Part XIV: Ray Gricar Missing Person


Note: My missing person post for Monday is being moved to today because I wanted to link a piece on the Ray Gricar missing person case.

Fellow blogger JJ graciously allowed me to be a guest contributor over at his blog on the Centre Daily Times (State College, PA newspaper which is also home to Penn State University) website.

JJ has been discussing the Gricar case for years now and is very well versed in the matter. He has also posted his opinions regarding the investigation on this blog as well.

The question posed to me was what can police do to jumpstart the Ray Gricar missing person case.

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.

Here is part of my response on JJ's site:

Recommendation #3: Try these unconventional methods to generate new leads:

1) Mr. Gricar was a vocal supporter of the Cleveland Indians and had attended professional baseball games in the past. If he is using an assumed identity, it is reasonable that he may attend major league games. Police could contact officials with Major League Baseball and gain their support in distributing Ray Gricar Missing Person flyers at baseball stadiums. For all the venues or at select stadiums, a public service announcement could be made regarding the case—displaying a photo, any related reward money available, and the contact information for the investigating agency.

2) In general, human beings are creatures of habit. This applies to computer activity habits as well. Most of us use one or two user names and passwords for all of our computer accounts.

If Mr. Gricar used a handful of unique user names and passwords for his computer activities, authorities could use this information to search other online accounts for matching credentials. For instance, if Mr. Gricar regularly used the user name “DisplacedTribeFan00” with the password “lovebellefonte”, common search engines could be used to see if those names appear elsewhere on the Internet. In addition, police could search for that user name or a similar combination being used with a Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL email account (this would require extra hoop jumping but I believe is worth a try).

3) Release what information exists (in a sanitized format) related to Mr. Gricar’s computer activity prior to his disappearance including search terms and browsing history. What may appear as irrelevant to one or two people, might be considered important in developing new leads when viewed by other individuals.

4) Release details in the State Police report as to why the investigator believed that Mr. Gricar was likely a suicide victim. Most of the persons who have followed the case through the publicly accessible information rank suicide behind crime victim and voluntary disappearance scenarios.

What did this investigator consider in his/her decision that pushed suicide to the front of likely explanations for Gricar’s disappearance?

5) Maintain a regular dialogue with technical data recovery specialists. Just because the submerged hard drive has been examined twice using mid-2000s technology, does not mean that someone 5 or 10 years later will not be innovative enough to recover data from Gricar’s formerly submerged drive.

There is more over at JJ's blog. To view the full post, you have to an account on the newspapers website which can be done here.

To access previous posts on Ray Gricar go to the left and click on the "Ray Gricar" keyword.

10 comments:

fayezie said...

(commenting before reading the linked stories)

certainly the hard drive should be accessible... give it to any 28 year old computer techy and he'll get the info in a crack...

were there any of the usual incidences following his disappearance? like attempts at cashing insurance, etc? what happened to his bank accounts, etc?

I'm sure once I click through I'll answer my own questions. :)

Slamdunk said...

No, good questions Faye.

The laptop and hard drive are the strangest part of the case. In short, police find the missing attorney's car in a parking lot next to a waist-deep river. They search the areas around the river and find nothing.

A few weeks later, a fisherman pulls the laptop (without the hard drive) from the water in the place that was previously searched. Police again search the water--this time it is even less deep and find nothing.

Again, a short time later, a mom and son skipping rocks in the same part of the water find the hard drive submerged in shoe deep water. It was examined locally, but declared unusable. Authorities had it sent to specialists (I think with Kroll Inc.) who also had no luck in retrieving data from the drive.

I guess that drinking water source is rough not only for stomachs, bit on computer equipment as well...

Investigators examined his bank accounts and evidently found no unusual activity. From what I read, the missing man was mysterious with his money--he paid for things in cash, owned very little, was not married at the time, and has an adult daughter living in Washington state.

Local media has been pressuring the family to release financial records of the missing man, but they have been resistant to that--seeing it as a matter of privacy.

J. J. in Phila said...

First, I want to commend Slamdunk on his blog entry once again.

In partial answer to Faye's questions, Mr. Gricar is legally alive; he has not been declared dead and the family has made no effort to claim his insurance or his pension (which tops $300,000), as of April 2009.

The police did ask the FBI to monitor his credit card account, which showed no activity after he disappeared. In 2006, it was revealed that they were not actively watching his bank accounts, but were relying on his daughter to report any activity.

Mr. Gricar's daughter, Lara, was appointed guardian in late 2005.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the additional comments JJ.

fayezie said...

i was having a hard time logging into the newspaper's website...

but what could the guy have been running from? and the girlfriend? has she been "watched"?

Slamdunk said...

Faye:

I'll suggest to JJ that he make his blog available somewhere publically.

With Gricar, since he was a District Attorney and spent his career making ppl angry, there has been discussion that he was hiding (with or without federal help) from someone related to a criminal case.

Since his laptop harddrive was damaged, I have heard it argued that he ran to avoid anyone finding out about other criminal or embarrasing side-interests that he may have had.

Anonymous said...

If this case is like others it can be solved quickly by giving all the family and close friends lie detector tests once again. It's common for the missing person (if alive) to contact their closest family member or lover once the police have concluded the initial investigation. Ray's daughter Lara has a joint account with Ray and Ray's retirement fund is bound to pay a lump sum to Lara once Ray is declared dead. I doubt Lara would expose her father. In fact in response to some questions she has responded "that it's nobody's business". Of course Ray is not actually wanted for any crimes so no judge would grant a warrant for a wire tap of Lara's phone. Clearly Ray had some secrets on a hard drive he did not want exposed when he would have been required to turn in the county issued lap top. It may have been as simple as pornography or communication with a male lover. Ray wasn't the type to take any chances.

Slamdunk said...

@ Anonymous: I agree with your lie detector suggestion. I do believe that the participants would be resistant this time, as they are voluntary.

J. J. in Phila said...

Anonymous, I think a second polygraph would be a good idea, even if only to dispel the Lara theory.

I'm neither convinced that Mr. Gricar walked away, or if he did, that he contacted family members.

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