Special Reports

Lawmaker wants closer Gricar probe

A state representative has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking it to look into Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar's disappearance and the slaying of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Luna, found stabbed to death outside of Lancaster in 2003.

State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, sent the five-page letter to Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, whose office is handling the investigation into Luna's December 2003 death, on Dec. 2. The letter requests that Fine and his office look into cases each man had prosecuted.

"I am writing to request a fresh, complete, and independent investigation by your office, using all available resources at your disposal, into the cases prosecuted by these two public servants leading up to their disappearances," Cohen states in the letter. "No stones should be left unturned."

Luna was last seen at his office at the federal courthouse in Baltimore, the night before his body was found in a stream, according to articles published by The Baltimore Sun. He had been stabbed 36 times, according to police investigating the case.

Gricar disappeared on April 15, after he spoke on the phone with girlfriend and housemate Patty Fornicola at about 11:30 a.m. He told her he was taking a drive along state Route 192 in Brush Valley. The red-and-white Mini Cooper he'd been driving was found in Lewisburg one day later.

Cohen said Wednesday that he decided to write a letter after conversations with Bill Keisling, who wrote a book about Luna's disappearance and has been following the investigation into Gricar's.

"My brother served 24 years as an assistant district attorney," Cohen said. "When a prosecutor is killed, it has an intimidating effect."

Cohen said he's disturbed at the lack of resolution in both cases, and thinks police should focus on the cases each man had prosecuted or were going to prosecute in searching for answers.

However, he said he did not know of any link between the two cases.

"It's time to emphasize the importance of this," he said.

Cohen's letter is under review, according to the Justice Department.

Bellefonte police Cpl. Dan Holliday, who is acting as chief, said he was unaware of the letter Cohen wrote but said the department has "never refused help from any agency."

He said police at Bellefonte have already taken a look at cases Gricar had prosecuted or was preparing to prosecute and have not found any reason to flag any cases for further investigation.

Fornicola, who said she found out about the letter Wednesday, also welcomed any help the Justice Department might be able to lend.

"It's someone other than us trying to get it resolved," she said.

She added later that if someone were to examine all of Gricar's cases, "it would be a huge endeavor."

"He's been here 20 years, plus his time in Cleveland as an assistant district attorney," she said.

Erin L. Nissley can be reached at 231-4616. Adam Smeltz contributed to this report.