Special Reports

Review board lends new eyes to Ray Gricar search

BELLEFONTE — District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller is assembling a review board, comprised of experienced local investigators and herself, to give the mystery of Ray Gricar's 2005 disappearance "new eyes."

When elected in November, Parks Miller promised to make the case a high priority. The announcement of the review board comes two weeks before the five-year anniversary of the former district attorney’s disappearance.

“This review is to satisfy myself that everything that could be done was done,” Parks Miller said Wednesday. “Obviously, previously, I was only privy to what the public was privy to. And since taking office and being able to review the file and the investigation, I can say I was very pleased to learn that what the public was informed of is just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what has been done in the investigation.”

Parks Miller said she isn’t going to talk publicly about the case — what’s been done or hasn’t been done. But she said it is in no way gone cold, and lead detective Matthew Rickard, with the Bellefonte Police Department, really does chase every lead, even those that seem far-fetched.

“A lot of false leads come in,” she said. “We’re not going to be presenting those to the public. We’re not going to be presenting information unless it is credible. But we pursue them all, because you never know.”

Gricar hasn’t been heard from since April 15, 2005, when he took a drive through Brush Valley. His car was found the next day in the parking lot of a Lewisburg antiques mall.

Parks Miller said she has the support of Gricar’s family, with whom she talked last week.

“So far we’re extremely pleased with Stacy Parks Miller’s role in this,” said Gricar’s nephew, Tony Gricar. “We’re very comfortable with her and her role in this, and her communication is great. She’s walked into the largest case that they’ve seen in that area, and we’ll see where it takes us from here.”

Law enforcement, including Bellefonte police— which has headed the case from the start — gave the green light, she said.

“Everybody, out of respect and deference for Ray Gricar, everybody is willing to do whatever it takes to solve the mystery,” Parks Miller said. “The search for Ray Gricar will continue until law enforcement and myself are satisfied we have the right answer.”

The review board will likely take a look at several issues, and Parks Miller said that could mean re-interviewing people who were close to Gricar, but haven’t talked to police since the early stages of the investigation.

“I think people expect that,” Parks Miller said.

Five years after he called off from work, telling his live-in girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, that he was taking a drive, Gricar’s family still wavers between three theories of what may have caused him to never return.

“I can’t say anything different than I’ve said for five years,” Tony Gricar said. “Which is sad in itself. There’s just not enough evidence to rule anything in or out. That’s been a maddening thing from the start.”

Parks Miller said she too can’t say if she gravitates toward one of the three possibilities — foul play, suicide or that Gricar just walked away from his life.

“I’m not going to substitute my opinion for an investigation that’s just being revived again,” she said. “The only thing I will say is that I believe homicide is the least likely, but we rule out nothing.”

Parks Miller is the third district attorney to hold Gricar’s position since he vanished. Rickard is the second lead detective, and Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver is the second chief to handle the case.

“It’s just been one of those things — there’s been a lot of turnover over the years on this case,” Tony Gricar said. “Every time that something happens, it gives us some knew hope, to finding out what happened or getting some sort of closure.”

“It’s been a roller coaster from the start,” he said. The case has its share of bizarre and, as Tony Gricar said, “sensational” twists, such as a book that had several “loose parallels,” he said. But there have also been reported sightings that never panned out and other more credible leads, such as when investigators found Gricar’s county-issued laptop in the Susquehanna River, minus its hard drive. The hard drive was found in the river a few months later, too damaged to provide any information.

“It’s just one of those things that everybody is sort of going back into their day-to-day lives as much as we can,” Tony Gricar said. “You start to move on. There’s definitely that aspect of it. Then you get something new, and there’s hope that we can get at least some closure on this. I think everybody has their opinions on it, but there’s nothing really factual that can lead to one theory over another.”

Sara Ganim can be reached at 231-4616.