Special Reports

It’s Thursday: The Panel at One Year

            I’ve been writing this blog about the disappearance of the then incumbent Centre County District Attorney, Ray Gricar, for just over two years; I’ve followed it a lot longer.  In that time I’ve commented on law enforcement, including the incumbent district attorney of the day.  One comment was at the swearing in of the current incumbent district attorney, Stacy Parks Miller, all the way back in January of 2010.

            Upon Ms. Parks Miller taking the oath of office, I posted this comment in a blog (one of those lost in transition):  “I said to someone last week that I didn’t expect her to solve the Gricar case on her first day in office, she has until Thursday.”  Well, today is Thursday, both actually (if I get this written in time) and metaphorically.  It is also the one year anniversary of the panel formed by Ms. Parks Miller to investigate Mr. Gricar’s disappearance.

            A review of the panel shows both good points and bad points.  The good points are:

            A.  The pool of investigators has broadened; there are now multiple sets of “fresh eyes” looking at the case.  These “fresh eyes” were called for by the family more than five years ago.  Likewise this panel echoes the suggestion made by Gricar friend, Montour County District Attorney Robert W. Buehner, Jr. in his letter to then Centre County Michael T. Madeira more than two and a half years ago.

            B.  The panel is more intensely looking at some things, including a more in depth look for Mr. Gricar’s finances and a more in depth interviews with at least some of Mr. Gricar’s friends and co-workers.  These are things that, if I were in charge of this investigation, would be top priorities.  (The only real question I have is why Mr. Madeira didn’t make this a priority during his administration).

            C.  The Bellefonte Police and Ms. Parks Miller have done a better job of keeping the case in the public eye.  In some prior blogs on the investigation, I noted that the former district attorney, Mr. Madeira, had the habit of responding to negative information in the case by releasing new information.1  He was reactive, and most of the information released under tenure was in response to bad press.  Now, Ms. Parks Miller and the Bellefonte Police are more proactive.  They have not been waiting around for increased public agitation.

            One of the high points was the Disappeared television program, where former lead investigator Darrel Zaccagni was an active participant.  His involvement was welcome and somewhat unexpected; he retired from the Bellefonte Police Department in 2007.  He was willing, along with current lead investigator, Detective Matt Rickard, to sit down and discuss the case.  That helps keep up public interest in the Gricar disappearance.

            There are bad points as well.  There has been scant new information released.  What has been released, the map of the Bellefonte-Lewisburg route on Mr. Gricar’s computer, and the disclosure of a witness seeing him driving toward Lewisburg, really don’t tell us what happened in Lewisburg.  On top of this, the evidence continues to be released in drabs.  The witness in question seems to have been within the first fortnight after Mr. Gricar disappeared; the map was mentioned by the former lead investigator, who retired in 2007.  The police, in the person of Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver, have already said that there was "good consensus that he was in the Street of Shops."2  Why not lay out the evidence that led to that conclusion for the public?

And then there is what I’ve called “The Twenty Words,”3 uttered publicly by Ms. Parks Miller a year ago today (I hope I’m on schedule).  Those words were:  “The only thing I will say is that I believe homicide is the least likely, but we rule out nothing.” 4 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the evidence for homicide, or other types of foul play, is not the strongest, but it isn’t the weakest either.  I would call suicide the weakest and the revelation of the map just made it a bit weaker. 5 Has suicide been ruled out completely or is there much stronger evidence for it.  What does Ms. Parks Miller base this comment on, hard evidence or gut feeling?   Why doesn’t she share her rationale with the general public?  Is this her version of her predecessor’s comment that the investigation “left no stone unturned?”

I understand that crime did not stop in Centre County when Mr. Gricar disappeared.  The Bellefonte Police, the other police forces involved, and the Centre County District Attorney’s Office do have other duties.  However, the review panel, the

Parks Miller phase of the investigation is now a year old.  It is built upon an investigation that was almost five years old, and included a review by the Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Investigation Analysis unit.  There has been enough time.

A year ago, in announcing the formation of this panel, Ms. Parks Miller said, “Ray Gricar's case has been a top priority for me since taking office."5  Is this yearlong investigation, which has so far yielded few tangible results and hasn’t even eliminated much, really her idea of a “top priority?” 

End Notes

1   http://www.centredaily.com/2009/09/06/2396651/the-investigation-part-ten-mr.html

2   CDT, 11/24/06,


3   http://www.centredaily.com/2011/02/15/2523185/the-20-words.html

4 CDT 4/1/10, http://www.centredaily.com/2010/04/01/1888171/review-board-lends-new-eyes.html

5 Express, 4/1/10, http://www.lockhaven.com/page/content.detail/id/517262/New-team-will-probe-Gricar-disappearance.html


Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section:  http://www.centredaily.com/138/

Link to the Main Index:  http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html

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