Special Reports

Destroying the Data

            In looking at the disappearance of Former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, on aspect is more recently released information.  Since May of 2006, very little newly released information has been released.  What has been released generally involved the laptop, and there were three points to that. 

            First, Mr. Gricar had talked to people about how to erase his laptop’s hard drive.  He did it sometime in 2004, about a year prior to his disappearance.1  People, at least two people, reported this.  One of those was not county Internet technology person, not his nephew, Tony Gricar, who runs a computer company, nor anyone on his staff.2

            Second, Mr. Gricar had acquired software to erase a computer hard drive.3  The box was seen in the home contemporaneous with him asking how to erase a drive.

            Third, Mr. Gricar did searches on his desktop, purchased within the last five months, on how to destroy a hard drive.4

            Tony Gricar’s comment was, “To me, it looks like it absolutely knocks out the theory of foul play.” He added, “Everything has been, still is, in that circumstantial realm. But I’d be a fool to say that I can rule out or can’t rule out homicide at this point.”   I don’t agree with his first comment.

            The revelation, such as it was, knocks out one “theory,” such as it was.  That theory was that Mr. Gricar was going to a clandestine meeting, part of a ploy to lure Mr. Gricar to Lewisburg to look at data.  He wouldn’t have been searching how to destroy the drive if he wanted to use it.  It doesn’t knock out foul play; the destruction of the drive may not be directly related to Mr. Gricar’s disappearance.

            The laptop was county owned and would have to be returned to the county when Mr. Gricar retired.  Mr. Gricar, however, used the laptop as his home computer.  He very easily could have had private data on it.  This could include things like his credit card numbers, his bank account numbers, or even something official, like personnel reports on the staff; he could have had basically the same type of stuff you have on your computer.  Would you want that kind of stuff to be retrieved by a “dumpster diver?”  Would you want some of your private date to ever see the light of day?  I wouldn’t.

            Mr. Gricar could have simply wanted to make sure that nobody could get his private information.  He could have planned to drive to Lewisburg for some other reason and decided to toss the drive from there.  He might have even erased it first, just to make sure.  Most people wouldn’t try to salvage a waterlogged drive and, in the Susquehanna, fifty miles from home, it wouldn’t even be tied to him; even if someone saw him toss it, that person wouldn’t recognize him as the DA from another county.  The Susquehanna was also high on 4/15 and it would be unlikely that someone would see him and dive in after it as soon as he left the scene. 

            This also presents some problems.  If Mr. Gricar tossed his drive, he’d never be able to retrieve data from it; anything he wanted to save would be lost.  Likewise, he couldn’t return the laptop without a drive.  Neither is too much of a problem.  Files can be transferred to another computer.  A replacement drive can be purchased.

            Moving files leaves a record on the computer; it is possible for an amateur, like me, to determine when a file was created and placed on a computer.  Drives generally can be ordered; I’m not sure if the type of drive used in Mr. Gricar’s computer would be available over the counter.  It may have had to be ordered from the company, Micron.  Inquiring into a purchasing a drive, or even ordering one, would be a good indication he was planning to return.

            In this case, the right question is, was there any indication that Mr. Gricar transferred files to his desktop computer in the weeks before he vanished?  Is there a record that he looked into buying a replacement drive?  A yes answer might indicate that he was planning to come back, but that something prevented him, like being murdered.  A no answer would point to Mr. Gricar not planning to return, either committing suicide or walking away.

End Notes

1 CDT 10/1/09 http://www.centredaily.com/2008/10/01/874817/gricar-hard-drive-comes-up-empty.html

2 I do not wish to imply that Mr. Gricar did not also ask someone on the office staff, the County IT person, or a family member.  At least one person he did ask was not a family member nor in his “inner circle.”

3 DC 4/15/09  http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2009/04/15/police_release_computer_data.aspx

 

4 CDT 4/15/09 http://www.centredaily.com/2009/04/15/1228995/foul-play-theory-weakened.html

 

 

 

E-mail J. J. in Phila at scorg@live.com

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