Guest Blogger: The Gricar Witness List, Part I

One of my blog's themes has been that citizens using the Internet can assist police to solve cases.

Social media tools, blogs, and discussion boards at the very least can help publicize information about crimes or alleged crimes; especially in those instances involving missing persons.

The analysis that JJ in Phila has provided through his Ray Gricar blog, hosted by the Centre Daily Times (State College, PA), has been phenomenal.

Case Summary: Ray 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 last spoke to her via his 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 near his parked vehicle.

JJ has detailed just about every aspect of this missing person case and has recently published multiple indices to help citizens learn more about the theories, known evidence, and witnesses in this strange disappearance.

Graciously, JJ agreed to be today’s guest blogger.

This entry is divided into two posts.

Post #1 (below) describes how the list was compiled and includes interesting notes.

Post #2 (here): shows the list (described by as JJ as a work in progress).


Part I

Slamdunk asked me to discuss the witness list that I constructed for the disappearance of Ray Gricar. About eight months ago, I managed to compile a rough witness list. This blog is about how I put the list together.

The witnesses that I’m looking at are those who saw Mr. Gricar in the time since his girlfriend left from work on the morning of 4/15/05 to midnight on 4/18/05.

--How did I get this list of witnesses?--

All have been reported, at least generally (and there others that have not been).

Some of the details were not. I got those by, well, asking. I asked people in the press that reported the story and that either talked to law enforcement or talked to the witnesses themselves. I did the same thing with people in law enforcement that were familiar with the case. I also had some of them review the list before I published it in my blog.

--What did I learn while compiling it?--

Only one thing surprised me about doing this. Nobody else thought of it before. These reports were scattered all over news stories for nearly four years.

The last information actually came out in July of 2008, that several witnesses saw Mr. Gricar moving his car in the parking lot across from the Street of Shops between 5:30-6:30 PM on 4/15/05. I just put them together. I wanted to see if the fit a timeline; they do.

I also found out some background about several of the unpublished witnesses, from reliable (and sometimes multiple) sources.

For instance, the witness known as “McKnight’s witness” was going to Harrisburg, for a birthday party for a family member; he’d remember the time and date. He reads the Centre Daily Times and recognized Mr. Gricar from a photo.

The off duty police officer wasn’t tossing a few (or a few too many) after a rough shift. He was not a police officer from the Wilkes-Barre area; he was from southeastern Pennsylvania.

He was in Wilkes-Barre for a family related event held nearby. It would be hugely unlikely that he would be drinking so much that his judgment would be impaired to misidentify someone as Mr. Gricar and not run into a toll booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the way home.

His family members may have been with him. He saw the story later in the week and called the police.

The officer, a veteran police officer with rank, noted something; from what I understand about his background, he would notice things.

The man he identified as Mr. Gricar was smoking, but clumsily. He didn’t look like a habitual smoker. He reported this prior to the disclosure that cigarette ash and the smell of smoke were discovered in the Mini Cooper Mr. Gricar drove.

While I couldn’t speak to the witnesses, I could hear from people that had spoken to them or from people that had talked to their police interviewers.

I have reports of other witnesses from the Lewisburg area and I know that some of the details of what these witnesses saw have not been released. When released, it would not, however, change my estimations on what happened to Mr. Gricar.


In sum, JJ painstakingly constructed this detailed witness list along with a timeline—something that no one else, outside of the investigators, have done.

He, however, has said, "The witness list should be considered a work in progress, with both more witnesses and more details about what they saw quite possibly being unreported."

JJ spoke with family members, friends, and colleagues of Mr. Gricar, as well as those in law enforcement.

With such information published, citizens in the three described areas of Central Pennsylvania (Wilkes Barre, Lewisburg, and Bellefonte) are more likely to recall seeing or hearing something that might be relevant to the case—-pieces of information that could help provide answers to assist in the search for this missing person.

To view the witness list, go here.

Note: To read more of JJ’s insights go to his blog located here.


My Husband's Watching TV... said...

I have been reading your blog for the past month or so and I must ask what is your interest in missing persons? I find it very interesting as well so I just wondered what intrigued you about it.

Iva said...

ps thank you so much for your birthday wishes to me yesterday! I really appreciate it! Have a great weekend!!

 ALH said...

Thanks for the comment! My life is in fact very mundane at the moment and thus my writing topics have become just so. I'm on break from school and trapped in suburbia at the moment, boring! But I thank you so much for appreciating my literary attempt to make it somewhat interesting!

Slamdunk said...

@ My Husband...: Funny you should ask. One of the reasons that I started this blog was to talk about crime and missing persons cases because of my previous experiences as an officer in addition to my schooling.

When I thought more about why missing persons cases have always interested/bothered me, it brought back a memory from several years ago that I had forgotten about.

I'll save that story for an upcoming post, and thanks for asking as I can now use your question as an intro.

@ Iva & ALH: Your welcome.

James (SeattleDad) said...

Very interesting. Reading this I do hope that this case can be solved.

J. J. in Phila said...

Two notes:

1. Not all witnesses are equal. Ms. Fenton is perhaps the one most likely to be wrong. She knew Mr. Gricar, but it was a fleeting glimpse from 20 feet while he was in a moving car. No one else can definitely confirm that sighting.

2. The reason I'm interested in this case was that I'm from west central PA, went to Penn State (located in Mr. Gricar's county), and (almost 20 years ago), held public offices there, at the local level.

I thought, originally, that Mr. Gricar might have been murdered because he was a public official. That possibility royally offended me.

Anonymous said...

I agree that ordinary citizens, using the Internet, could assist police in solving cases. But as you’ve pointed out before, that possibility would depend on the release of detailed, accurate information. Unfortunately, since law enforcement has traditionally been reluctant to do that, it pretty much precludes a public forum (such as a blog or discussion board) as an effective tool.

In the Gricar disappearance, there were attempts to disseminate information outside of news articles. The Centre Daily Times once had an online Question & Answer forum, as well as a blog, where investigative reporters attempted to inform the public. But they are no longer available and, frankly, never lived up to the public’s expectations. They uniformly failed to address some of the most fundamental questions surrounding this mystery and they were unwilling to publish, in any venue, all that they knew from law enforcement contacts and their own inquiries.

But JJ’s blog, while probably helping to keep the Gricar matter in front of the public (or at least those who have an interest in the unsolved mystery), should not be confused with a repository of investigative facts. JJ isn’t part of the official investigation and, despite the blog host (there are other blogs and blog entries hosted by the CDT in regard to Gricar), his blog isn’t an extension of (or substitute for) the news media inquiry into the disappearance. It’s simply one person’s opinion, wrapped around a selective regurgitation of “loose” news reports.

J. J. in Phila said...

Anonymous, I don't disagree with you that most of the information has been published. It, however, was never organized. If you wanted to figure who saw what, where and when, you had to go through about 3 1/3 years of press stories. Even then, some of the details are new.

As for "opinion," you won't find any on the list. You will find a blog where I looked at these witnesses and pointed out how some could be more problematic than others.

Could somebody that was on those days remember something important after reading the list? Maybe, and I certainly hope so.

Anonymous said...

Unlike you, I've been following this matter from the beginning. I've had no trouble organizing or interpreting the published reports. That's why I am troubled by your selective approach to the whole body of information. But if it gets the job done, go for it!

J. J. in Phila said...

Erasernut, sorry, Anonymous, those are not selective, though they are not complete, I'm sure. There was another sighting on 4/16/05 at 1:30 PM in Lewisburg, that the police discounted.

I checked with the reporters, and some law enforcement officials familiar with the witnesses, before doing the time line.

Now, since you have "been following this matter from the beginning," why didn't you do a time line? As I've indicated, I'm surprised that I was the first, nearly four years after the fact.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for your comments anonymous.

Just a few things:

1) "Witness" lists include those persons who state they saw someone or something and should not be considered as based on factual testimony. I should have stated this in my introduction.

2) Agreed--the investigators know more about the case than I will ever know. In contrast, I think it is benefical to the investigation to note when and where "witnesses" reported seeing something.

If authorities can present that information in an orderly fashion, perhaps additional citizens would remember seeing a man waiting in a parking lot, a large item being thrown from a moving vehicle from a bridge, etc.

3) Though it is rare that folks at their computer can find a valuable piece of information to assist authorities in closing an investigation, groups like the DOE Network have solved dozens of unidentified persons cases.

I think Internet discussion groups work better for some types of cases versus others--namely missing persons seems to have the most potential.

Holly said...

I am amazed that when you actually think about it, how much you do observe about things...and more importantly that these things can hopefully help solve a case.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Holly. In general, be observant; keep a written log of anything noteworthy; and report crime or suspicious activity to police ASAP.

Specific to this case, look at the Gricar photograph above. Anyone who may have been in Bellefonte, Lewisburg, or anywhere else in PA Thursday-Saturday, April 14-16, 2005, may remember something which could help police.

Or even after; it's possible this man is still out there somewhere in the world. From what I've read, possible "sightings" are still being reported and investigated.

Any positive information, even if it might not seem related to Gricar's disappearance, can be directed to Detective Matt Rickard, Bellefonte Borough Police Department.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone think of a reason why law enforcement has, for nearly 5 years, never confirmed Ray Gricar's existence beyond the supposed video surveillance record of Thursday evening, April 14, 2005 (in Bellefonte)?

Can anyone think of a reason why Gricar was reported missing Friday night wearing the same (or similar) outer clothing as was supposedly depicted on that video?

Can anyone think of a reason why this high-profile investigation was handed to a patrolman from Gricar's hometown?

Can anyone think of a reason why no one at the state level was concerned enough to question the failed investigation into why a career prosecutor . . . a representative of the state . . . suddenly went missing?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone hazard a guess as to why law enforcement declined to involve no fewer than two local (within minutes of the Lewisburg scene), certified search and rescue groups in the hunt for Ray Gricar?

Does anyone find it the least bit peculiar that "fishermen" found Gricar's laptop computer (sans hard drive) months after divers had search the same area?

Does anyone find it disconcerting that a hard drive, fitting Gricar's computer, suddenly turned up months after the laptop was found and despite another intensive search by law enforcement?

Anonymous said...

I want answers to these and other questions. Maybe readers here do to. But the answers aren't to be found in a crackerjack box/blog . . . or maybe they are. Who can know?

J. J. in Phila said...

In answer to this question, the question is when there was the last solid sighting. I really have no question (and I doubt that the police do) that Mr. Gricar made the call and was alive on 4/15/05. The Bellefonte Police list that as the last time he was heard from.

I have no problem with the Lewisburg witnesses on 4/15, either (and I doubt that LE does). 4/16 is different. One of the people in LE I've talked to is absolutely convinced Mr. Gricar was there. I could be convinced otherwise.

Slamdunk said...

@ Anonymous posters 1/11 4:35 & 5:06: It sounds like you have thoughts on those questions and you are welcome to email me with them.

My purpose with JJ's guest posts was to show what a citizen can do in organizing information from a variety of sources to increase the chances that additional case tips would be submitted to police.

I think he has provided a worthy public service on the Gricar case as well as offering an example of how this could be used to involve the public in other missing person investigations.