There are basically two topics in this one blog of if blackmail or extortion could be the cause of the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar. More specifically I want to look at the possibility that Mr. Gricar was murdered by a blackmailer or by a victim of blackmail. Yes, nearly every possibility about what happened to Mr. Gricar has crossed my mind, and I have looked at it.
First, let me give you an explanation of what blackmail is. Someone, the blackmailer, gets generally true information on someone else, the victim, which is damaging. This information is damaging or embarrassing to the victim. It might be something in the victim’s personal life, e.g. the victim is having an affair or is gay, the victim’s professional life, e.g. the victim did something unethical or improper, or some criminal action, e.g. (I love using Latin abbreviations), the victim murdered someone or stole some money. Generally, either the victim complies, says “Go ahead and release it,” calls the police or his lawyer, or does something extra legal to stop it, like murder the blackmailer. We can see this in allegations that CBS television producer Joe Halderman attempted to extort money from David Letterman; Mr. Letterman went to the police and spoke about the situation on his television show; blackmail is illegal and if successful, secret. So blackmail involves at least two parties, the blackmailer and the victim.
Now, in looking at blackmail, it could involve Mr. Gricar in two ways. He could be the victim or he could be the blackmailer.
The first question with Mr. Gricar as victim is what he’d be blackmailed for? That question is a hard one. In 8 ½ months, Mr. Gricar was going to retire not only as District Attorney, but as a lawyer; he was not planning to practice law at all or to run for some other public office. A blackmailer couldn’t tell his wife about an affair, because he wasn’t married. While a few commentators have suggested Mr. Gricar was gay, under the theory that if a man gets behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper, he immediately wants to take Sir Elton John to the prom. Other than perhaps requiring a heart to heart talk with his girlfriend (I’ve known people who have had such talks), what difference would it make? Mr. Gricar would not be holding office or practicing law in less than a year, and it is doubtful that even some deep dark personal secret would affect that. Basically, unless it was something criminal, who would give a rat’s, ah, let me rephrase that. Who would care!
Never miss a local story.
Could it be something criminal? The police, journalists, friends, and the chattering class looked at Mr. Gricar’s background and never found anything criminal. There was never a hint of anything criminal in Mr. Gricar’s background, except that he prosecuted criminals. Nothing has ever come to light that would indicate a criminal reason for Mr. Gricar being blackmailed.
There is another problem and probably the biggest one. A blackmailer wants something, like money; the blackmailer can’t get what he or she wants from a dead man. The blackmailer wants the victim alive, not dead. The victim may not.
Could Mr. Gricar have been blackmailing someone? Part of the District Attorney’s job is prosecuting crimes and, as such, any incumbent, Mr. Gricar, Mr. Madeira, and currently Ms. Parks Miller, is in a position where they may learn embarrassing information about someone. It would not have to be something criminal or even about a defendant, but they could find out that someone was having an affair or someone is in the closet. They could find out about unethical, but legal, business dealings. In that respect, it is possible, but it is in the nature of the job.
Mr. Gricar’s laptop was taken from the house and found destroyed. Mr. Gricar could have brought it to show that he had the damaging and embarrassing information. Could a victim have done that to hide the embarrassing information?
There are some problems with trying to cast Mr. Gricar in the role of a blackmailer murdered by the victim, enough that it becomes harder to explain. Mr. Gricar, by all accounts, was a highly intelligent, if not brilliant, individual. Would be stupid enough just to keep the damaging information on the laptop and not make a copy? Why hasn’t this information been found? How would the victim turned killer not know that there not copies of it on his desktop at home, or his office computer? How would victim turned killer not know that Mr. Gricar made hard copies or copied to a CD or a flash drive? A victim turned killer would have to be smart enough to fool Mr. Gricar, and do so without a trace; he or she would be smart enough to figure out that Mr. Gricar could have made copies.
There are still other problems with the theory; one is the witness timeline.1 On 4/15/05, Mr. Gricar was seen in the early afternoon in Lewisburg. He was then seen in the late afternoon around 5:30 PM, if not later. It wouldn’t take five hours to collect (or make) a blackmail payment. He was in different locations out of line of sight of each other; he wasn’t watching a site to see if he was going to be ambushed. The idea of Mr. Gricar being a blackmailer, or the victim of blackmail, really does not fit the witness accounts.
Mr. Gricar’s background argues against him being a blackmailer. First, as previously noted, there has never been a single suggestion that he would be involved in criminal activity. Second, if tried something criminal and was caught, he could lose his pension. He was planning to retire in 8 ½ months, so doing something criminal would be a very big risk. If it was a long term practice that he kept hidden for decades, where is all the money he got from it? There are questions regarding Mr. Gricar’s assets, but they regard him having too little money, not too much money.2
Many of the aspects of this case cannot be explained in the context of blackmail, either with Mr. Gricar being the blackmailer or the victim of blackmail. Blackmail, based on the evidence, may come close in probability to the theory that Mr. Gricar being eaten by a troll that lives under the bridge in Lewisburg.
E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org