In this blog, I want to look at similarities between disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar and the death of Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan P. Luna. For this entry, I’m going to assume both men were murdered, though that is not a fact in evidence. I want to look at the possibility that both were murdered by the same person. I’ll do that by asking questions
1. Was their any connection in their professional careers between the two?
So far as can be determined, no. Mr. Gricar was a local District Attorney in Centre County. He would prosecute criminal cases in Centre County that were generally violations of state law or local ordinances. Mr. Luna prosecuted violations of Federal law in the Baltimore area. It would be very unlikely that they would cross professional paths.
2. Did they have similar backgrounds or interests that might have pointed to them crossing paths?
Both were male prosecutors, but that is where the similarities ended. Mr. Gricar grew up in the Cleveland, went to college at Case-Western Reserve, the University of Cincinnati Law School; he was a public prosecutor for all of his professional carrier. He was Indians fan. Mr. Luna grew up in New York City, went to Fordham, and attended University of North Carolina Law School. He was an assistant prosecutor in New York City for about two years, then he was with the Federal Trade Commission and a private firm for a while. Mr. Luna was 19 years younger than Mr. Gricar, and he rooted for the Yankees.1
Mr. Gricar was twice divorced, with an adult daughter. He was a Caucasian of Slovenian ancestry. Mr. Luna was married and had two young children; he was biracial, of Filipino and African American ancestry.
3. Did they ever interact?
Looking at where they lived, and their career and education paths, it was unlikely that the ever met. Mr. Luna died in December of 2003, at was in the news for a few weeks after that. Mr. Gricar was, of course, the District Attorney at the time; Ms. Arnold was an assistant DA. She said, “Before Ray's disappearance I had never heard of Luna.” 2
Considering the prominence the Chief Mel Wiley3 case has had in the Gricar disappearance, it seems to be very unlikely that Mr. Luna’s death would not have been mentioned by Mr. Gricar, if he knew Mr. Luna. Further, unlike Chief Wiley, if Mr. Luna was murdered, it occurred much close to Centre County than the Wiley case, and in the same state.
I could have understood Mr. Gricar, or the staff of the District Attorney’s Office, talking about the possible murder of Mr. Luna when it happened, December 2003, or even a few months after. It was in the news, it happened Pennsylvania, it involved a prosecutor, and it had just happened. Yet, according to Ms. Arnold, she never heard of it.
4. Was their a similar modus operandi (Latin for “method of operation”) between the two cases?
It is possible that both men were lured to their deaths, but the circumstances were very different.
A. Mr. Gricar left from home; Mr. Luna left from the office.
B. Mr. Gricar left early to mid morning; Mr. Luna left after 11:30 PM.
C. Mr. Gricar drove about 56 miles, on a relatively direct path; Mr. Luna drove a minimum of 190 miles on a very indirect path.
D. Mr. Gricar took his cell phone; Mr. Luna left his behind in the office.
E. Mr. Gricar took the day off; Mr. Luna was suppose to fax a plea agreement that night, and was expected in court the next day.
F. Mr. Gricar phoned his girlfriend from the road; Mr. Luna had no contact with his wife or family members after he left.
G. The Mini Cooper, the car Mr. Gricar was driving, was found in a fairly densely populated area; Mr. Luna’s car was found in a rural area.
H. The Mini showed no evidence of a crime; Mr. Luna’s car had a large amount of blood.
I. The Mini was parked, engine off; Mr. Luna’s car was in a ditch, with the engine running.
J. Mr. Luna’s body was found; there was no effort to hide it. Mr. Gricar’s body was never found.
It should be obvious that the modus operandi (I do like Latin) of both deaths was quite different.
One author (please don’t link to him) referred to drug cases and tried to connect the two together.4 At the time Mr. Luna disappeared, he was prosecuting one. However, Mr. Gricar was not prosecuting one; the major case, of Taj “Verbal” Lee, was being handled by the State Attorney General’s Office. Mr. Madeira, the outgoing District Attorney, was the Deputy State Attorney General that was prosecuting the case; while his political career might have vanished (but not inexplicably), he has not.
So what similarities are there between Mr. Luna and Mr. Gricar? They were both male, they both could drive, they were both prosecutors, and they were both baseball fans (of different teams). Other than that, they had nothing in common.
In terms of their practice of law, they prosecuted different crimes in different, non overlapping, geographical areas. In terms of how they were doing within their practice was different. Mr. Gricar was looking at retirement, on his own terms, as the elected head of his office; Mr. Luna was in danger of losing his staff position, and facing a polygraph regarding missing money. In short, Mr. Luna was under a professional cloud in his career; Mr. Gricar was not, though the 2001 Republican Primary showed that he had some weakness.
If both were murdered, Modus Operandi of the murderer was much different. There were some stunning differences and far more tangents than parallels.
In reality, it is very unlikely that if Mr. Luna was murdered, it was because he prosecuted the bad guys. As one investigator said, "A professional rubout, they'd put one in the back of your head and dump you in the harbor. There's something else going on here we don't see."5 I’ve never heard of a professional hit where the killer used a pen knife. If it was Mr. Luna’s penknife that inflicted that damage, I’ve never heard of a hit man who’d have to use the victim’s weapon. I’ve never heard of a hit man driving the bleeding, but still alive, victim around in the victim’s own vehicle, for more than four and a half hours.
In looking at both cases, it becomes clear that they were not related. That does not, however, does not help us much in the disappearance of Mr. Gricar. It merely eliminates one very unlikely possibility.
[Part 3, The Public Case, is next]