Special Reports

The Investigation Part 15: Rebooting the Computer

[This is the fifteenth part of a series on the investigation into the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.]


            Since the now famous dueling press conferences, there have been two “new” general classes of information that have come out about regarding the disappearance of Mr. Gricar.  “New” is in quotations marks.  Both classes of information were long known to law enforcement.  One was the revelation, reported in Mr. Bosak’s blog, that one of the Wilkes-Barre witnesses was a police officer.  This came out in late November 2008, though the witness reported the sighting to the police in late April 2005.1

            The second class is a new string of information regarding Mr. Gricar’s computer activities; a virtual rebooting of the story.  This all was released after Mr. Buehner’s call to have the laptop’s hard drive sent to Kroll Ontrack.  The laptop, and Mr. Gricar’s home computer, moved to the forefront of the investigation. 

            It started with the report from Kroll Ontrack, that no data could be recovered.  The police and the District Attorney rebooted the computer story and released more.   They revealed that Mr. Gricar had talked to people about eliminating the data on the laptop prior to his disappearance and that someone, possibly Ms. Fornicola, had seen a box for a program to erase the data after January of 2004. The article also noted:  “Rumors that Gricar had asked friends and colleagues about software that could erase the hard drive have been floating around the investigation, Madeira and Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver confirmed at a press conference. 2  The rumor mill seems to have gotten it right. 

At least some of the people he talked to were outside of that famous “inner circle.”  It was also revealed, in Mr. Bosak’s blog, that Mr. Gricar did not talk about it with his “computer savvy” nephew, Tony Gricar.  There are several entries regarding the significance, or lack thereof, of this.

In October 2008, the police indicated that Kroll could not determine if the software had been used on the computer.  They also indicated that there was no evidence that he had purchased this software.   Specifically, they didn’t have the box.

The story was again rebooted on 4/14/09.  It was revealed that Mr. Gricar had done searches on his desktop computer for methods of eliminating the data on a hard drive, including “water damage,” the very method that was used to destroy the laptop’s hard drive.3  They also discovered the missing box that contained the software, which was not known before.  Chief Weaver stated that it was his belief that Mr. Gricar erased the data, though he didn’t indicate that he believed that Mr. Gricar tossed the drive or the laptop.4  Several blogs have been written on this: 

The Data and Erasing It The Data and Erasing it, Part II

Revisiting the Laptop, the Drive, and the Case


The circumstances around this announcement were interesting.  First, it did fit the pattern of making an announcement around the anniversary.  Second, this was not new, or recently discovered, information, but it was new to us.  It had been discovered around the time of the PSP-CIA review in late 2006, but hadn’t been released until 2009, more than two years later.5  The joint press release said, "The investigation learned early on that Mr. Gricar had, in fact, purchased software to accomplish this." 6 They didn’t however announce that fact.

In one change, the Gricar family was taken out of the loop.  He said, "There's frustrations that I wasn't given a heads up on this."  He was also paraphrased as saying in the same article that this pointed away from some sort of foul play.6

Is there more unreleased evidence?  There are rumors, some that have appeared in print. 

First, was the quoted the comment from Detective Zaccagni made in the CDT on 10/29/05.  He said, “He [Mr. Gricar] made a conscious decision to go upstairs, take the laptop out of the case, get into his car and leave."7  Was this another “mistakement” from the detective, was he jumping to a conclusion, or did he have some evidence that Mr. Gricar took the computer? 

Second was this statement from someone generally in the know, my predecessor.  He wrote, in a blog on 2/5/09, “To my knowledge, none of the witnesses said they saw him holding a laptop outside of his car. “8  Mr. Bosak had written something similar in his previous blog in the fall of 2008.  It has never been reported that anyone saw Mr. Gricar with the laptop in Lewisburg, out or in the Mini Cooper.  So, what did he mean?

Third was this interesting post from a message board on 8/2/09.  The poster was not a frequent one, but the post is interesting:  “I thought that one or several people saw a guy in the parking lot, in a car just like Ray Gricar's, fiddling with a laptop computer. This may've come from my friend. Was it ever said by police?”9  Did the witnesses that saw Mr. Gricar in the parking lot see him, or someone, “fiddling with a laptop computer?”

I have a feeling that at some point, there will be a blog titled “The Data and Erasing It, Part III,” at some point.

1  PPG , 4/30/05  http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05120/496950-85.stm

2 CDT , 10/1/08, http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1913945/


3 CDT, 4/15/09  http://www.centredaily.com/news/ray_gricar/story/1228995.html


4 WTAJ, 4/15/09 http://wearecentralpa.com/content/fulltext/news/?cid=81841


5 DC , 4/16/09 http://tiny.cc/Policeknew


6 CDT , 4/15/09 http://www.centredaily.com/news/ray_gricar/story/1228995.html


7 CDT , 10/29/05, quoted here: http://tiny.cc/102905DZ


8 Just Gricar Blog, 2/5/09, http://tiny.cc/Bosekblog


0 http://boards.insessiontrials.com/showthread.php?p=13335476#post13335476