In a blog last week, I diverged a bit from discussing the disappearance of former Centre County District Ray Gricar. I discussed the case of the death of Sergeant Patrick S. Rust in Watertown, NY. The reason was to discuss the evidence release in the Rust case and compare it to the releasing evidence in the Gricar case.
The Rust investigation was conducted by the US Army, which,
by its nature, is use to keeping secrets. If they don’t keep some
secrets, people die. They are also covered by stronger laws about
releasing information, the federal Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, an
important difference from the Gricar case. Still, the FOIA is not applicable,
i.e. the information does not have to be released if it “could reasonably be
expected to interfere with [law] enforcement proceedings.”1 What was
released in the Rust case was deemed not to “interfere” in that
So what we have is one case, the Rust case, whose
investigators are part of an organization that keeps secrets, by definite
necessity, which has released information, even though they could
have put forward a good argument against it. We also have one case,
the Gricar case, where the lead investigators are local, not really
secretive, who are either elected by the voters of their county or
borough, or chosen by people so elected, that have not released a lot
of information. It is both bizarre and disturbing.
There is more that should be released, and that won’t imperil
the investigation. Let’s look at some of these:
1. A timeline of the witnesses.2 Individual reports came out
from the police in the first week after the disappearance. Others came
out over the summer, 2005. One came out in the press conference by
Mr. McKnight and Mr. Buehner.3 The last came out, released by the
police, less than six months ago.4 That was the “county worker” that
saw Mr. Gricar turning on Route 192 at Centre Hall; even that one
didn’t include the time of the sighting.
What can be released is the time of the witness reports on
4/15/05 through 4/18/05, their location, along with the details of
what they saw. Also, if there are any additional witnesses from the
Southfield sighting (5/27/05), that information should be released.5
The names of the witnesses can be redacted, especially if the
witness does not want to be publicly identified.
2. The records of Mr. Gricar cell phone can be released
from 4/14/05 through 4/17/05. That would include the calls Mr. Gricar
made as well as
those he received. Also the towers that carried the signal, the “pings,”
even when he wasn’t talking on the phone could be released.6 Again,
personal data could be removed.
In a similar situation, Mr. Gricar did use his computer, probably
his office computer, on 4/14/05; he exchanged e-mail with a defense
attorney about the case. The times that used it would be recorded,
including the times he sent e-mails. Again, those times can be released.
3. For a very long time, there was a very good reason not to
release the security camera tapes from the Courthouse. Show the
range of the camera could imperil Courthouse security. That ended
when excerpts of the tape were given to the program Disappeared . It
has been rerun several times and you can find a copy of it on You Tube.
There have been questions about if Mr. Gricar was seen behind
the Centre County Courthouse on 4/14 or 4/15, possibly in an unknown
“metallic colored” car.7 If it is there, it should be on that video tape. It
would also show when Mr. Gricar entered and left the Courthouse on
4/14. It might show if someone associated with Mr. Gricar could have
left the Courthouse mid-day on 4/15 and didn’t return for hours. It might
also show if someone was following Mr. Gricar. It might be able to
eliminate the possibility that Mr. Gricar was in this metallic colored car.
This goes beyond the simple, but important, right of the public to
know. Knowing Mr. Gricar’s whereabouts on 4/14-4/15/05 may generate
more witnesses. Somebody might have seen something, but never
connected it to Gricar disappearance.
None of this information is new and was gathered more than six
years ago; it doesn’t require any additional investigation or investigative
resources. Police generally build a timeline, as can be seen in the Rust
case, based on the evidence. They should have had one six years ago.
Parts of it have trickled out. How do I know that Mr. Gricar did
exchange e-mail with a defense attorney? It was report by my
predecessor, Mr. Bosak, in the Q and A Forum. There was no great
secret about it. It is perhaps ironic that then defense attorney is no
longer a defense attorney; her name is Stacy Parks Miller, the current
District Attorney of Centre County.
After writing this, Mr. Gricar’s daughter, Lara, submitted a petition
to the Centre County Court to declare Mr. Gricar dead. As part of that
process, she declared that there has been “diligent inquiry” into her
father’s disappearance8; that is the language of the statute.9 How can
a court know if that has been a truly “diligent inquiry” unless the results
are known, in open court? Isn’t there a moral, if not legal, right of the
public to know what was discovered in regard to the disappearance of
a sitting, publicly elected, district attorney?
Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section: http://www.centredaily.com/138/
Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at email@example.com