Special Reports

Bellefonte police receiving fewer tips about Gricar

BELLEFONTE — Centre County's acting district attorney on Thursday received permission to hire another assistant district attorney to help with the caseload in the absence of District Attorney Ray Gricar.

Gricar has been missing since April 15.

He was last heard from when he placed a cell phone call to his girlfriend about 11:30 a.m. that day while driving through Brush Valley.

His car and that phone were recovered in Lewisburg. Despite searches of the area from the ground and air and in the Susquehanna River, and despite reported sightings of Gricar on April 16 and 18, police have been unable to determine his whereabouts.

Detective Tom Thal, of the Bellefonte Police Department, said that calls about the case have slowed to a trickle and that police have few clues in his mysterious disappearance.

"It's extremely frustrating," Thal said.

First Assistant District Attorney Mark Smith was named acting district attorney earlier this month.

The county Salary Board on Thursday approved his request for another assistant district attorney but made the position temporary and part-time.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Exarchos told Smith that he would have all the help he needed to cope with Gricar's absence. But Exarchos also wanted the individual hired to understand that staffing changes could occur when a new district attorney takes office in January.

Democrat Karen Arnold, an assistant district attorney, is running for the office against Republican Michael Madeira, deputy state attorney general, in the November general election.

Smith said he had been worried that Arnold's candidacy would prevent her from continuing to work in the district attorney's office, leaving the office more short-handed during what is normally a busy time of year.

However, the U.S. Justice Department ruled last week that Arnold's candidacy, and her continued work in the district attorney's office, does not violate the Hatch Act, which restricts some public officials from political activity.

In addition, another assistant district attorney who had been on medical leave has returned to work, so, Smith said "we're back up at least one attorney.

Lara Brenckle can be reached at 235-3902. Erin L. Nissley contributed to this report.