A brief review of the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar will be helpful to all of us. While this blog generally looks at the details, I wanted to give an overview.
Mr. Gricar was first elected District Attorney in 1985, and had been re-elected four times since then. Prior to becoming District Attorney, he had served as an assistant district attorney for about five years, in Centre County, and about ten years in his native state of Ohio. In January 2004, he announced he would not seek re-election and retire from the practice of law at the end of his term, in December of 2005.
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On 4/15/05, he decided to the day off work. He called his girlfriend and employee, Patty Fornicola, at about 11:12 AM from the Rebersburg area. He said that he was on Route 192, heading toward Lewisburg, and that he wouldn’t be able to walk the dog. That was the last reported contact with anyone who knew him.
Sometime between Noon and 2:00 PM, at least three witnesses, including Jennifer Snyder, an employee at the Packwood House Museum, saw Mr. Gricar parked along Water Street, just off of Market Street (Route 45), in Lewisburg. He was the car he was driving, a red 2004 Mini Cooper, between the three spaces across from the museum.
At 3:00 PM, back in Bellefonte, Carolyn Fenton, a law clerk to Judge David Grine, saw Mr. Gricar in a different car, behind the Court House. No one else has corroborated this sighting.
Sometime between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM, a man driving to Harrisburg from Lock Haven, pulled parallel to a red Mini Cooper near the Country Cupboard on Route 15, just north of Lewisburg. He remembered what the driver looked like. When he saw the story in the newspaper, he recognized Mr. Gricar’s photo1.
At about 5:00 PM, numerous people saw the Mini Cooper arrive at the parking lot across from the Street of Shop. At least two saw Mr. Gricar moving the Mini back and forth in the parking lot, changing spaces.
Sometime after that, two business owners in the Street of Shops, Brad Alvey and an unidentified owner, saw Mr. Gricar in the Street of Shops. One saw him with a woman; it looked like they were together to the owner.2
Around 11:00 PM that evening, a worried Ms. Fornicola called the police. Within an hour, there was a Be On the Look Out issued on Mr. Gricar. By the next morning, the Bellefonte Police began calling his friends and co-workers. They also checked his cell phone records and determined that the call was carried by the tower in the Rebersburg area.
On 4/16/05, between 11:30 AM and Noon, two workers in the Street of Shops spotted Mr. Gricar there. Around Noon, the owner, Craig Bennett, saw him standing there. This is all the information that has been released on the witnesses for both days.
The police began a search of the Brush Valley, along Route 192, in the afternoon. This included an aerial search.
At about 6:30 PM, the Mini Cooper was discovered in the parking lot at the Street of Shops. Mr. Gricar’s cell phone was inside. There was a trace of cigarette ash on the passenger side floor, and when first opened, there was the scent of cigarette smoke. Mr. Gricar was a non smoker and did not permit smoking in his car. The car was taken to the State Police Barracks in Milton.
On 4/17/05, the Susquehanna River was searched from the air. A bloodhound was brought in, in the late morning. The dog detected Mr. Gricar’s scent in the parking lot, but not beyond. It stopped and circled; the handler thought it was indicative of Mr. Gricar getting into another car.
On 4/18/05, there was the famous, or perhaps infamous, news conference with Ms. Fornicola and Mr. Gricar’s daughter, Lara. That was during the day. In the evening, two people spotted someone they identified as Mr. Gricar; they didn’t know it was him at the time. One was the bartender that served him. The other was from out of town, from southeastern Pennsylvania; he was in the area with his family for an event involving one of his children. That man was a police officer, of something above the rank of patrolman.
There was also a witness sighting in May 2005, in Southfield, MI.3 There were several others, but they have been discounted. This one was never ruled out, or ruled in.
In late July of 2005, Mr. Gricar’s laptop, minus the hard drive, was found in the water on the northern side of the bridge in Lewisburg; the no foot path on that side and, if dropped from a car, the car would be heading toward Lewisburg (and Bellefonte).
In September 2005, the drive that fit the computer was found, basically across the park from the Packwood House. No data could be recovered from it. In July, Ms. Fornicola was polygraphed; in September, Lara Gricar was polygraphed. Both passed.
There is a lot more detail on the evidence here: Index of the Known Evidence, April 2010 I want to call your attention to one of them in particular Time Line of the Witness Sightings Between 11:00 AM 4/15/05 and 11:59 PM 4/18/05 The reports came out piecemeal and never put in chronological order until I did it.
To get some idea of a chronology of the investigation, you can go here: Index of the Investigation, April 2010 . This in interesting because it asks the questions of what happened when and who knew about it.
Both of these should be considered works in progress.
1 The existence of this witness was revealed during the 2008 McKnight/Buehner press conference. The witness originally contacted Mr. McKnight; since he has not been publicly identified, he is referred to as “McKnight’s Witness.”
2 The business owner who saw Mr. Gricar with this “Mystery Woman” was the first witness the police discovered; the witness spoke to the police sometime between 6:30 PM and 11:30 PM on 4/16/05.
3 This particular sighting was never fully explored and there may be a specific entry on it in the future.
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