’d reserve judgment. Then, just before reading it in Mr. Bosak’s blog (and while he blogs, he’s also a real journalist, not a blogger like me) last November, it was confirmed to me, by someone in law enforcement. The confirmation was of a few other things. The police officer wasn’t a “regular” at the bar, and didn’t have prolonged contact with the bartender; he was from out of town. He had a long drive, so he wasn’t blitzed out of his mind; he would have been scraped of an interstate if he had. This one became a lot more solid.
This is what happened. On Monday, April 18, 2005, police officer from South Eastern Pennsylvania was in Wilkes-Barre for a family related event. In the evening he went into a bar or restaurant (possibly a Bennigan’s) just off Highland Park Avenue in the evening; he may have been there with his family for dinner. He encountered a man, wearing a suit. The police officer (who I’m told was quite experienced), noticed something unusual about the man. He was smoking, but he didn’t hold the cigarettes in the normal way someone who smoked for a long time would hold a cigarette.
The police officer had about a five minute conversation with the man. They talked about sports; a baseball game was on the television. The suit clad man spoke about the Cleveland Indians; he talked a lot about the Indians.
The police officer didn’t think anything more about it. Then, a few days later, he saw Mr. Gricar’s photo in the media and recognized the suited man as Mr. Gricar. He called the police. The police checked the bar. The bartender remembered him and both witnesses were “100% sure” it was Mr. Gricar.
Highland Avenue in Wilkes-Barre is literally just off I-81, which connects with I-80. It is about 71 miles from the parking lot in the Lewisburg. It would have been easily possible for Mr. Gricar drive there in the evening of 4/15 and return on 4/16. Likewise, he could have spent the night of 4/15-4/16 in Lewisburg and drove to Wilkes-Barre. Of course, he would need a car or a driver. If Mr. Gricar had access to a car, this sighting is possible.
There are several points. When the story broke, one person on-line suggested that maybe the police officer was drunk. Probably not, he was there for family related reasons, possibly with members of his family. He also had a long drive ahead of him; as indicated, he was from out of the area.
What about the suit? There are several possibilities.
One, it was an older suit, tucked in the back of a closet; it was something overlooked. One of the better suggestions I’ve heard on-line was from a poster known as Logicworks; it was to check with the witnesses to see what exactly the suit looked like, and then check with his drycleaner to see if a similar one was cleaned.
A second possibility is that Mr. Gricar purchased new clothing for his trip. He was out of the office on Thursday and made the purchase then, and picked up the suit on Friday or Saturday. Since his activities earlier in the week are unchronicled, that would be a possibility.
The cigarette smoking will be dealt with in a future post.
Maybe the witnesses saw a salesman that was in town from Cleveland that just stopped in the bar after a hard day of work. I’ll give a summary and my take on the witness accounts next.