The names, Ted McKnight, the former District Attorney of Clinton County and of Bob Buehner, the current District Attorney of Montour County should be familiar ones to followers of the Gricar case. Most publicly, they can be remembered as part of the “Dueling Press Conferences” is early July of 2008. They were also noted for their calls in 2006 for sending the case to the State Attorney General’s Office. Though not widely commented on, Mr. McKnight suggested the district attorneys’ meeting on Mr. Gricar’s disappearance, in late May of 2005.1 Both men have done much that has been reported; Mr. Buehner, as an incumbent, has gotten a little more coverage. Both men have done a lot more that you have read about in the newspapers.
Even before this meeting, Mr. Buehner and Mr. McKnight decided to see what they could do. The contacted Mr. Gricar’s girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, and ask to discuss the case with them. Ms. Fornicola agreed, and they discussed the case with her for four hours at Gamble Mill Restaurant. Keep in mind that Ms. Fornicola had been interrogated by the police, but before she was polygraphed. From the description and length it sounded exceptionally detailed and perhaps intense. Afterward, Mr. Buehner described Ms. Fornicola has having “no guile,” and being completely straightforward. I’ve never met Ms. Fornicola, so the assessment surprised me. They reported this to the meeting of district attorneys.
At the meeting Mr. Buehner suggested the checking of motel registrations for women registering and then checking the PennDOT database to see if the photo matched the description of the “Mystery Woman.” Mr. McKnight, either there or before, brought up the witness who contacted him. These things would be repeated in Mr. Buehner’s letter that sparked the “Dueling Press Conferences,” more than three years later. The lack of action on the part of Centre County authorities, for three years, sparked the frustration that erupted in Mr. Buehner’s conference.
Mr. Buehner, in particular, kept up comments on the case, at one point suggesting a grand jury as well as turning the case over to the Attorney General. In June of 2008, he tried writing District Attorney Michael T. Madeira directly, noting Mr. McKnight’s witness, and his now three year old suggestion of checking motels. He had also read about Kroll Ontrack in an article, and included that in the letter. After Mr. Madeira didn’t even bother to respond for three weeks2, Mr. Buehner called the press conference with Mr. McKnight. The rest is history.
Mr. Buehner from continued his quest to find out what happened to his friend. He has continued. As the District Attorney, he still talks with law enforcement. He also talks with some of us interested in the case, like me; we do communicate with each other. When I first contacted him, several weeks after that press conference, I was surprised that he knew me through my persona, “J. J. in Phila.” He was kind enough to meet me for lunch in Danville last summer, and spend the afternoon with me in Lewisburg, looking at the site; I was planning to stop in Lewisburg, but he suggested that we both go together. He didn’t have to, but I am grateful that he was willing.
I can understand how someone not following the case closely could think that Mr. McKnight and Mr. Buehner were just complainers and not doing anything, or that they a political motive.3 If your sole impression of these gentlemen was from the well publicized “Dueling Press Conferences,” you might get that impression. It would be a false impression. Both men literally worked on this case longer than Mr. Madeira did. I can also see how frustrated both men had become with the investigation up to that point. That private frustration, capped by Mr. Madeira’s failure to even acknowledge Mr. Buehner’s private letter, prompted that public response.
Ted McKnight and Bob Buehner are truly the unsung heroes of the Gricar case. They are unsung for those private, behind the scenes, actions they took, that you have not read about until today. And I’m sure that there are the things that I don’t know about!
1 CDT 5/20/05, http://www.centredaily.com/news/ray_gricar/story/3779.html
2 The first thing that made me really start to question Mr. Madeira’s actions in the Gricar investigation was his conduct in regard to Mr. Buehner. It was wrong on so many levels. I had never communicated with Mr. Buehner before that.
3 At the time of the “Dueling Press Conferences,” Mr. McKnight had left office and Mr. Buehner announced his intent not to seek reelection. Unlike Mr. Madeira, neither was running for anything. Both, like Mr. Madeira, the Attorney General, and Mr. Gricar, are registered Republicans.
[Part Three is next.]