I was talking to a buddy who has some prosecutorial experience; ironically I get stopped by security a lot too. I told him that he’d never want me on a jury, because I was so skeptical; my buddy agreed. I think this entry will illustrate that point.
In keeping with the jury theme, I’ll use this standard; do I feel that this constitutes proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Do I feel that Mr. Gricar was really seen by these people “beyond a reasonable doubt?” I will, because of nature, save the “Fenton sighting” for last. I will say this, while I do have “reasonable doubt” about some of these sightings, I this that all are more likely than not; there is a greater than 50% chance that Mr was really seen in Lewisburg and Wilkes-Barre.
Never miss a local story.
Eyewitnesses are not cameras, and even cameras can distort an image and not catch every detail. Experts, as have been noted, assign a very high potential error rate. Here is a link to a court case, from Pennsylvania, were some of the experts testify: http://news.findlaw.com/andrews/m/ese/20060824/20060824_brownlee.html
While most of the points are not applicable, no one was focusing on a weapon, for example, this point is:
• The effect of allowing eyewitnesses to meet with other eyewitnesses before identification;
In cases were witnesses might discuss what they saw with another witness, it is possible for the details to merge. The details of what many of the witnesses saw, both the accounts, and locations, were not publicly disclosed, often months or years after the fact (and there may be more out there). The contact would occur only in cases where the witnesses worked together.
Let’s take a look at the Lewisburg witnesses of 4/15/05. The multiple witnesses at Packwood Museum all did work together, but they didn’t have work contact the witnesses that saw Mr. Gricar moving the Mini Cooper in the parking lot, the Street of Shops, or McKnight’s witness (who was just driving through). None of these groups could have influenced another group, unless they all got together in a room someplace. Even the two that day in the Street of Shops reported different details, one saw him with the “Mystery Woman,” and one didn’t. It doesn’t look like they discussed the sighting first. The time line to their reports fit. There are a minimum of six witnesses that saw him in his car and two more that saw him in the Street of Shops. Seeing Mr. Gricar with his very distinctive car is the real clincher.
Barring some solid counter evidence, this goes beyond reasonable doubt to showing Mr. Gricar was there. There is also physical evidence that he was there, not the least of which was the very car that the witnesses said he was driving was sitting there. For those folks that say he wasn’t there on that day, I say produce some counter evidence that he was someplace else or that he could not have been there. Not speculation, actual counter evidence. Absent that, I’m comfortable with saying that Mr. Gricar was in Lewisburg until late in the afternoon of Friday, April 15, 2005.
Then we has Lewisburg witnesses on Saturday April 16, 2005. There are only three and they all work together. I agree with Mr. Buehner that one, Mr. Bennett, is a “highly credible individual,” and I don’t question the credibility of the others. http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/story/691532.html
Mr. Bennett, however, spoke to the press very early on and could have influenced, unintentionally, the other two witnesses. They worked together in the same place. While I take this sighting as being probable, could I be convinced that there was reasonable doubt, especially since there is about a fourteen hour gap from the prior witnesses? Yes I could be. This one is likely, but not beyond a reasonable doubt.
Then we have the Wilkes-Barre witnesses of Monday April 18, 2005. One witness was a police officer from out of the area who obviously didn’t have additional contact with the bar tender. Police are trained observers; he did have a conversation with him, so this more than just the police officer walking past him on the street.
There is something else. The police officer reported the man smoking on 4/22/05 (sited in below link). After a check of on-line sources, the cigarette ash and smell of cigarette smoke in the Mini had not been reported in the press at the time, so far as I could find. I checked CDT stories that can be found on-line, the Post-Gazette and Dailey Collegian archives, and the transcripts of the Gretta van Susteren and Nancy Grace shows covering Mr. Gricar’s disappearance that week, even comment on message boards; I could not find any reference to cigarette ash or smoke in the Mini until after 4/22/05. That is just too coincidental two people, one a police officer, that had no contact after the fact, would see Mr. Gricar smoking and there was then unreported evidence of someone smoking in Mr. Gricar’s car.
If there was one other point of evidence, like evidence of Mr. Gricar having some way of getting to Wilkes-Barre, I’d say beyond reasonable doubt. Right now, I’d say it’s at the reasonable doubt threshold. If a method is found that Mr. Gricar could have used to get from Lewisburg to Wilkes-Barre, it gallops across that threshold.
Now, finally, the sighting behind the Courthouse. This one is unique in several respects. Both witnesses knew Mr. Gricar on April 15, 2005; Judge Grine knew him for more than two decades. Both saw Mr. Gricar driving an unknown car.
Was Mr. Gricar behind the Centre County Courthouse at 3:00 PM on 4/15/05, beyond a reasonable doubt? It does fit the time line. Ms. Fenton (now Ms. Larabee) is intelligent, and had, even then, held a position of responsibility; my understanding is that she reported it before speaking to Judge Grine. She was still the only one who can definitely state the day. Judge Grine isn’t sure. Neither am I. Ms. Fenton could have made a mistake, so this one has reasonable doubt as to the day.
Was Mr. Gricar behind the Courthouse driving an unknown car on either April 14 or April 15, 2005? Both Ms. Fenton and Judge Grine say so. Both knew Mr. Gricar. Judge Grine knew him for a long while and is a trained observer, as a former police officer. As witness accounts go, this one is solid, but it isn’t the best evidence. If this is accurate, there will be documentary or physical evidence of this unknown car.
There are three things that point to Mr. Gricar having access to another vehicle. First, is the sighting of Ms. Fenton and Judge Grine; they both agree that they saw Mr. Gricar in an unknown vehicle. Second, are Wilkes-Barre witnesses, the police officer and the bartender. They saw Mr. Gricar someplace that he could only reach with a vehicle; he couldn’t walk from Lewisburg to Wilkes-Barre. Third was a piece of physical evidence. Mr. Gricar’s scent was found in the parking lot in Lewisburg, but ended there. The dog handler said that dog acted as if Mr. Gricar got into another car. The other car is, and has been, the common thread in this.
There is another strange aspect about this. The dog handler appeared on the scene on 4/17/05, and spoke of the other car at the time. Ms. Fenton seems to have called the police about the sighting during the week of 4/18/05. The police officer reported the Wilkes-Barre sighting around 4/22/05; the bartender was discovered after that, but before 4/29/05. By 4/29/05, everything was pointing to another vehicle. Yet the police have never stated, “We looked to see if Ray Gricar had another car.”
The police have said, very early on, some of the things that they checked, and that led nowhere. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05120/496950-85.stm These have included public transportation, car rentals, checking to see if Mr. Gricar might have been in a rest home or psychiatric hospital, or homeless shelter; all were dead ends. They have never said, “We checked car sales, and sales or rentals to his close friends and associates, and it was a dead end.” While it would not be the first thing to check, it seems inconceivable that they have not checked at some point.
Until that question of what the police checked in regard to this unknown, but not unseen, vehicle is answered, the possibility that Mr. Gricar walked away from his life will loom large in this case. It is the true elephant in the parlor in this case, and won't leave this case until ruled out. What was checked regarding this potenial vehicle might be the right question, at least for now.