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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. Ray then set out alone down scenic Route 192 in his red Mini Cooper.
Fornicola reported Ray missing at 11:30PM that evening when he failed to answer her numerous phone calls or return home.
By 5:00PM the next day, Ray’s Mini Cooper was found roughly 50 miles from his home parked across from an antique mall in Lewisburg called the “Street of Shops”.
Ray’s cellphone and a water bottle were located inside his locked vehicle, yet his keys and wallet were missing. When processing Ray’s vehicle, technicians detected an obvious cigarette smell. In addition, they found ash on the passenger-side floor mat. Ray did not smoke and detested the habit. There were, however, no signs of foul play in or around the vehicle.
At the time of his disappearance, Ray’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 later, a woman stumbled upon the hard drive on the banks of the Susquehanna River. It was within walking distance of where Ray’s Mini Cooper had been located. No information could be retrieved from the badly damaged and waterlogged hard drive.
There was no activity on Ray’s email, bank accounts, or credit cards after his disappearance.
And Ray was declared legally dead in July of 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 Ray 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’s brother, committed suicide in the Great Miami River. Roy suffered from serious depression, which can be genetic. Some of Ray’s friends and colleagues thought he was acting emotionally distant in the time leading up to his disappearance. Could he have been suffering from depression like his brother? In April 2009, investigators revealed that a search of Ray’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 Ray was preparing to destroy his laptop before his suicide.
On the other hand, some of the details of Ray’s disappearance suggest he did not take his own life. Robert Buehner Jr., Ray’s friend and the district attorney in Montour County, stated that Ray was very happy with his girlfriend, Patty, and extremely close with his daughter, Lara. Even more, Ray’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 Ray committed suicide his body would have eventually been found.
Did Ray walk away from his life?
Some argue that Ray met another woman and ran off to start a new life. When investigators interviewed nearby store owners about Ray, at least one thought he had spotted the district attorney inside his shop on the day he disappeared waiting for someone. Furthermore, another shop owner was certain he saw Ray speaking with an unknown dark-haired woman. Throw in the evidence of smoking in Ray’s vehicle, and maybe he was having an affair with a smoker. Also, remember that someone in Ray’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 Ray waiting for someone or with a woman on the day of his disappearance never positively identified Ray as the man they saw. Moreover, many of Ray’s friends professed he was fiercely dedicated to work and family, casting doubt on the theory that Ray disappeared on his own. Police discovered that none of Ray’s personal belongings were missing from the family home. And recall that Ray’s cell phone, bank accounts, and credit cards were never used after he vanished. Taking all of this into consideration, it is improbable Ray woke up one morning and ran away from his life.
Did someone murder Ray?
Foul play is also a main theory in this case. District attorneys prosecute criminals for a living. Thus, they can have many enemies. Ray could have been murdered by someone he prosecuted. However, the authorities have not directed suspicion at anyone Ray prosecuted. By now, the police should have been able to trace this person down if this had indeed been the case.
But maybe Ray was murdered because he failed to prosecute someone. In 2011, the former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with sexually abusing boys. When it came out that it was Ray who had decided there was not enough evidence to charge Sandusky, armchair detectives worked hard to try to link the case to Ray’s disappearance. So far, though, no connections have been substantiated.
There are even some people who suggest one of Ray’s family members or his girlfriend could have killed him and then tried to make it appear like a suicide or as though he had walked away. In fact, maybe his girlfriend was the one investigating how to destroy a laptop hard drive on the family’s home computer.
Honestly, though, it is very doubtful Ray’s family or girlfriend had anything to do with his disappearance. His girlfriend and several family members were polygraphed but no person of interest developed. Ray’s home was searched, and no evidence indicating foul play was discovered. Ray’s girlfriend Patty and his daughter Lara are not suspects. Even more, they seemed genuinely distraught after he vanished.
What do you think happened to Ray?
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 when I think about this case.
Immediately after his disappearance, there were multiple sightings of Ray. Someone even said they saw him in Oprah’s studio audience. Tips still trickle in, but because years have passed there is 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 Ray. 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 Ray’s DNA to unidentified bodies nine times. So far, there has not been a match. The search for Ray 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
I remember this case! I lean towards foul play/walked away, both sound reasonable. Good read, as always!!
I lean towards those options as well but sadly suspect he’s dead. I have a feeling the case hinges on the destroyed computer hard drive and the internet searches done from Gricar’s home. What it all means, I’m just not sure. Thanks very much for your kind words, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
I listened to the “Thinking Sideways” podcast and it was extremely interesting. It really does bring up a lot more to think about. I do feel there was fowl play involved, but by whom? The woman he was seen with in the antique shop did smoke. There was cigarette smell and a few ashes found in the vehicle. Was she bait? The feeling was that he only worked half a day on April 15, 2005. This is why he had his work laptop with him. Rae was about to retire, so destroying a hard drive, or wiping it clean of confidential information would be expected. I think he was set up and murdered maybe by someone he put in prison.
I really enjoyed that podcast episode as well! There are so many details and twists and turns to Gricar’s case. Part of what intrigues me about the cases I explore is the fact that they have many viable options as to what could’ve occurred. I agree the cigarette smell and ashes could have been from his woman friend, but I also think that seeing how much he detested smoking it would be odd for him to be having any kind of serious relationship with a smoker. I also think that his disappearance is likely related to his job, but it’s strange no real suspects were ever found. You’d think they would have investigated all of his old cases. Mind you, for all we know the police may know more than they’re releasing. They could have a suspect but no real proof. Regardless, I totally agree with you that it’s very doubtful he left on his own. Hopefully one day his loved ones can get some semblance of closure if his remains are located.
I agree with Gracie but another point is why would the State Police take over the case , unless they feel that the local police were been compromised , even if Ray was a prominent person as he was , as well as in his community?. I recall that they had found his gun in the river sometime later , maybe a diversion?. I believe that the woman he met has a huge role to play in this case. Was somebody that he sent to jail, on parole ,and lives in the immediate area?. I believe that the answer lies in the case file s , as well as in the corridors of the county court – house , somebody knows knows what happened before he went missing I. E . disgruntled staff member , or a friend / family member that he sent to jail .
Hi Wayne. Gracie sure does have lots of great points. And I love your insight as to what’s up with the State Police taking over the case. It’s easy to write this case off as a simple suicide. That is possible, but like you I can’t help but think there is much more to this story. And I hope Ray’s loved ones get some answers one day soon. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts.
I also agree that this is a job related crime and murder.. it is almost impossible in today’s world to just fall off the grid or disappear with all the social media outlets. Thare are so many missing person cases that it’s hard todo justice for all of them… I love these articles because it starts the conversation that , just maybe might spark some new life in these crimes!
Thanks Todd! I really hope to start some conversations about these cases. If people share them and spread the word, you never know what leads might be dug up. Like you, I think it’s most doubtful Ray ran off to start a new life. I think he was most likely murdered. However, after listening to Generation Why’s podcast on the case from this December, I’ve opened myself up a bit more to the suicide angle. But I’m still not sure either way.
There are some folks who have tried to link his diappearance to his investigation of Jerry Sandusky child abuse allegations and Penn State. Apparently, he had been looking into those allegations, and possibly building a pretty good case, at the time pf his disappearance. In fact, that’s how I first learned about his disappearance, in a televised story about Sandusky and cover ups that had permitted him yo continue his abuse for so long. Around the time Sandusky was in the news, I saw this speculation in several shows, as well as in writing. Suspicion is that he was meeting someone about Sandusky and PSU to gather info when he disappeared, and that his laptop contained info on the case. I’m not sure how much, if any, is true (i.e., if he really had any evidence on Sandusky/PSU, ley alone any possibilty that his disappearance cpuld be related to that evidence), or if it’s just the rantings of conspiracy theorists. Just thought I’d throw that out there, in case anyone else had heard anything similar. Especially bc his job was putting bad guys away, I really hope that he and his family receive justice.
Hi Mary – thanks for reading and sharing the Sandusky angle to this case! I did run across it during my research, but I definitely felt it was more in the conspiracy theory camp. Regardless, I really appreciate you taking the time to present this information. I don’t think it’s the answer, but you never know! And like you, I really hope that one day Ray’s loved ones can get some answers. If you like true crime podcasts, recently Generation Why and True Crime Garage covered Ray’s disappearance. Check out the episodes if you get a chance. Have a great day.
1. I think he is starting a new life. The cigarette smell and ashes is from the person supplying him with his new identity. Maybe, he had been squirreling money away for a long time and didn’t need to touch his old bank account. He also needed to dispose of his old life therefore computer and hard drive.
2. The person he met whether man or woman murdered him but what would their motive be. Why would they destroy his hard drive? Why would he destroy it except to rid it of some info he didn’t want anyone to find.
Personally, I think it is #1.
Hi Gerri. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your insights. I agree that it is possible that Ray ran off to start a new life, but I am a little less sure than you are for the reasons I outline in the post. Either way, here’s hoping that one day Ray’s loved ones get some answers so they can have at least some form of closure. Happy New Year!
He got iced because he had info on the whole pedo scandal that went way beyond Penn State and that sicko Jerry Sandusky! They are everywhere, in our Fed and state governments, military, teachers and coaches, of course Hollyweird, various churches and in the Vatican, you name it!
A state senator just got busted for having child porn. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg as far as how sick our society is because of these people!