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New Leads Few and Far Between in Case of Missing Centre County DA Gricar

by and on March 31, 2017 4:45 AM

It’s been nearly 12 years since former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar mysteriously disappeared, and, according to the county’s current district attorney, there are still as many questions today as there were back on April 15, 2005.

“It’s still a baffling case,” said District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. “We’re always hoping someone, somewhere will come forward and maybe provide a clue that will help us solve this mystery, but, I just don’t think that’s going to happen.

"We’ve explored every possibility and we haven’t come up with anything. Apparently, this is one of those mysteries that may never be solved.”

The last known contact from Gricar came in a phone call, placed to the District Attorney’s Office at 11:30 a.m. April 15. He informed Patty Fornicola, a secretary in the office who was also his girlfriend, that he was driving through the Brush Valley area. When he didn’t return home that evening, Fornicola reported him missing.

The next day, an investigation began after Gricar’s red Mini Cooper was found parked in a lot at an antique store in Lewisburg.

Authorities said there was nothing suspicious about the way his vehicle was left, although it was noted his county-issued cell phone was still in the car. Gone were his laptop computer, his keys and his wallet.

For the next several days, investigators combed the area, searching the Susquehanna River and its banks between Lewisburg and Milton. Nothing was found.

On July 30, 2005, fishermen found a county-issued laptop computer, which was later identified as Gricar’s. After being analyzed by a computer expert, authorities learned the device’s hard drive was missing. Divers again searched the area of the river in hopes of finding the missing hard drive, but those attempts failed.

Two months later, a hard drive was recovered on the banks of the river about 100 yards from where the laptop was found. The hard drive was analyzed by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service and a private firm, but the data from the drive was not recoverable due to the damage it sustained.

CASE GOES COLD

The case then went cold, although a few tips here and there had investigators following up on leads that never panned out.

On June 30, 2011, Gricar’s daughter, Lara Gricar, and the trustees of his estate asked the Centre County Court of Common Pleas for a court declaration of declared death in absentia, which was approved by then-county President Judge David E. Grine. Gricar was deemed officially dead on July 25, 2011.

The day after the declaration of Gricar’s death, Utah police arrested a man who resembled Gricar, but would not reveal his identity. The man resembled Gricar in height and weight and had similarities in the lips and face wrinkles. Gricar’s fingerprints were immediately sent from Centre County to Utah for identification purposes, but comparisons revealed the man in Utah was not Gricar.

Since then, there have been very few leads in the case, said Parks Miller.

“Every once in awhile, we’ll get a tip from maybe somebody at the jail, or an anonymous phone call concerning his disappearance,” said Parks Miller. “Of course, we follow up on all the tips, but there just hasn’t been any with any substance.”

She said new leads are few and far between.

“I’m not sure if we’re ever really going to know what happened to him,” Parks Miller said. “Maybe someday, someone will give us that tip we need to close this book. I’m not entirely confident that’s going to happen. I’m afraid this might just always be an unsolved case.”

Gricar was born Oct. 9, 1945, in Cleveland, Ohio, and earned his juris doctor degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He served as Centre County district attorney from 1985 until his disappearance in 2005, having been re-elected four times before announcing he would not run for re-election in the 2005 campaign.



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.



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