In looking at the disappearance of Ray Gricar, the former Centre County District Attorney, I do several things. I look at the evidence in the case, the investigation, the media, and occasionally, the odds on what happened. I only really look at the odds when something changes. When I look at them I look at only one thing, evidence.
Here are the odds I gave in July of 20101:
Voluntary Departure (Walkaway): 50% likely.
Victim of Foul Play (Primarily Murder): 41% likely .
Never miss a local story.
Suicide: 8% likely.
Something else : 1% likely.
That is all based on the evidence. What if I looked at some other things?
We could look what law enforcement has said and done, not done, and said. Well, they have used facial recognition software to see if Mr. Gricar applied for some form of identification.2 The last time I checked, a corpse wouldn’t need ID. The police have done some things that I would have done, interviewing friends and looking more closely at his finances. These things are exceptionally logical. So would something else I suggested, searching in the wetlands and wooded areas across from Lewisburg, using a cadaver dog.3 So far, we’ve had no report of that being done, in what is a fairly public area.
Finally, we have what was said by the incumbent district attorney, Stacy Parks Miller, “The only thing I will say is that I believe homicide is the least likely, but we rule out nothing.”4 If I were to base the odds on what happened to Mr. Gricar on that statement, I’d have to decrease the odds “victim of foul play” by more than 25 percentage points and raise ‘voluntary departure” by more than 20 percentage points.
Well, that may be evidence of what law enforcement is thinking, it is actual evidence of what happened. (I will have to note that Ms. Parks Miller has looked at the files and I have not.)
Then there has been the change in the family position. In 2007, family spokesman Tony Gricar said to the CDT:
Still, Tony Gricar said, he and Lara are being realistic.
"Neither one of us believe he is still alive," Tony Gricar said. 5
In 2010, he said to the CDT:
"I can’t say anything different than I’ve said for five years,” Tony Gricar said. “Which is sad in itself. There’s just not enough evidence to rule anything in or out. That’s been a maddening thing from the start.” 4
In 2011, he said to AOL News:
Tony Gricar said he is constantly swinging back and forth among the theories. Asked whether he believes his uncle is still alive, he replied, "Alive? Hell, I don't know." 6
That is a change in the family position, which would be expected from new evidence, much like these odds.
This is somewhat stunning, as Tony Gricar publicly laid out his view of how voluntary departure would affect public opinion. He said that, if his uncle willingly left, “…the public would be rightfully outraged.” In the same story, he continued:
“A walk-away can really turn public opinion away from someone that can still be a victim in this case," Tony Gricar said. "This makes it look like a selfish act or a malicious act, when we don't know that that's the case." 7 It was surprising that he discussed the public relations aspect of a potential solution, in the newspaper. I am therefore surprised that Tony Gricar would make any public statement indicating that possibility, though I’m sure that he, and the family would be happy with that outcome.
If I were to go by the family comments, through its spokesman, I’d have to knock murder down again. However, like the comments and actions from law enforcement, the family spokesman’s comments are not evidence either.
So what is the evidence? This comment and characterization from Tony Gricar:
According to Tony Gricar, the one thing that never made sense to police was his uncle's financial situation.
"He was making a fair amount of money; but, at least from a forensic accounting standpoint, the thought is there that there should have been more cash," he said. "But, for somebody from his generation, which [preferred to] deal in cash, what is the appropriate amount that should be sitting in an account?" 6
Never before has the family spokesman suggested that there “should have been more cash,” higher assets. Never before has anyone in the family or the police suggested that there was a “forensic accounting standpoint,” to be given.8 While some people, including myself, have felt that the stated assets seemed low, no one suggested that anyone had looked. It isn’t surprising, but it is the first time this has been attributed to the police. Okay, how strong is this evidence?
Surprisingly, it is not very strong. First of all, nobody is suggesting how much cash there should be. Suppose, hypothetically, it would be $30,000; that amount would probably show up easily on a forensic audit. It’s a lot in a lump sum; I’d like someone to hand me $30 K. It would not be a lot to live on for nearly six years. That would be even more difficult when you would have to buy replacements for everything, totally new clothing, possibly a different car, along with the costs of leaving the Lewisburg area.
Well, what if it was ten times that amount? It would strengthen the theory Mr. Gricar walked away, but not prove it. The can be other reasons for the lower than expected cash. While there would likely be a record, some types of investments have deferred income; they don’t produce a tax record until liquidated. US Savings Bonds are a good example. Likewise, the reason that Mr. Gricar said that he put the Mini Cooper into his girlfriend’s name, was to protect it in case he was sued. He might have been attempting to shelter some assets in the event of a lawsuit; that could explain any amount.9 Generally, however, there should be a record for the next of kin, but it is still possible. There could be substantial assets someplace untouched by Mr. Gricar because he is dead and unknown to even the family. It is less likely, but far from impossible.
So here are my new odds, as always, subject to change:
Voluntary Departure (Walkaway): 51% likely.
Victim of Foul Play (Primarily Murder): 40% likely .
Suicide: 8% likely.
Something else : 1% likely.
Not a big shift, but voluntary departure is now into the probable range. That is still well below “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard that should be used. The weight on the pans of the scale has changed.
8 In regard to the comments of “tgricar” on the post: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/01/26/2479157/trip-money.html , I seriously question if this was the family spokesman Tony Gricar. Tony Gricar has my personal e-mail address, we have several mutual acquaintances and could easily confirm this comment. Further, the poster declined to state that the attribution of the comment that the “police” thought Ray Gricar’s finances “never made sense” was in any way inaccurate.
Tony Gricar is obviously aware that the AOL News story was widely distributed. If the comments were a mischaracterization or inaccurate, I would hope that he could find a better method of correcting the record that posting what amounts to an anonymous comment on a message board. I certainly would write it if nobody else would.
As noted in that entry, it would be very unlikely that Mr. Gricar would face any personal financial liability due to a suit regarding his official actions.
E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org