Special Reports

Southfield Plus Eight


            Eight years ago today was the last publicly disclosed “credible” sighting of former Center County District Attorney Ray Gricar.  I’ve referred to it as the Southfield Sighting. There are some things you should know about this sighting.  First, it occurred more than a month after Mr. Gricar “disappeared.”  Second, if this was Mr. Gricar, his disappearance was completely voluntarily.  Third, it may not have been Mr. Gricar; I it a 50/50 chance of being him.

            The main question I’ll be asking about this sighting is not if this was really Mr. Gricar.  It is why, after eight years and increasing publicity on it, don’t we have more details about it.

            Let’s look as a summary of the details of the Southfield Sighting. It took place in Southfield, MI, and took place on Friday, 5/27/05.  A retired police officer, who was also a sketch artist, eating in a restaurant with his adult daughter, spotted another diner, a man, eating with a woman who appeared to be in her 70’s.  The man looked familiar to the police officer, but he couldn’t remember from where.  The former police officer did exchange greetings with the man, but he still couldn’t place the man.  When he returned home, the officer tuned into a cable news station and saw a rerun of a segment on Mr. Gricar.  That was the man he saw.  He called his daughter, who tuned into the program, and agreed that it was Mr. Gricar.  Then he called the Bellefonte Police.  He later picked Mr. Gricar out of a photo lineup.1 Some of the employees of the restaurant were shown photos of Mr. Gricar and said that he looked “familiar.” In the process of his report, created a composite drawing of the woman that was with the man he identified as Mr. Gricar.2  The last public comments on the case was it was “credible,” unlike the numerous other witness reports of Mr. Gricar over the summer of 2005.3

            The sighting did gain some press at the time, but it was surrounded by a number of sightings that were quickly ruled out.  Except for some occasional comments on message boards, nothing came of it, until a blog came out on it in June of 2010 which looked at some of the circumstances around the sighting.  Southfield was located fairly close the Canadian border, but it was also at the intersections of several interstates, meaning that there could be ever easy access to the area.  In 2005, nobody made the connection, well publicly, but it was at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, a time many people were on the road, and a day when many people don’t pay too much attention to the news.  Southfield is also the location of the Consulate of the Republic of Macedonia, a former Yugoslavian republic, like the ancestral home of the Gricars, Slovenia (the Ukrainian consulate is within 10 miles).  Mr. Gricar had family there, and had visited Slovenia, several times.  In summation, if this was really Mr. Gricar, spotting him Southfield on a day when the story would be difficult to get out to the media, in an area where he could leave, even to a different nation, with the proper documentation, would make a great deal of sense.3

            Since that blog, there has been more mention of the sighting, which has never been publicly ruled out.  It is just listed as “credible.”  The thing is, in the eight years since this happened, why don’t we know more?

            We don’t know the location of the restaurant where the sighting took place, or the time of the sighting.  Any restaurant in Southfield is within four miles of the consulate, but there are some in the same office complex as the consulate.  Was it one of those?  What about the other witnesses?  Did they say, “I think I’ve seen him someplace, but I don’t remember where or when,” or could the match a specific day and time.  Is there more witness corroboration?  Did the police ever look at the location of potential “helpers” on that date?  Did a friend or colleague just happen to in Michigan at the same time?  Were any cars purchased around 4/15/05 in the State College or Lewisburg area sold around 5/27/05 in the Southfield area?  Were any rentals from the same areas around 4/15/05 returned in the Southfield area on 5/27/05?   What about that composite drawing?  Why, in nearly eight years, hasn’t that been released?

            Releasing these details could help solve the case.  Suppose that he had a friend rent a car for him, the woman that retired police officer spotted, for example.  Finding that she returned it on the Memorial Day weekend in the Southfield area could break the case.  So could a string of independent witnesses that put Mr. Gricar in Southfield.

            What if the witness was wrong?  Well, maybe the person who he did see will recognize the woman as his wife and remember that they were couple in the now named restaurant at that time.  Releasing more of the details could help rule out the sighting just as well.

            Right now, the Southfield Sighting hangs out there as potential sighting of Mr. Gricar.  It may or may not have been him.  It ultimately may lead to nothing more than another case of mistaken identity.  Conversely, it might answer the question, what happened to Ray Gricar?  Releasing the details of the sighting, eight years later, can only help determine which it is. 

End Notes

1 http://www.nbcnews.com/id/8171216/#.UaAXjpzEnwI


2 http://www.centredaily.com/2005/06/09/3783/police-examine-gricar-sighting.html


3 http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/uncategorized/police-say-only-one-sighting-of-missing-da-is-credible-588797/


4 http://www.centredaily.com/2011/02/14/2518751/southfield-sighting.html




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 scorg@live.com