Parks Miller calls for county investigating grand jury

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller held a press conference Friday, July 31, 2015 in front of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller held a press conference Friday, July 31, 2015 in front of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. CDT photo

Just days after being absolved by a statewide grand jury of allegations of forgery, Centre County’s district attorney wants to get involved with a different kind of grand jury.

On Tuesday, Stacy Parks Miller petitioned Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler to convene a county investigating grand jury, according to court documents filed in the Prothonotary's Office.

The filing states that Parks Miller concluded the grand jury should be convened to consider “at least one unsolved murder, and a recent series of cases the scope of which cannot be determined without the powers granted to a county investigating grand jury.”

The proximity of the filing to the statewide grand jury’s report is a coincidence, Parks Miller said. It was an idea she conceived “several weeks ago,” conferring with experts and directing her staff to research the prospect. She claimed to have drafted the petition two weeks ago and approved it on Monday.

“The district attorney is acutely aware that some persons may attempt to construe this development as an effort to intimidate her opponents in the recent controversy where she was falsely accused of the crime of forgery,” a press release from her office said.

At a press conference Friday, Parks Miller publicly called for the state Attorney General’s Office to pursue charges against parties involved in the forgery allegations. Parks Miller said she would not use the grand jury to investigate any issues relating to herself, “however, should Centre County law enforcement officials become aware of allegations of political corruption at any level within Centre County unrelated to her specific case, (she) will not hesitate to use the resources of the investigating grand jury.”

Her experience with the statewide investigating body led her to explore the county option, the release said. The grand jury would be called for 18 months, extendable to 24 months, and consist of 23 jurors and seven alternates picked from a pool of 200 citizens.

“Centre County residents deserve the best tools law enforcement has and this is one more in our arsenal to make sure we are getting the job done right,” Parks Miller said in an email. “We have cases in mind that will best be served by this process at this time.”

Parks Miller detailed the cases that she was interested in investigating as “drug trafficking, corrupt organizations and unsolved disappearance cases,” but declined to elaborate because of confidentiality rules surrounding grand jury matters.

Centre County’s most famous unsolved disappearance, coincidentally, is former District Attorney Ray Gricar, who vanished in April 2005. There are a small number of unsolved murders in the area, including cold case deaths of Penn State students Betsy Aardsma in 1969 and Dana Bailey in 1987.

Kistler said he got the petition Tuesday afternoon, is reviewing it and plans to rule on the request within 10 days. To his knowledge, a county investigating grand jury has never been convened here, he said.

“We’re looking at it, looking at the law, and hope to make a decision soon,” Kistler said.