One of the reasons my blogging has been a bit more sporadic over the last several weeks was that I was taking a road trip. I was in upstate New York (I like saying “upstate New York” almost as much as I like saying “Butte, Montana.”). This wasn’t a vacation, nor something Gricar related. It was a business trip, a very stressful one, not to mention painful. I have trouble driving long distances, and Syracuse, my destination is at the upper end of my driving duration.
Driving there and back from Philadelphia, I had to take Interstate 81, through some beautiful countryside and through several cities, including Wilkes-Barre. Some of you might remember that two people believe they saw the then Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar just off I-81 on the evening of 4/18/05. One was a bartender, who served him at a bar in a restaurant; the other was police officer, also at the same location, from southeast Pennsylvania that was in town for a family event. The police officer was something beyond an ordinary patrolman, and may have been there with his family. There were two witnesses, good witnesses listed by the police as “credible,” that independently identified the man they saw as Mr. Gricar. You can review the sighting here: http://www.centredaily.com/2009/03/18/2397171/wilkes-barre-monday-april-18-2005.html
This sighting, itself, could support two theories, if accurate. First, that Mr. Gricar spent the weekend with someone and had just stopped in the restaurant for a quick drink; he later, possibly that day, was murdered and his remains hidden.1 Second, that Mr. Gricar was in the process of leaving voluntarily.2 If accurate, this sighting would rule out other theories, but by the same token, it could support either theory.
Since I was driving past that point, which I have not done since a child (and my parents were driving), I decided just to turn off at the exit and look around at the area. I wasn’t at the location where Mr. Gricar was reported, but I was within about a half mile of it. I wanted to just to get a feel of the area; when I did, I was surprised.
Never miss a local story.
I grew up in west central Pennsylvania, and expected that Wilkes-Barre a seedy, grimy coal town, with a sprawl of small coal towns beyond the city limits. At the Highland Avenue Exit of I-81, there wasn’t. The area was lined with restaurants (usually chains, but some individual), several very nice motels, and what looked like a fairly large mall.
Just next to what appeared to be a relatively prosperous retail area were heavily wooded areas that sloped up rather dramatically to ridges. You didn’t see sprawl. I noticed this driving up there as well. I noticed something else that I knew looking at maps; I-81 is a major route to Canada. I could tell by all the Ontario license plates I saw. Several of the people I met with in Syracuse, none of whom follow the Gricar case, commented on the same thing.
One thing that struck me was how much this fit with the voluntary departure theory and one of the murder theories. If this was Mr. Gricar, he could have stayed in Wilkes-Barre for a few days, bought some different clothes, maybe several weeks’ worth (he was wearing business attire, according to the witness) and driven off Canada. Likewise, he could have been with someone that weekend, and something happened; there were ample places to hide a body.
Being there really didn’t tell me anything new. It did tell me that even if it could be shown definitely that the person saw witnesses really was Mr. Gricar (I think it is very likely that it was), it wouldn’t tell us if he was murdered or if he decided to voluntarily leave.
Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section: http://www.centredaily.com/138/
Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at email@example.com