[This was one of those blogs lost in the data transfer; I have added some additional information.]
The first thing can be said in regard to the Southfield sighting. If it is accurate, former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar was neither murdered nor committed suicide; both possibilities could be completely ruled out. There would be an overwhelming likelihood Mr. Gricar voluntarily walked away, if the Southfield sighting is accurate.
The second thing that can be said about the Southfield sighting is that it is the one of the two post Lewisburg sightings that the police have not discounted; it is listed as “credible” by the police1. The other is the Wilkes-Barre sighting, previously mentioned2. It is a credible report, though “credible” does not mean “accurate.”
The third thing has been that there has not of discussion of this sighting. There were a few newspaper articles and some fairly brief online discussions at the time3. This was of those rare things the “chattering class” missed, and I’ll include myself in that. Part of the problem was that the details didn’t seem to fit. Let’s look at those details.
Never miss a local story.
The date was Friday, May 27, 2005. The place was a restaurant in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, MI. The witness was having dinner with his daughter when he noticed someone who looked vaguely familiar; he couldn’t place the other man and pointed him out to his daughter. The man was with a woman, but one about 70 years old. The witness even said hello to the man, though the witness couldn’t place where he had seen him before. When the man returned home, he caught a repeat of a news show about Mr. Gricar, one that showed his photo. The witness instantly recognized that the photo was of the same man he had seen earlier in the day.4
The witness was more than just a run of the mill witness. He was a retired Detroit police officer who also happened to be a composite artist.4 He was possibly the best witness you could have for identifying faces. The retired officer spoke to his daughter, who agreed that it was the same man. He emailed the police.
The police did a “photo lineup,” and the retired officer immediately picked out Mr. Gricar’s photo. The police checked the restaurant, and several of the employees said that the man was “familiar5.” Unfortunately, the details have never been provided.
There are some potential problems. The retired officer looked up Mr. Gricar on the Internet and saw his photo online. That could distort his memory. If the police used the photo lineup with others, the problem might disappear.
Then there is the woman seen with the presumed Mr. Gricar. She was older than he was, by more than a decade, and Mr. Gricar’s prior love interest was 19 years younger than he was. Mr. Gricar didn’t know any women, of any age, in the Detroit area. They may be an explanation.
There are problems with Canadian tax authorities if an American attempts to sell a car in Canada (I have an old girlfriend that married a Canadian and has run into the problem). Had Mr. Gricar bought a car, he might have needed a driver to take him (back?) across the close Canadian border. Also, if the car was purchased by a woman in Pennsylvania, a straw purchase, he might have needed a woman to sell it; it would be even possible that the woman who bought the car traveled to Southfield to handle the paperwork.
The location was problematic, but there could be a good explanation. Southfield is a suburb, and basically a corporate center, but it does offer some things that are unusual.
First, it is a major intersection of Interstate 696 and the John C. Lodge Freeway, which runs into downtown Detroit. There it is an easy connection to several other interstate highways. Southfield is a central point. At the Detroit end of the Lodge Freeway, the United States ends; you can cross into Windsor, Ontario. It would be fairly easy to cross into Canada; it is less than a 20 minute drive.
Southfield also has a foreign consulate, for the Republic of Macedonia, which was opened in 20036. This is significant because it is former Yugoslavian Republic, like Mr. Gricar’s ancestral home of Slovenia7; he had vacationed in Slovenia and had distant relatives there. It could be possible to enter Macedonia and using the documents go to Slovenia. A visa could be obtained at the consulate. If you are looking for a reason why Mr. Gricar would choose Southfield, that could be it. Had Mr. Gricar been in Canada, this might be the easiest place to cross to get travel documents. That could explain Southfield as a choice location.
The timing is also interesting. May 27 was the Friday at the beginning of the Memorial Day Weekend. Even if there had been media on Mr. Gricar’s appearance in the area, many people were traveling, preparing for a barbeque, or attending Memorial Day ceremonies. Even if the story had been reported on May 27-28, fewer people would have seen it. It is telling that the initial disappearance shared the characteristic of being on a day when the media would be slow in getting the story out. 4/15/05 was also a Friday and, because there was no local news at noon on Saturday, the story went unreported on television for a while.8
In writing this entry, I first realized four things for the first time. First, I had not realized that apparently some other people at the restaurant had at least found Mr. Gricar “familiar.” Second, I didn’t realize there was consulate in the same town and the fairly easy access to the interstate system. Third, I didn’t realize that, from a media standpoint, the Southfield sighting would have had limited media coverage, even if reported on 5/27 or 5/28. There are a number of plausible reasons why Mr. Gricar might be in Southfield. Those factors led me to rethink the odds on the scenarios at bit.
Southfield is a “credible” sighting, and the circumstances may add some further credibility. “Credible” is not the same as “accurate.” If it is accurate, and there is evidence that he was alive and well on 5/27/10, that would obviously eliminate murder or suicide. One question, never publicly explored is what those other people reported seeing. So, is it accurate?
1 Abram’s Report 6/9/05, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8171216/
7 There are a surprising number of consulates in the area, though this is the only one in Southfield.