BELLEFONTE — Police searching for a missing district attorney said Wednesday that they have received their best lead in almost two months after he was reportedly sighted in Michigan.
A man and his daughter reported seeing Centre County prosecutor Ray F. Gricar with an older woman at a restaurant on May 27 in Southfield, Mich., a Detroit suburb, Bellefonte Police Officer Darrel Zaccagni said Wednesday.
Gricar, 59, has been missing since April 15, after taking a drive from his home in Bellefonte. His car was found the next day near an antique store he frequented in Lewisburg, about 45 miles from Bellefonte.
Hundreds of tips on his whereabouts have come in since then, but Zaccagni said, "This is an important one. I give this probably one of our most credible sightings yet."
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Still, he added, "None of us are getting our hopes up that high because we're talking seven weeks now."
Police in Michigan followed up with the two witnesses, who told authorities they thought it was Gricar because they saw his picture on TV after arriving home from their meal.
The male witness was e-mailed eight photos from Bellefonte police in the last week which included a picture of Gricar as well as several other similar-looking men. The witness picked out Gricar's picture, Zaccagni said.
But, according to Bellefonte Detective Tom Thal, both witnesses had been researching Gricar's disappearance on the Internet and had looked at several photos of Gricar before looking at the photo lineup sent by Bellefonte police.
"I thought it was pretty good at first," Thal said. "But then a lieutenant there said they'd seen photos of him. You never want witnesses looking at photos of a subject before picking them out in a lineup."
Thal said he's still not sure that the reported sighting is legitimate, although Zaccagni is the lead investigator in the case.
Michigan police have since returned to the restaurant and showed Gricar's picture to employees, some of whom told authorities that the man in the picture looked familiar.
Zaccagni said those factors gave the reported sighting added credibility. Police consider the last credible sightings of Gricar to be in the Lewisburg area in the days after he was reported missing.
He declined to disclose the names of the witnesses or the restaurant, but added that the eatery was near a hotel and about 10 minutes from the U.S.-Canada border.
Police are working on a composite drawing of the woman, described to be in her 70s; she was reportedly seen with Gricar at the restaurant. Police have asked the restaurant for the bill from that table.
CDT staff writer Erin Nissley contributed to this report.