STATE COLLEGE — State Attorney General Tom Corbett said Thursday he has concluded that, because Ray Gricar's keys have not been recovered, the missing Centre County district attorney intended to return to his car.
Corbett, in Centre County for an unrelated matter, acknowledged that hope for a happy ending to Gricar's disappearance is fading because so much time has gone by without a trace of him.
"I certainly hope that we find him and we find him alive," Corbett said.
Gricar went missing after a cell phone call to his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, at 11:12 a.m. Friday, April 15. He told her he was driving on state Route 192 toward Lewisburg, which is about 50 miles east of Bellefonte.
His car, a red-and-white Mini Cooper, was seen parked in a small, unpaved parking lot across the street from a Lewisburg antiques mall next to the Susquehanna River between 5 and 6 p.m. that day, according to mall owner Craig Bennett. Police investigating Gricar's disappearance recovered the car there the next day.
His cell phone was in the car, but his laptop computer has not been recovered.
Police dogs traced Gricar's scent around the car but not beyond the parking lot or anywhere along the nearby river or riverbanks, leading to speculation he may have gotten into another vehicle, an investigator said.
Bennett has told police that he is 95 percent certain a man he noticed about noon Saturday inside the mall was Gricar and that he is 100 percent certain that the man looked as though he was waiting for someone.
Corbett said the first thing he asked about the case was where Gricar's keys were. Since they haven't turned up, Corbett said, he thinks Gricar planned to return to his car.
Corbett said he has not encountered any similar case -- a government prosecutor missing and no evidence left behind -- in his experience in law enforcement, which began as an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County more than 25 years ago.
Former Centre County Commissioner Vicki Wedler, a Kissinger Bigatel & Brower Realtor, added a new piece to the Gricar puzzle, describing to police her encounter with Fornicola and a "depressed" Gricar in Bellefonte's Talleyrand Park on the evening before he disappeared.
Wedler said she was seated on a bench about 5:30 p.m. waiting for her son, Wes Bumbarger, when Gricar and Fornicola walked by, exchanging hellos with her.
As she watched them strolling hand in hand around the park, Wedler said, she decided that she wanted to tell them something she'd been thinking for some time -- that they made a "perfect couple."
When they headed her way, she said, she intercepted them and told them her thought but was surprised that neither Gricar nor Fornicola uttered a word in reply. She was left to turn and walk away.
"I didn't get any reaction from Patty and maybe from Ray a weak smile," she said. "I didn't get the kind of reaction to my compliment that I would have expected."
Fornicola, asked about that April 14 encounter with Wedler, said her conversation with Gricar that evening was nothing out of the ordinary. She said neither she nor Gricar replied to Wedler because they were somewhat embarrassed to be the objects of such a personal remark.
County Commissioner Scott Conklin said Thursday that the county examined the financial records of the district attorney's office the week Gricar went missing and found no discrepancies.
"Anytime someone's missing, that's one of the first things you do," Conklin said. But he added that "Ray didn't handle any money, he didn't have access (to the office accounts)."
Mike Joseph can be reached at 235-3910. Lara Brenckle contributed to this report.