Part XIII: Ray Gricar Missing Person

Note: Another story involving a missing man was in the news this week, and I wanted to comment on it with respect to the Ray Gricar missing person case. Subsequently, I’ll hold my next writing on the Brianna Maitland until the following Monday.

In summary of the Gricar case—-he 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 last spoke to her via cell phone while driving on a local highway. His car was found abandoned the next day in a town about an hour east of his home, and his laptop computer was later recovered submerged under a bridge near his parked vehicle.

In a previous post on the case’s three primary explanations, I discussed how it was possible that Mr. Gricar committed suicide. Though authorities stated that Gricar did not appear to have suicidal issues (according to this medical records), his brother had apparently taken his own life a few years earlier, friends had reported recent changes in his Gricar’s behavior, and he was nearing a substansial life landmark as an unmarried man with a grown daughter (who lives in another state)—that of retirement.

The Centre Daily Times’ (PA) Ray Gricar blogger, JJ from Phila, has also explored the suicide explanation and provides good insight into the details that support as well as detract from this theory—including how Gricar reportedly inquired about the process for erasing a computer hard drive. Both JJ and I rank suicide as a lesser explanation as compared to crime victim and voluntarily missing, but still acknowledge that it remains a possibility.

The most significant minus against a suicide theory in the Gricar case is: if it did happen, where is the body?

With respect to Gricar’s situation, three geographic aspects seemingly should have produced a body if suicide was the explanation: the river, the area, and hunters.

As has been discussed, the Susquehanna River is the largest non-navigable river in the world—meaning it is shallow (referring to if Gricar jumped from the bridge near where his laptop was found). Despite having spring high waters during the time Gricar disappeared, that particular river just does not seem to hide bodies. Since 2005, no unidentified bodies have been recovered from the river.

Also, Lewisburg, the town where Gricar’s car was recovered is not an urban area, but not particularly a typical rural area either. Home to Bucknell University, the town and surrounding communities are the work, school, and entertainment destination for thousands of folks daily—producing lots of people on foot and by car.

Further, as with most of Pennsylvania, hunting and fishing are very popular pastimes. Sportsmen traverse the woods and fields of Pennsylvania as well as any other hunting state and certainly find their share of unexpected things. Despite the passing now of several sporting seasons, no additional Gricar evidence has been located (not counting the laptop and hard drive recovered from the river).

Again, that leaves the question: if Gricar took his own life, why has no body been located?

Interestingly, two recent stories in the news feature apparent suicides where the bodies were not immediately found:

1) Fugitive murder suspect and University of Georgia professor George Zinkhan’s body was recently found by cadaver dogs in a heavily wooded area. The media reports indicate that he partially buried himself and likely committed suicide. His body was found approximately 1.3 miles from where his vehicle was recovered.

It will be interesting to learn more of the details on Zinkham’s body, as it could provide potential ideas as to what to look for in other people suspected of committing suicide who want to hide their remains.

2) In Germany a few months ago, the skeleton of a man was found hanging from a very tall tree. Authorities found a suicide note and believe he committed the act 30 years ago, but had been listed as missing all this time.

In both of these instances, persons committed suicide, but their remains were not recovered until much later. I think that if Zinkhan had not been considered to be such a danger to society that the intensive manhunt (lasting weeks) would have occurred—-certainly decreasing the chances of his hidden remains being found.

In the Gricar case, I was told that cadaver dogs were used in at least one area, but I believe it would have been different as compared to the dogs involved in searching for Zinkham. With Zinkham, authorities had an accident scene, most likely some type of scent indication leading away from the crash and into the woods, and that the professor was considered to be armed and dangerous. In sum, they had a strong belief that he was with guns and in the brush somewhere.

In contrast, Gricar’s scent reportedly stopped at the end of the parking lot where his car was recovered. This led investigators to believe that he got into another vehicle. Also, though authorities want to find Gricar, he had not been accused of killing several people and was not considered an immediate threat to society—-Gricar was just another missing man with an important job.

Could Ray Gricar have committed suicide and somehow managed to hide his body? In my mind, this is still a less likely scenario to explain his disappearance, but certainly at least more feasible in considering the Zinkham and German cases.

The three previous posts on the Gricar case are Part X, Part XI, and Part XII.


J. J. in Phila said...

Yes, a cadaver dog was used to search the river withing a fortnight of the disappearance.

I have also been trying to follow other people known to have drowned in the Susquehanna (that branch and lower) since April 2005. I know of no unrecovered bodies.

The river is heavily used for recreation, has multiple dams downstream, and runs past heavily populated areas, including Harrisburg.

If suicide, I doubt if Mr. Gricar jumped/walked into in the river. In theory, it could be possible he walked to some under area, especially under the cover of darkness.

It's not impossible, but not unlikely.

mrs. fuzz said...

You know, I've been reading your missing persons posts, and I don't need to watch 48 hour mystery or other shows that creep me out and make me scared. Just reading these chill me to the bone. Must be the good writing and my active imagination. Very interesting even though it's so eerie.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be just one answer. Ray kept a joint account with his daughter that police report had something over $100,000 in it. The daughter (Lara) would also be the beneficiary of the lump-sum cash value of Ray's retirement should he be declared dead. Lastly, the computer contained gay porn or something else Ray didn't want anyone to see and he researched destroying hard drives on the computer in his home. He researched "water destruction of hard drive" and his computer was found in the river. He's alive and if anyone could tap the daughter's phone (but she's not suspected of a crime) they would find Ray.

Anonymous said...

No offense, anonymous 1... I know you're trying to help, but I don't believe you can rearrange basic, non incriminating information into a case.

From reading other posts, I'm inclined to believe he walked away... from his life.

I'd like to know more about the laptop. One of his searches from home would undoubtedly have been: "How to remove a HD from a laptop?"

And why would he bother... I work IT and a laptop isn't (from those days) waterproof. No need to remove the HD, if that's what he did... why would he think he'd need to? Reviewing what led up to the laptop being in the river, his working late that night, his phone call to his girlfriend, those are relevant issues.

I'm strongly opposed to dragging his daughter into this... I don't feel it's our business.


J. J. in Phila said...

Anon and "Bob,"

Mr. Gricar spoke to people about eliminating data about a year prior to his disappearance. I think it is quite reasonable that he tossed the drive. What he didn't want found might have simply been private, like family photos, credit card numbers and bank information.

If Mr. Gricar walked away, he might have tossed the laptop itself so that no one would be looking for a separate drive.

Likewise, he could have removed and tossed the drive and with the intent of returning. He met someone, but took the laptop with him. He was murdered, but the murderer didn't realize he/she had the laptop until later.