Special Reports

Gricar disappearance at 5 years: Trail growing cold

5 years ago today: District Attorney Ray Gricar calls his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, around 11:30 a.m. and says he is driving through Brush Valley.

When he doesn't return 12 hours later, Fornicola reports him missing to Bellefonte police.

Gricar's car is found the next day in a Lewisburg antique mall parking lot. His cell phone is inside, and there is no forced entry. Two people report seeing him in that mall the day he disappeared. The case begins garnering national attention when Fornicola and Gricar's daughter, Lara, plead at a news conference for Gricar to contact them.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to go through. In some ways, it's worse than having a parent die, I think, because you have no closure. I just want to know where my dad is." — Lara Gricar, July 24, 2005

Aug. 1, 2005: Two fishermen find Gricar's laptop, missing its hard drive, in the Susquehanna River. Police say it may have been tossed from the state Route 45 bridge, a short walk from where his car was found.

October 2005: Gricar's laptop hard drive is found in muddy banks of the river. Nearly four years later, it is examined using the latest technology, and found to be too damaged for any data to be recovered.

May 13, 2006: The Centre Daily Times publishes a report questioning whether the investigation into Gricar's disappearance missed some possible leads. For example, the CDT reported that investigators dismissed an assistant district attorney's report that she saw Gricar in Bellefonte the afternoon he vanished, and that several people close to Gricar had not been interviewed by the lead investigator.

"I think he really cared for (girlfriend) Patty and, from what I've heard, for Lara. I don't see him just leaving like that." — Investigator Darrel Zaccagni, June 28, 2005

Spring 2007: Bellefonte Detective Matt Rickard takes over the case.

"It's an aggravating and a frustrating case. What I think it is going to take, short of a body, is for that one person out there who may know something to come forward and be that needle in the haystack we've been looking for." — Detective Matt Rickard, April 15, 2008

July 2, 2008: Montour County District Attorney Bob Buehner blasts the probe, thus far, saying not enough is being done and the Attorney General's Office should be involved. By the third anniversary, investigators say leads are growing cold.

April 15, 2009: On the fourth anniversary, investigators disclose that before he disappeared, someone using Gricar's home computer searched the Internet for information on "how to wreck a hard drive," "how to fry a hard drive" and "water damage to a notebook computer."

"To me, it looks like it absolutely knocks out the theory of foul play." — Tony Gricar, April 15, 2009

March 31, 2010: District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller announces she will assemble a review board that comprises experienced local investigators and herself, to give the mystery of Gricar's disappearance "new eyes."

"Everybody, out of respect and deference for Ray Gricar, everybody is willing to do whatever it takes to solve the mystery. ... The only thing I will say is that I believe homicide is the least likely, but we rule out nothing." — District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, March 31, 2010

After five years of roller coaster emotions, deep investigation and sleepless nights for family and investigators, the question remains: Where's Ray Gricar?

Since day one, there have been three theories: foul play, suicide, or that he simply walked away. Today, investigators still weigh those same scenarios, with few clues to point them in any one direction.

Both Gricar's live-in girlfriend and co-worker, Patty Fornicola, and his daughter, Lara Gricar, took and passed lie detector tests during the first year of his disappearance. His bank records and cell phone records still show no activity.

Many sightings of Gricar have been reported, but were investigated and ruled out. Tips from strangers, from prison inmates, even from the author of a novel whose fictional story contained three strange parallels — all have led nowhere.

Three district attorneys have taken office since Gricar vanished. Two Bellefonte police chiefs and two lead detectives have worked the case.

The FBI, state police, NASA, the Fish and Boat Commission, even a psychic — all have assisted Bellefonte police at some point. The case has received national attention, being featured on TV, from national network news to cable channels, and even a drama.

The case also has a strong following of people simply intrigued by the mystery. Countless Web sites and message boards endlessly review published details and hash over theories.

Gricar's family has expressed emotions about the investigation that have careened from hope to frustration.Five years later, the missing district attorney's nephew, Tony Gricar, says the family is doing its best to move on.

"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."