BELLEFONTE — Investigators in the case of missing Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar have pictures taken by a woman who thinks she may have photographed the missing prosecutor in Texas.
Police have shown the images, which the woman took with her cell phone camera, to Gricar's live-in girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, who told investigators the man pictured could be the missing prosecutor, Bellefonte police officer Darrel Zaccagni said.
"She believes there is a distinct possibility it may be Ray," Zaccagni said Monday. "When I first looked at it I thought, 'That's Ray.' Then I looked at it again and thought, 'No.' "
Having seen Gricar's photograph in news coverage, the woman, whose name was not released by police, spotted a man she thought was Gricar at a Chili's restaurant in Nacogdoches, Texas, last week.
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The woman, believing the man was Gricar, approached him and asked him for directions to a nearby zoo, Zaccagni said. The man replied that he was not from the area.
When she pressed him further as to where he was from, the man seemed evasive before finally saying Tennessee, Zaccagni said. The woman said he did not have a Southern accent.
At some point, she took pictures of the man with her relatives in the photographs, Zaccagni said.
That cell phone camera is being shipped to Bellefonte police so they can attempt to remove a higher-quality image directly from the device. The e-mailed pictures police now have are of low quality. Those images are not yet being released to the public, Zaccagni said, although they have been released to Gricar's family.
"There is some credibility to it," Zaccagni said. "People are 50-50. Some people think it's him; some people think no way."
Bellefonte investigators are in touch with Texas authorities, who are searching for the man. He paid with cash, so authorities do not even have a credit card receipt to go on.
"We want to locate this individual," Zaccagni said. "We're just hoping this guy steps forward. At least then the family will know."
Gricar, 59, disappeared April 15. About 11:30 a.m. that day, he called Fornicola to say he was taking a drive on state Route 192 in Brush Valley.
Fornicola called police 12 hours later when Gricar did not return.
Gricar's red and white Mini Cooper was found the next day in a Lewisburg parking lot with his cell phone inside.
Police have pursued possible sightings in Wilkes-Barre, Ohio, Michigan and Maryland and elsewhere, but none have panned out.
On July 30, fisherman scooped Gricar's laptop computer out of the Susquehanna River. The county-issued computer's hard drive was missing, so it was of no investigative help to police.
Pete Bosak can be reached at 235-3928.