Special Reports

The Least Weak Evidence

Occasionally, I’ve been accused of “pushing” the theory that former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar walked away.  I’ve been, according to some of the posters on message boards, been “pushing” it along with Mr. Bosak, Ms. Nissley, Ms. Ganim, the various other staff members of the Centre Daily Times, the reporters of WJAC, WTAJ, Mr. Renner, Bellefonte Police Chief Weaver, former Chief Dixon, former Detective Zaccagni, current Detective Rickard, members of the State Attorney General’s Office, Pennsylvania State Police, Ms. Fornicola, Mr. Sloane, Mr. Madeira, various other posters on message boards, and the minimum of fourteen witnesses that reported seeing Mr. Gricar on or after 4/15/05.  I assume the Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Grove members, and Alien Reptilians will eventually make their appearances. : )

            Here are my odds on what happened:

Voluntary Departure (Walkaway)                    48%

Foul Play                                                         42%

(Murder, but a few others as well)                                         

Suicide                                                            09%

Something Else                                              01%

            Now, notice a few things about these odds.  First, I can “push” a lot better than that, if I want to.  I’m an ex-politician and good at making cases; I certainly would not have posted two separate murder scenarios (though one was much weaker than the other), if I was interested in “pushing” walkaway.  Second, I don’t have one single theory that I would say is probable, above 50% likely.  I’m undecided, really.  (I’m so bloody skeptical that a friend of mine with a great deal of prosecutorial experience said he’d never want me on a jury.)  Third, the odds I give have not changed since the last time I posted them; the odds on walkaway have not increased since December 2008.

            Fourth, and the reason I’m writing this entry, is that there isn’t a heck of a lot of difference between on the odds on walk away and foul play.  I’ve given a six percentage point difference between the two.  It would be fair to say that I lean slightly towards walkaway, but not by too much.  The reason is that the evidence points to the walkaway theory, but it is not particularly strong evidence.  The evidence for walkaway is the least weak evidence.   It might surprise you what I consider to be that evidence.

            Let’s look at something that I’ve discussed recently, the destruction of the laptop’s hard drive.  I think it is probable that Mr. Gricar removed it and tossed it.  Could he have tossed it to hide details of planned walkaway?  Sure.  Could he have tossed it prior to his suicide?  Yes.  Could he have been meeting someone late in the day in Lewisburg, got down there early, and tossed it, only to be murdered by the person he was meeting?  Absolutely.  In other words, even if more evidence comes out that Mr. Gricar tossed the drive, it wouldn’t increase the likelihood of any possibility.

            Much of the evidence is like the drive, it can point to walkaway, but it can point to foul play (or even suicide) as well.  Most of the evidence can point to walkaway, but some points more strongly to walkaway.

            Okay, what is that evidence?  I have four things that point, almost exclusively, to walkaway.

5.  20/20 Hindsight  Mr. Gricar borrowed a copy of the novel 20/20 Vision in 1990-91 from a Pennsylvania State Trooper.  The book has many similarities to the details in this case; the major one is that all the action takes place on April 14 and 15 (of different years).  One plot point is that a character fakes his own death.

            Virtually no one made the connection until the author, Pamela West, who consulted Mr. Gricar while researching the book, noted the similarities.  There are a limited number of people that knew or could have known that Mr. Gricar read the book; even Ms. West did not know when she made the connection.

4.  Wiley and Gricar, the Timing  Mr. Gricar talked about the Wiley case with Mr. Sloane.  Chief Wiley disappeared five years after Mr. Gricar moved to State College and, while Chief Wiley was from the outskirts of Cleveland, he was not in Mr. Gricar’s jurisdiction; Mr. Sloane didn’t start working at the office until seven years after that.  Ms. Arnold also thought the case was more generally discussed in the office.  Chief Wiley, whose disappearance was voluntary, has no connection with Centre County.

3.  Income and Assets  Every time I look at Mr. Gricar’s financial situation in the ten years prior to his disappearance, I get red flags; while I do not have access to his records, every little tidbit I get raises a red flag.  One thing that I found stunning was that the second Ms. Gricar worked.  Their household income was higher than just his six digit gross salary.  There seems to be some assets that survived the settlement.  His expenses after that we not too great and he was still getting that salary.  Maybe there is an alternate explanation, but I’ve yet to hear it.

2.  Liability and the Mini Cooper    Absolutely no one, even if they believe Mr. Gricar was murdered, can explain why the Mini Cooper was in Ms. Fornicola’s name.   It would not protect him from liability issues, the stated reason for putting it in Ms. Fornicola’s name.   The county carried liability insurance on Mr. Gricar, so any personal assets would be protected.   Ms. Fornicola rarely drove the Mini and had a car that she principally drove; Mr. Gricar was the principal driver of the Mini.

            One correspondent of mine thought that perhaps Mr. Gricar having an affair and bought the car out of guilt.  That would be like episode of The Simpsons where Homer, a bowler, buys Marge, who doesn’t bowl, a bowling ball; Marge was not happy.  While the car was legally Ms. Fornicola’s, it was, de facto, Mr. Gricar’s car.  He didn’t have another one to drive.

            The only reason that makes sense is that, if Mr. Gricar wasn’t there, Ms. Fornicola would get the car.  The Mini was purchased more than nine months prior to Mr. Gricar’s disappearance, and I’ve never heard of anyone definitely planning suicide nine months in advance.

1.  Behind the Courthouse  This is the sighting of Carolyn Fenton (now Ms. Larabee), then a law clerk, of Mr. Gricar in a different, metallic colored, car behind the Courthouse in Bellefonte at 3:00 PM on 4/15/05.  She knew Mr. Gricar and, from what has been reported, there are no witnesses that put Mr. Gricar in Lewisburg at that time.

            I cannot come up with a reasonable explanation outside of the context of walkaway.  I can come up with two explanations in the context of walkaway:

A.  After acquiring a car, Mr. Gricar wanted to get something from the house and didn’t want Ms. Fornicola to walk in on him.  He checked the parking lot to see if her car was there before heading to the house.

B.  He was dropping off the helper who delivered the car to him in Lewisburg (and that helper might be on the video tape from the security camera).

            Okay, that is what leads me in the direction of walkaway; how strong is that evidence?  Let’s look at each.

5.  There were, as noted in the blog, other literary coincidences, even one that happened on April 15.  If this the only thing that pointed to walkaway, I’d be inclined to dismiss it as coincidence (and it might be).  It is the weakest piece of evidence that points exclusively to walkaway. 

4.  Though it is hugely unlikely, Wiley could be a coincidence, and the second coincidence in a row.  Also, Mr. Gricar could have just found the case fascinating, but not something he’d like to try.  I find the case interesting, to the point that I remembered some of the details (though not Wiley’s name) decades later, but I have no intention of “pulling a Wiley.”

3.  We, you and I, are on the outside looking in when it comes to the finances; the data is not public.  There are numerous red flags, but there could be reasonable explanations for them.

2.  This is one that I can not explain; it has left nearly every observer puzzled.

1.  If I was sure that Ms. Fenton was right, I would say that Mr. Gricar walked away; we all could say, “Mystery solved,” and go home.  I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

            From everything I’ve heard about Ms. Fenton is a very credible that held and now holds a position of responsibility; she is intelligent and honest.  Responsible, intelligent and honest people can make mistakes (and do every day).

            No other witness can definitely put Mr. Gricar behind the Courthouse at 3:00 PM on 4/15/05; Judge Grine is unsure of the day.  Ms. Fenton saw Mr. Gricar as he drove past, a fleeting viewing.  It is possible see saw someone else and mistook him for Mr. Gricar.  Of all the witnesses, I give this sighting the weakest chance of being correct.

  My Take on the Witnesses  I can explain every other witness account fully in the context of Mr. Gricar being murdered and all of them are stronger.

            A lot of theories regarding murder that float around the Internet, the mass conspiracy of just about everyone, a plot by the CIA, the Ray Gricar look-alike wondering around Lewisburg on 4/15 and 4/16, a plot by Rep. Jack Murtha1, or that the sightings were caused by “mass suggestion” by that media Svengali, the Centre Daily Times2.  They generally fall apart when matched with the evidence.  There are theories that Mr. Gricar met with foul play that do not fall apart so easily.  Here is one: 

Murder II: A Short Walk to Death

The possibility of foul play causing the disappearance of Mr. Gricar is still not that far behind walkaway.  While the evidence for walkaway might be a bit stronger, currently, than foul play, it is not that much stronger.  Currently walkaway is supported by the least weak evidence.   Tomorrow, the next day, or some point in the future, walkaway might be strengthened or weakened.

1 I really wish Jack Murtha was involved, much as I loath the guy.  He wasn’t.

2 Yes, these are things some of the denizens of the Internet have suggested. 

 If the Centre Daily Times is capable of this “mass suggestion,” and since I’m on their site and presumably have the same mystical powers, somebody out there, please, buy me a Mercedes. Pay the taxes on it too.   (Well, it was worth a shot.)