When the “chattering class,” those of us who discuss the case on the Internet, talks about the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, we almost never agree on anything. I’m part of that class, so that isn’t a shot at them.
There is one point were most, if not all, agree. Most people seriously doubt that the reason for Mr. Gricar disappearance was because he committed suicide. Why is that?
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Well, in my case, it would be simple. If you had asked me one 4/20/05 what I thought happened to Mr. Gricar, I would have said, “I think he committed suicide.” I would have added this, however, “I’ll bet they’ll fish his body out of the Susquehanna in a week or two.” I would have lost that bet. There is no body that has been discovered. After the multitude of searches of the Susquehanna, by air, by boat, by people walking along the bank and divers searching the area around the bridge, no body was found.1 No body has been found after more than five years of people boating on the river, walking and fishing along the bank, either.
This is the reason why I give the odds on suicide at 8%. I suspect that that if Mr. Gricar committed suicide by walking or jumping into the river, his remains, or some trace of something he had on him, like his wallet or some article of clothing, would have turned up. I will join that long list of people who will say he was never in the river.
That said, Mr. Gricar’s remains could be someplace else; there are relatively untraveled areas right across the bridge. Mr. Gricar could have even, possibly, walked out of the immediate area, perhaps several miles. There are more than enough secluded places where his remains might be. It is hugely unlikely that those remains would still be unfound, more than five years later.
That is the basic argument against suicide, no body, and a string of witnesses that put him alive and well after 4/15/05. There is some evidence that, by itself, could point to suicide. It is that evidence I want to look at in this entry.
1. There was a known family history of suicide. Mr. Gricar’s brother, Roy, committed suicide in 1996. Roy Gricar suffered from serious depression, which can be genetic. There could be a genetic predisposition for suicide. The family of Ernest Hemingway is known for it.
2. There was a noted change in Mr. Gricar’s demeanor in the weeks prior to his disappearance. This came from his co-workers, people who knew him, and a member of the Press that talked to him a month before; his girlfriend and housemate noted that he napping more. That could be a symptom of depression.2
3. There might have been some estate planning. The Mini Cooper, the car was in his girlfriend’s, Patty Fornicola’s, name. The excuse, that he might have been sued and wanted to shelter the asset, looks like complete nonsense.3 His accounts were held jointly with his daughter, Lara. If he were to die, she would not only have instant access to them, but 50% would be legally hers. She would save several thousand dollars in estate taxes.4
4. There was something on the laptop Mr. Gricar never wanted to see the light of day. He had talked to people about how to eliminate the data on it possibly more than a year prior to his vanishing.5 It might have been something innocuous, but personal, like private correspondence or a vacation photo of his daughter in a bikini. Perhaps he didn’t some virtual stranger ogling a photo like that; what father who loved his daughter would? One reason to look at destroying the drive would be if he was planning not to return. 6 Very few do return from the dead.
5. If Mr. Gricar was depressed to the point of being suicidal, he might not have realized it. I’ve found out that Mr. Gricar had difficulties in dealing with the concept of a less that complete mental breakdown in others, both on a professional and personal level.
About four years prior to his disappearance, Mr. Gricar commented of the case of Sharon Comitz, who was convicted of killing her baby. He had mentioned the case in Time Magazine, in an article on post partum psychological problems. He said, "Obviously, Sharon was depressed and 'lost it,' but there's no way she was out of her mind. She had to know exactly what she was doing and had a clear head to do it." 7
For Mr. Gricar, the fact Ms. Comitz knew what she doing was sufficient to establish that she was mentally responsible.
I initially thought it might have simple posturing by a district attorney attempting to make a legal argument. I found out that Mr. Gricar had expressed doubts, to his friend and fellow district attorney, Ted McKnight, that his brother had committed suicide.
Tony Gricar, Roy Gricar’s son, is quite convinced that his father committed suicide, and reached that conclusion after reading the medical reports; he thought it was crystal clear. Ray Gricar couldn’t quite comprehend that conclusion; it was something he couldn’t accept. Maybe he couldn’t see it in himself.
Now, let’s look at this circumstantial evidence.
1. Every Hemingway family member did not die of suicide; while there can be a genetic predisposition for depression, there is no evidence that Ray Gricar actually inherited that predisposition. While depression can be genetic, not all depression is genetic, nor is everyone severely depressed suicidal.
2. The change in demeanor may have caused by, working too hard, by preparing to walk away, stress, or because Mr. Gricar was anticipating a weekend rendezvous and trying to get everything out of the way. That covers just about any theory.
3. You should have at our dinner table in the 1970’s. That was all that my father in his late 50’s would talk about; he died in 2007. Whenever I go on a trip, I tell my executrix where my obituary is located, and then I mentally probate my estate. Rest assured, if I’m hit by a SEPTA bus tomorrow, you’ll find out. There is nothing too strange about a man in his late fifties thinking along the lines of estate planning.
4. It is very clear that Mr. Gricar had wanted the data on the laptop to never see the light of day. He had, however, gotten a desk top within the last six months, which was sitting at home on 4/15/05. He didn’t destroy that one. The laptop belonged to the county and would have been returned, in theory. His inquiries and his possible destruction of the drive could have been to keep outsiders from looking at private documents, when it was returned.
Mr. Gricar may have simply decided this would be the best way to destroy the data on it. He could have been planning to be in Lewisburg for some other reason and decided that tossing the drive into a river 50 miles from home would be the best way of destruction. Even if Mr. Gricar is the person who tossed the drive, that destruction does not point to any single option.
5. It is possible that Mr. Gricar was depressed and did not recognize the symptoms. Maybe there was some cause for him to be depressed, such as an undisclosed health problem. No great scandal has surfaced. Mr. Gricar did not seem to be facing a financial reversal.
If I could psychically channel the spirit of Mr. Gricar, I might get a definitive answer, but I’ll save the crystal ball work to others.
In short, so far at least, there is not strong evidence that Mr. Gricar committed suicide. The similarity between Lewisburg and the site of his brother’s suicide is weak at best.8 The idea that, like his brother Roy, he drowned in the river is very weak.
Even the least weak evidence that Ray Gricar committed suicide turns out, at least at the present time, to be very weak. There is evidence against it, witnesses and the lack of a body.
1 Some of the details of the searches in the series on the investigation in Parts 2, 3 and 5 . You can view them here: Index of the Investigation, April 2010
7 Time , 6/24/01, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,149520,00.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at email@example.com