The case for declaring Ray Gricar, the missing former Centre County District Attorney, dead will be before the Court this coming week. Mr. Gricar’s daughter and estate trustee, Lara, has petitioned the Court to declare him dead. That petition is public, and Mr. White of the CDT, was kind enough to send me a copy; it has been quoted in numerous new stories already. I can’t post it because it is a PDF and I can’t convert it. Sorry about that.
I did read it, and have some impressions.
1. It contained a number of general points, i.e. who Mr. Gricar was, his address, that he was the District Attorney. It basically gave the same information on his daughter.
2. It is basically a chronology of what happened, and there was almost nothing new in it. I expected both; I’ve seen another petition to declare a missing person dead and this is standard. The only thing that I saw that was new was when Mr. Gricar’s girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, called his daughter. The petition indicates that it was in the “late hours of April 15, 2005,” after reporting she reported him missing. We knew Ms. Fornicola contacted Ms. Gricar either early on 4/16 or late on 4/15, but we now have a time, not that it is earthshattering.
Never miss a local story.
3. The petition also included a general listing of the massive press coverage, print, television, and on-line. Again, that is expected and is used to show that there would be a reasonable expectation that Mr. Gricar would be aware that he is missing.
4. There are some startling omissions.
A. Nothing was listed that indicated Mr. Gricar’s desire to get rid of the data on his laptop, nor the computer searches on Mr. Gricar’s desktop about how to destroy a hard drive.
B. Despite several people (Ms. Fornicola, Ms. Arnold, Ms. Spotts, and Mr. Joseph) publicly noting changes in Mr. Gricar’s demeanor and/or routine prior to his vanishing, none of that is included.
C. There are two witness sightings specifically mentioned. The sighting in Texas, where photographs were taken; the FBI determined that the photos were not of Mr. Gricar. The second was noting that the woman seen with Mr. Gricar in Lewisburg has not come forward, may not exist or may not be connected with the disappearance. None of the other witness reports from 4/16-4/18/051, including the Wilkes-Barre sighting, which the police have publicly called “credible,” are mentioned.
D. The petition indicates that the Bellefonte Police Department did check witness sightings from Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Maryland that came in from May through July of 2005. It goes on to say that. “None of these efforts provided any additional information and the Police concluded that the sightings were not actually Gricar.” That comment is not entirely accurate, based on published reports.
There were a number of sighting in Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, and, if I recall correctly, in Michigan, that were ruled out. The police, in some cases, actually matched up the person reported as Mr. Gricar with someone who clearly was not Mr. Gricar. There was one exception. That is the sighting of Mr., Gricar in Southfield, MI, a Detroit suburb, on 5/27/05. Then lead detective in the case, Darrel Zaccagni said, in the press, "It might be a good, credible sighting. But without any more, we can't do much."2 That certainly does not prove that Mr. Gricar was alive more than a month after he was reported missing, but that is a long way from saying this was “not actually Gricar.” That claim certainly does not jibe with the press report (and I know of no additional report where this sighting was determined not to be Mr. Gricar).
This leads to the fifth point.
5. In terms of the statute for declaring someone dead, “diligent inquiry” into the location of the missing person is required. The petition relies solely on law enforcement for this “diligent inquiry.” That creates a problem, because Ms. Gricar cannot state what this “diligent inquiry” has been or what it discovered.
Now, that isn’t Ms. Gricar’s, or her attorney’s, fault. The police have not released a lot of information publicly (though more has trickled out). Further, the police have released evidence in the past without telling the family. The most noted example was 2009 computer searches, where family spokesman, Tony Gricar complained (with justification) that the family had not been informed and found out about it after it was released to the press. He referred to it as being “blindsided by this proverbial curveball.”3 The petition notes this, to an extent, in regard to the Parks Miller review panel, saying of it, “No new information has been provided to date [emphasis added].” In short, Ms. Gricar can’t swear to something that she doesn’t know, even if there is relevant information known to someone else.
There are some remedies to this. First, Ms. Gricar can get the information from the police. The police might be willing to provide it and may have provided it already. Ms. Gricar can ask the Court to subpoena it, in which case the police don’t have an option.
Second, and this interesting, the Court itself can appoint someone, or some agency, to investigate and report back. It could conceivably order someone to look at what the police have discovered and report back.4
Third, Ms. Gricar might have conducted a private investigation, hiring an investigator to conduct a parallel investigation, and reach conclusions.
In any event, what the “diligent inquiry” has been and what, if anything, that inquiry has discovered, can be known, even if Ms. Gricar is unaware of it now. We do know that in the hearing, the attorney for Ms. Gricar, H. Amos Goodall, plans to call three witnesses. One will be Ms. Gricar, one will be Ms. Fornicola, and a third, unnamed, witness.
Hopefully that third witness will be someone who is currently involved in the investigation, or someone who conducted an investigation on behalf of Ms. Gricar. Hopefully it will be someone who can directly state “diligent inquiry,” along with that “diligent inquiry” produced. The public, the Court, and Mr. Gricar deserve that.
1 The sighting of Mr. Gricar behind the Centre County Courthouse in the afternoon of 4/15/05 was never listed as “credible” by the police. See: http://www.centredaily.com/2009/03/12/2397159/behind-the-courthouse.html
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 firstname.lastname@example.org