Part VI: Ray Gricar Missing Person

This is the sixth post of a multiple part series on the Ray Gricar disappearance. Gricar was a district attorney in Central Pennsylvania, and disappeared in 2005. On the day he went missing, he told his girlfriend that he was taking a vacation day from work, and driving about an hour away from his employment to do some shopping. His car was found abandoned the next day, and his laptop computer was later recovered submerged under a bridge near his parked vehicle.

I’ll continue the discussion from Part V exploring the possibility that Gricar was a crime victim. I’ll close by introducing a third explanation to this missing person case: that he voluntarily disappeared.

Scenario #2: Crime Victim (Continued)
Authorities released information that a faint smell of smoke and trace amounts of cigarette ash were found in his recovered car. This evidence could certainly be used to argue that either Gricar was the victim of a crime or wanted to disappear, but let’s explore this fact in terms of criminal activity. Gricar was a non-smoker and people who knew him well were surprised by this finding. They did not feel that Gricar would have let someone smoke in his personal car. Consequently, it is understandable to assert that Gricar either did not have a say as to someone smoking in the vehicle or he was not there when it happened.

In considering the ashes and the discarded laptop from a criminal perspective, I can envision multiple subjects in Mr. Gricar’s car. These persons had not really planned the events that occurred while the missing person was in Lewisburg—-things may have just happened quickly.

With this thinking, the suspects may have been somewhat careless. Those responsible were smoking in the vehicle and tried to clean it up the best that they could while the sudden criminal events of that day were set into motion. Further, they hastily discarded the laptop into an adjacent river while returning Mr. Gricar’s car to its original parked location. If you are open to the idea of subjects eager to destroy potential evidence by tossing the laptop, then the trace amounts of ash in the passenger compartment made by subjects not thinking clearly makes sense as well.

The one concern that I have about the ashes is that the information may mean absolutely nothing. I had a great mechanic who used to toss his cigarette out just as he was getting into my car when he needed to test drive it or something. After he worked on it, the vehicle always smelled like smoke and I am sure there were trace amounts of ash in my floorboard as well. Without knowing if Mr. Gricar’s car was worked on prior to his disappearance (as well as the smoking habits of the mechanics), I am cautious about the meaning of the ashes.

Until I am shown something to the contrary, I do feel that the ashes discovered in his car are a key piece of evidence-—strongly supporting that someone else was inside his vehicle do something without his approval.

As a result of my discussion of the published facts including the three key pieces of evidence that I discussed (bringing the laptop, location of the recovered laptop, and trace ashes found in the car), here are the ratings for this crime victim scenario:

+1 Evidence that an unknown individual(s) was/were in his vehicle.
+1 Recovered location of his laptop.
+1 No apparent attempts to notify his family that something was wrong
+1 His job resulted in the creation of many enemies
+1 Since he brought the laptop, it may indicate that he was meeting someone that day
-1 No clearly defined crime scene or sign of resistance in the car
-1 No witnesses to anything unusual that day

Scenario #3: Voluntary Disappearance
Missing person calls are common for police officers. Fortunately, the majority of missing person reports filed in the United States are later cleared by a determination that the adult in question voluntarily disappeared as opposed to being a crime or suicide victim.

For instance, in Davidson County, TN, authorities recently solved a similar missing person case involving a sixty-one year old music company attorney named William Grothe.

The man had disappeared, some of his belongings were found in a residential area, his vehicle was recovered abandoned and parked next to a boat ramp, and his jacket was pulled from an adjacent river. Using great skill to solve this case, experienced investigators were able to track him to a motel in Montana where he stayed briefly using an alias and paying in cash. His family and police are unsure why he faked the disappearance, and at last report, he was being evaluated at a hospital in the Western US.

In my patrol officer days, we regularly talked to citizens about missing persons. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, neighbors, and a host of others reported friends and loved ones missing. In a good portion of the cases, the reporting person was convinced (making a strong case to me as well) that something terrible had happened to the missing person—-only for the individual in question to appear later and the disappearance was attributed to family/relationship problems, work pressures, substance abuse issues, etc. Consequently, I tried to treat each case as it was a sensational crime that would be featured on the evening news-—so I made sure that a proper preliminary investigation was conducted for the detectives to work from.

In my opinion, this is in contrast to the belief of many in the public about missing person cases. Basing their understanding of these types of cases on interesting television shows, citizens commonly believe that missing persons cases can frequently be attributed to crimes or even foul play--when this explanation is simply the exception.

In the Gricar case, there are multiple factors that would lead one to believe that he disappeared voluntarily. Some of the evidence that was presented in my second scenario (Crime Victim) can also be used to convincingly argue that Gricar planned to vanish, but let me start with some of the case characteristics that uniquely support this thinking. First, Gricar’s voluntary disappearance can be argued using supporting information from three specific areas in his life dogs, cars, and attachments.

Sorry this post is getting long, so I’ll stop here. I’ll continue the discussion on the case soon, and here are the links to the previous entries Part I , Part II, Part III, Part IV, . Part V.

Note: The offer continues that anyone interested and informed on the Ray Gricar case that would like to tackle my follow-up questions (are being developed), just email me at the address on the left of the blog. I’ll speak with you further about your thoughts.

I was asked a very good question in that why not wait until I am done posting my opinions about the case before soliciting reader questions. My response is that: 1) I am currently on part 6 of the Gricar series and seem to have more to say every time that I post—so I am not sure when it will end; 2) I have been challenged a few times on my assumptions with valid concerns and before I forget them, I wanted to implore the person leaving the comment/emailer to further explain his/her position.

My interest is learning more from others so that my thoughts on the case will be an soundly based on informed opinion.


J. J. in Phila said...

Very good. For the record, I am still undecided.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the feedback JJ.