The Unexplained Disappearance of Ray Gricar
Case File Overview
On the morning of Friday April 15, 2005 long-time Centre County, Pennsylvania district attorney Ray Gricar called his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, and told her he was playing hooky from work. The pair said, “I love you,” to each other as they ended their call. Gricar then set out alone down scenic Route 192 in his red Mini Cooper.
Fornicola reported Gricar missing at 11:30 p.m. that evening when he failed to answer her numerous phone calls or return home.
By 5 p.m. the next day, Gricar’s Mini Cooper was found roughly 50 miles from his home parked across from an antique mall in Lewisburg called the “Street of Shops”.
His cellphone and a water bottle were located inside his locked vehicle, yet his keys and wallet were missing. When processing Gricar’s vehicle, technicians detected an obvious cigarette smell. In addition, they found ash on the passenger-side floor mat. Gricar didn’t smoke and detested the habit. There were, however, no signs of foul play in or around the vehicle.
At the time of his disappearance, Gricar’s work laptop was nowhere to be found. Two men fishing in the Susquehanna River in July 2005 discovered his missing laptop. However, the hard drive was not found. Two months after Gricar’s laptop was recovered, a woman stumbled upon the hard drive on the banks of the Susquehanna River. It was within walking distance of where Gricar’s Mini Cooper had been located. No information could be retrieved from the badly damaged and waterlogged hard drive.
There was no activity on Gricar’s email, bank accounts, or credit cards after his disappearance.
Gricar was declared legally dead in July 2011.
Weight: 172 lbs
Hair: Brown and grey
Defining Characteristics: Wearing a blue fleece jacket, blue jeans, and sneakers at time of his disappearance
Last seen 04/15/05
Case File Theories
Did 59-year-old Gricar purposefully jump into the Susquehanna River to his death?
Some of the evidence in the case points to suicide. In May 1996, Roy J. Gricar, Ray Gricar’s brother, committed suicide in the Great Miami River. Roy suffered from serious depression, which can be genetic. Moving back to Ray Gricar, some of his friends and colleagues thought he was acting emotionally distant in the time leading up to his disappearance. Could he have been suffering from depression? In April 2009, investigators revealed that a search of Gricar’s home computer yielded a history of Internet searches for the phrases: “how to wreck a hard drive,” “how to fry a hard drive,” and “water damage to a notebook computer.” Perhaps Gricar was preparing to destroy his laptop before his suicide.
On the other hand, details of Gricar’s disappearance suggest he didn’t take his own life. Robert Buehner Jr., Gricar’s friend and the district attorney in Montour County, stated that Gricar was happy with his girlfriend, Fornicola, and extremely close with his daughter, Lara. Even more, Gricar’s body was never found. Investigators conducted an extensive search that included the use of helicopters, dive teams, patrol cars, and search dogs. Officials were unable to locate any sign of the district attorney. This is telling, as the Susquehanna River was uncharacterically low that year; it’s more than likely if he committed suicide his body would’ve eventually been found.
Did Gricar walk away from his life?
Some argue that Gricar met another woman and ran off to start a new life. When investigators interviewed nearby store owners about Gricar, at least one thought he’d spotted the district attorney inside his shop on the day he disappeared waiting for someone. Furthermore, another shop owner was certain he saw Gricar speaking with an unknown dark-haired woman. Throw in the evidence of smoking in Gricar’s vehicle, and perhaps he was having an affair with a smoker. Also, remember that someone in Gricar’s home had been looking up how to destroy a computer hard drive. This is something he might want to do before abandoning his life.
This theory is tenuous at best. For one, the witnesses who claim to have seen Gricar waiting for someone or with a woman on the day of his disappearance never positively identified Gricar as the man they saw. Moreover, many of Gricar’s friends professed he was fiercely dedicated to work and family, casting doubt on the theory that Gricar disappeared on his own. Police discovered that none of Gricar’s personal belongings were missing from the family home. And remember that Gricar’s cell phone, bank accounts, and credit cards were never used after he vanished. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s improbable Gricar woke up one morning and ran away from his life.
Did someone murder Gricar?
Foul play is also a main theory in this case. District attorneys prosecute criminals for a living. Thus, they can have many enemies. Gricar could’ve been murdered by someone he prosecuted. Also, a family member or his girlfriend could’ve killed Gricar and then tried to make it appear like a suicide or as though he’d walked away. In fact, maybe his girlfriend was the one investigating how to destroy a laptop hard drive on the family’s home computer.
It’s especially relevant that no credible suspects have emerged. No suspicion has been directed at anyone Gricar prosecuted. It’s also doubtful his family or girlfriend had anything to do with his disappearance. His girlfriend and several family members were polygraphed but no person of interest developed. Gricar’s home was searched, and no evidence indicating foul play was discovered. Gricar’s girlfriend Fornicola and his daughter Lara are not suspects. Also, they seemed genuinely distraught after he vanished.
What do you think happened to Ray Gricar?
Shawn Weaver oversaw the investigation from 2006 until 2014 when the state police took over. He sums it up best when he explains, “You can be set on one theory, really firmly believe it and then you can talk yourself right out of it.” This is exactly what happens to me when I think about this case.
Immediately after his disappearance, there were multiple sightings of Gricar. Someone even said they’d seen him in Oprah’s studio audience. Tips still trickle in, but because years have passed there’s less and less substance to them.
Former DA of Centre County, Pennsylvania, Stacy Parks Miller, admits, “I’m not sure if we’re ever really going to know what happened to him. 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.”
Todd Matthews, director of communications and case management for the National Missing and Unidentified Person System, or NamUs, refuses to give up on Gricar. Matthews states, “When a district attorney goes missing, you know, it’s pretty big. It’s going to catch people’s attention. A lot of people don’t have a large footprint. This guy had influential friends, he was well known.”
By 2015, NamUs had compared Gricar’s DNA to unidentified bodies nine times. So far, there hasn’t been a match. The search for Gricar continues.
Related Reading and Listening
Ray Frank Gricar – The Charlie Project case overview
Generation Why Podcast – podcast episode
True Crime Garage – podcast episode
“New Leads Few and Far Between in Case of Missing Centre County DA Gricar” – StateCollege.com article
“What Happened to Ray Gricar?” – CNN article
“Ten Years Later, Ray Gricar’s Disappearance Still Haunts Many” – Penn Live article