Part IX: Ray Gricar Missing Person

This is the ninth 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 was driving on a local highway. His car was found abandoned the next day, and his laptop computer was later recovered submerged under a bridge near his parked vehicle.

Scenarios Conclusion:
During the last several posts, I have discussed the strengths and weaknesses of three plausible theories to explain the disappearance of Ray Gricar: suicide, crime victimization, and voluntary disappearance. Each explanation has merit, but not one of the scenarios has an overwhelming amount of proof to convince me at a high level of confidence.

First, though Mr. Gricar was experiencing changes in his life with his approaching retirement, his lack of assets, and having a relative that reportedly did commit suicide, he did not leave a trail that is usually associated with taking your own life. Most importantly, no body was found—and the Susquehanna River, the longest non-navigable river (always shallow and in the summer real shallow) in the US, just does not hide bodies.

Second, the evidence for Mr. Gricar being a crime victim is stronger, but not without serious questions. In favor of this scenario--he held an important position as a county prosecutor and made many enemies. He evidently gave only slight indications (sleeping more, preocupied, etc) to loved ones that could be viewed as that something was wrong. His personal vehicle contained signs that someone was inside that he would not have permitted (smoking evidence). Further, his computer and hard drive were found in a waterway adjacent to where his car was parked.

In contrast, almost a dozen witnesses (some very convincing) reportedly saw him in the area (Lewisburg, Wilkes-Barre, or Bellefonte) during the time he was missing. There were no signs of a struggle in his vehicle or of any crime incident being reported to police that seemingly would explain what happened on the day he went missing. His phone call to his girlfriend included the statement he was driving on a local highway and taking the day off—something that did not raise an alarm or worry her. To substantiate a crime victim scenario, it just seems like there should be something else.

Finally, the voluntary disappearance theory has appeal. Citing some of the similar arguments used to bolster a suicide claim, Gricar had few assets and was retiring soon. His adult daughter lived out of state and he was unmarried at the time. His vehicle was recovered undamaged and it was found out later that it was purchased in the girlfriend’s name.

On the day of his disappearance, he was reportedly seen with an unknown woman in Lewisburg. Several years ago, he had driven to a baseball game in Ohio without telling anyone and was surprised with the attention that he received from worried loved ones. The computer being discarded in the water could be explained as necessary to cover its use in setting up a voluntary disappearance.

So, after all of this talk, where do I stand? As I have discussed at length in this series, I feel comfortable arguing that he was either a crime victim or planned his disappearance. With that in mind, I believe two details of the case weigh more convincingly for a crime victim scenario: 1) the computer; and, 2) the presence of another person in Mr. Gricar’s vehicle.

First, I think the computer is the key to the entire incident. If police were able to retrieve the information from that submerged hard drive, then I believe the mystery would be solved. Unfortunately, several attempts by computer experts have been unsuccessful in viewing information from the drive, but it even as a paperweight it is still a critical piece of information in the case.

As a prosecutor familiar with police investigation techniques (as well as being obvious to anyone who thinks about missing person cases), Gricar would have known that the entire area around his vehicle would be comprehensively searched. As a result, dumping the computer into the river (in view of the parking area where his care was recovered) to hide it would have been foolish.

In my opinion, the computer being dumped into the water could likely represent a hasty decision made by someone else that points to scenarios where he was victimized. After or during the incident, the suspects were looking to get rid of evidence, and tossing the computer in the water was thought to be a good idea.

Also, although I discounted the idea at first, I have listened to others argue that the computer and hard drive’s locations make it possible (if not probable to some) that the items were dumped into the river well after Mr. Gricar’s disappearance. If this aspect is believed, then this further strengthens a crime victim scenario. The river near the bridge is very shallow and chances are that a laptop would be eventually found there by someone—especially with a government property stamp on it (as I assume it had). It also means that someone had to risk being seen to discard the computer.

This then asks the million dollar question of: why would someone dump computer in the river later anyway? Certainly, this would not fit a scenario involving someone who has fled the area to start a new life—it further reinforces a crime scenario that—either someone thought that it was a clever trick (hiding something in an area already cleared by police) or the act represents some type of message to authorities (a taunt?).

Second, with Gricar’s car smelling like smoke and as long as authorities discounted my explanation (or others that would make sense) as to why his car might have had this scent, it means that someone else was involved. Since finding someone else unknown to your loved ones that will forever remain silent to help you commit suicide is beyond a stretch, the suspect/helper aspect of the case could be used to argue the crime victim or voluntary disappearance scenario.

Why, if Mr. Gricar planned to disappear, would he leave very little trace of any evidence behind, yet allow someone to smoke in his vehicle—-a car that he seemed very proud of? Using this information, it just makes more sense that the victim either had no choice as to who was in his car or that he did not know about it.

I think the biggest weaknesses of my crime victim argument are these: 1) It fails to describe why Mr. Gricar took the day off and presumably drove on Highway 192; and, 2) It does not explain why he brought his laptop with him. Unfortunately, I can only make educated guesses at these questions.

In sum, the computer being found in shallow water near his parked vehicle, the possibility that the laptop and hard drive were in the Susquehanna River after police searched the area, and that his car contained evidence of smoking, indicate to me that he was a crime victim.

I foresee two more posts on the Gricar case-—one being the reader responses to my questions, and the other describing an area that, if he is a victim, would be an appealing place to hide such a crime.

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, Part VII, and Part VIII.


J. J. in Phila said...

Mr. Gricar was known to enjoy driving.

He took part of the day before off.

A few years before, he spend a day and a half off in Cleveland for a ball game and didn't tell his staff or his then wife.

It is not too unusual that he would take the day off.

sherrijean981 said...

If it was a criminal scenerio, why put the computer and hard drive in the area his car was found, at all? People fish in the river and some walk in it. Why not put it in an area where the water is very deep and no one goes in it? A quarry? Man made lakes? Raystown Lake is very deep in certain areas, with former villages below.

After finding out the home computer had info on it for searches on how to destroy a computer and hard drive, law enforcement is laying the idea for media and citizens to believe he walked away or committed suicide. What other things had Ray searched on his home computer that could help with the case but not lead us to believe he walked away? Or if more that he could have walked away, was there a country or area he was researching?

Another thought on what DA Madeira and Bellefonte police just released: were they only putting some things out there on the chance someone who might have had something to do with his disappearance will feel like they got away with something and will now make mistakes to get them caught. Maybe even an idea of who it is and just waiting for them to screw up.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for your comment SJ--your points are good ones.

My April 20th post will be an update of the RG case--I am especially interested in what other search terms were found on the home computer.