When doing his blog, my predecessor occasionally note how posters writing about the disappearance of Ray Gricar thought he was a “superman.” Mr. Bosak was right, and I have to admit I’m guilty of it as well. I was quite reluctant to acknowledge the possibility that Mr. Gricar was with a woman in Lewisburg, until his friend, Montour County Robert W. Buehner. Jr., suggested checking motels in the area for a woman. While many people who actively followed the Gricar case are very reluctant to say anything even perceived to be derogatory about Mr. Gricar that was not the case with the general public. Mr. Gricar had his critics, and they were not limited to people he tried to put in jail.
Here is what one person said, somewhat censored:
"Because of the DA’s [Mr. Gricar's] racist orientation, he basically felt that a [N-word] had no business trespassing on a white man's property."
"This is a total fraud, a Mickey Mouse presentation that is deaf, dumb and blind. The DA was outrageously out of line and unethical."
Who said these things? A disgruntled defendant on his way to a long stretch in prison? One of a disgruntled defendant’s family or friends? No.
These comments were made by Rev. Shellie Sampson. Mr. Gricar was prosecuting the man who shot his son, Kitu Sampson. The defendant claimed self defense and was acquited1, prompting these remarks. We will have no idea of how many friends and relatives of victims held negative views of Mr. Gricar.
The death penalty also generates heated emotions. One anti-death penalty group complained that Mr. Gricar had tried to re-file dismissed charges against death penalty protesters. They noted, “Gricar is a staunch supporter of executions in Pennsylvania.”
Mr. Gricar’s “stanch” support was basically that it was a legal decision, not a moral one. He was quoted some years before as saying, “I'm not supposed to be enthusiastic for the [laws] I like and not support the ones I don't like." http://tiny.cc/morality Personally, I wouldn’t call that “stanch,” but some anti-death penalty people obviously would consider anyone seeking a death penalty to be “stanch” supporter. We have seen people, extremists, which do such things as kill doctors that perform abortions in the name of protecting life. One could have looked these comments and assumed that Mr. Gricar was having people executed left and right.
Another poster on a message board found this site, regarding Mr. Gricar’s conduct in office. It said:
The Centre County District Attorney's Office under the direction of Ray F. Gricar has been abusing power with their liberal in your face BIG BROTHER is going to get you no matter what agenda for too long!!! Gricar's noted unethical, immoral and recently racist2 agenda has now come to light...
It is time for the people of Centre County to impeach or vote
Gricar out of office...
The violation of peoples [sic] rights must come to an end...
Gricar is guilty...
Gricar Must Go...
The site was called “GricarMustGo.com,” and now exists only in archived form. The poster who found the site noted that it went up in 2003, and expired in 2004, after Mr. Gricar announced that he would not seek a sixth term. Was this an attempt at “swift boating” by a potential opponent or something more? It could inspire someone to take action, even if just a negative campaigning tactic.
Mr. Gricar’s last real electoral test was in 2001, in a Republican Primary against one opponent, Mr. Robert “Bob” Bascom; no Democrat ran for the post in the general election. Mr. Gricar received about 55% of the vote to Mr. Bascom’s 45% (I am rounding and discarding the under votes). For a sixteen year incumbent in a Republican primary, this was not a particularly good showing; it showed weakness; there was some discontent with Mr. Gricar as District Attorney. Four years later, Mr. Bascom, running for the open seat, received about 39% of the vote Mr. Madeira’s 61%. It wasn’t Mr. Bascom’s strength in 2001 but Mr. Gricar’s weakness. (After looking at the data, I’m left to wonder Mr. Gricar’s decision not to run in 2005 might have been influenced by his 2001 primary showing.) It seems clear that a large portion of the Republican electorate would have preferred to see someone else as district attorney.
Not everyone liked Mr. Gricar, obviously; he had enemies for his public actions; many were not the people he put in jail. The police (and I think Mr. Bosak) did look at people recently released from prison, and came up empty. There are others, possibly with a variety of motives.
Mr. Buehner, though not in so many words, raised the possibility of a more personal reason, a romantic interlude gone wrong. That is possible as well.
Tony Gricar has mentioned someone with “a slow burn.” That is possible, especially if is the loved ones of someone involved in a case. If this was murder, there is no shortage of motives.
Now, none of the people mentioned are truly suspects in a murder, but they obviously did not love Mr. Gricar. All things considered, there are probably thousand of people with less than friendly feelings about him. The police, the Bellefonte Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, and FBI do not have the combined manpower to do a time line on all of them, or even determine who all of them are. Most of them would not be driven to murder and fewer could pull it off perfectly.
1 In complete fairness, the police did not charge Mr. Sampson shooter, calling it self defense; Mr. Sampson had broken into the house of the defendant. Mr. Gricar called a “coroner’s jury” to determine the cause of death; it was deadlocked. Because it was deadlocked, Mr. Gricar could file charges. He did, of first degree murder, third degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter. The District Justice in the case tossed the first two charges because malice could not be shown.
II have seen District Attorney’s in the Philadelphia area decline to press charges in cases where there much greater questions of if the killing really was self defense. This was a weak case and Mr. Gricar did everything he could to win it; prosecuting someone who was arguably defending his home was not going to be a good political move in Centre County (or in Philadelphia).
I can also more than understand why Mr. Sampson would be upset over the loss of his son; he generally, in his ministry, did not make such comments.
2 This was the case of a driver being denied ARD. The attorney in case claimed the denial was based on race. The judge in the case initially agreed, but Mr. Gricar submitted statistics showing that there was no racial bias in sentencing. The judge reversed his decision.