Part VIII: Ray Gricar Missing Person

Note: There is still time to submit responses to any or all of my follow-up questions regarding the Ray Gricar missing person case. If you are interested, please email your responses to me (email address is on the left of the home page).

This is the eighth 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 my thoughts from Part VII--discussing a third scenario that Gricar disappeared voluntarily.

Scenario #3: Voluntary Disappearance (Continued)
As discussed in my previous post, it appears that more than 9 witnesses claim to have seen the missing person in and around the Centre and Union counties area—a lot of people to have been either mistaken, confused, or being deceitful. Also mentioned previously, was that the witness list includes credible testimony from another attorney (states she saw him near his employment in Bellefonte) and a police officer from another jurisdiction (reportedly sighting him a few hours away in Wilkes-Barre, PA).

In contrast, those familiar with investigations are hesitant to rely heavily on eyewitness accounts. Cornell law professor Michael Dorf had this to say in comparing circumstantial evidence and eyewitness identifications:

The conventional wisdom, particularly among non-lawyers, is that circumstantial evidence is generally less reliable than eyewitness testimony. People sometimes say that a case is "only circumstantial" to mean that the evidence is weak. A strong case, according to this view, includes the testimony of an eyewitness.

In fact, contrary to popular opinion, circumstantial evidence is often extremely reliable. Blood of the victim that makes a DNA match with blood found on the defendant's clothing, credit card records that place the defendant at the scene of the crime, and ballistics analysis that shows a bullet removed from the victim to have been fired from the defendant's gun are all forms of circumstantial evidence. Yet, in the absence of a credible allegation of police tampering, such evidence is usually highly reliable and informative.

At the same time, numerous psychological studies have shown that human beings are not very good at identifying people they saw only once for a relatively short period of time. The studies reveal error rates of as high as fifty percent — a frightening statistic given that many convictions may be based largely or solely on such testimony.

These studies show further that the ability to identify a stranger is diminished by stress (and what crime situation is not intensely stressful?), that cross-racial identifications are especially unreliable, and that contrary to what one might think, those witnesses who claim to be "certain" of their identifications are no better at it than everyone else, just more confident…
Interestingly, Mr. Gricar’s car, the well-kept red mini-Cooper, is an unusual car and would likely be memorable for potential witnesses (as opposed to more common vehicles like red Chevy pick-ups or white Honda Accords). Of the nine witness reports, I am not aware of any that place Gricar in the red vehicle.* The attorney reported sighting had Mr. Gricar in a gold or silver car, witnesses in Lewisburg thought they saw him standing next to the car, while the other reports simply described the man without linking him to a vehicle.

I think this is important as it brings up the possibility that the red mini-cooper was driven from Centre County to Lewisburg, played only a small role in the disappearance, for the most part, was parked until police discovered it. If this is accepted and continuing with the voluntary disappearance scenario, then an accomplice providing access to a less visible automobile that allowed Mr. Gricar to leave the area willingly, becomes a viable argument.

To bolster a voluntary disappearance scenario, knowing the answers to several questions would make it more attractive to characterize Mr. Gricar as a missing person. First, was Mr. Gricar fluent in other languages that would allow him to start fresh somewhere far from Central PA? Did he have a valid passport?

Second, did he regularly attend any professional conferences in other parts of the country? If so, he could have easily slipped away unnoticed by anyone and made arrangements for a disappearance well in advance of the day he went missing. Third, where did he like to travel (professional and personal)? His links to Ohio are well documented, but are their other locations that he overly enjoyed?

Finally, I get the impression that Mr. Gricar was meticulous in his activities (professional and personal), and orderly people keep lists. Did he keep lists of things to do? If so, were they handwritten or electronically created? My guess would be that he made handwritten lists and that he would document everything.

One additional comment-—Mr. Gricar’s notoriety is primarily linked to Central Pennsylvania. If he were to move to Dubuque, IA or Okemah, OK and start a new life, it is reasonable to assume that no one would recognize him as a missing person.

Also, numerous adults are reported missing every year in the United States. With his laptop being a part of the incident, I can’t rule out that it was not being used to communicate with someone else--near his hometown or living in another state. As a result, Mr. Gricar using the disappearance to begin a new chapter in his life is certainly plausible.

Here are the ratings for this third scenario:

+1 Evidence that an unknown individual(s) was/were in his vehicle.
+1 His laptop was discarded.
+1 Was reportedly seen in another vehicle as well as with a woman.
+1 His car was returned undamaged to Ms. Fornicola
+1 He made sure that the dog was cared for that day
+1 Murky personal finances (e.g., lack of ownership of assets, paying for items in cash)
-1 Someone was smoking in his vehicle.
-1 The laptop being discarded so close to the recovered vehicle.
-1 Credible witness sightings.
-1 Friends and family have reported no other romantic links

I’ll continue my thoughts on this case soon, and here are the links to the previous entries Part I , Part II, Part III, Part IV, . Part V, Part VI, and Part VII.

*Note: After posting this, Gricar Blogger JJ from Phila stated there are at least three witnesses who place Mr. Gricar in his vehicle around the time he went missing. I'll provide additional information later.


J. J. in Phila said...

I was just looking through these posts.

Mr. Gricar was of Slovenian extraction, though born in Ohio, and did visit Slovenia on vacation at least once.

I'm told he had photos of his distant Slovenia cousin displayed in his office.

Note that his passport was not used.