Ray Gricar, Missing Pennsylvania DA, Opted Not To Prosecute Jerry Sandusky
The criminal case against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky has put the media spotlight back on the missing persons case of Ray Gricar. An esteemed district attorney, Gricar failed to prosecute Sandusky for sex crimes in 1998, and later disappeared without a trace.
"We've had a lot of twists and turns. This is another -- obviously on a much greater scale than in the past," Gricar's nephew, Tony Gricar, told The Huffington Post.
According to a Pennsylvania grand jury report, Ray Gricar investigated allegations that Sandusky had inappropriate contact with an 11-year-old boy in a school locker room in 1998.
Earlier this week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly indicted Sandusky on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. According to the grand jury report, there are eight victims who were targeted between 1994 and 2009.
Since Sandusky's arrest, Penn State has been the subject of widespread criticism because of an alleged cover-up of the former coach's alleged illegal activities. Recently, that criticism has also fallen on Ray Gricar, the man who opted not to prosecute Sandusky in 1998.
The former DA, however, is not around to defend his actions. Ray Gricar has been missing since 2005, when he vanished under mysterious circumstances.
Ray Gricar was 59 years old in April 2005. He had served as the district attorney of Centre County for nearly 20 years and was preparing to retire at the end of the year. His career was a success, he was involved in a happy relationship with a woman who worked in his office, and he was close to his 27-year-old daughter, Lara. By all accounts, Gricar had lived a pleasant life and was looking forward to an ideal retirement.
On the morning of April 15, 2005, Gricar called his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, and told her he was going for a drive on Route 192 toward nearby Lewisburg.
The trip was not out of the ordinary. Gricar reportedly had gone to the town on several occasions in the past to shop at an antique store.
But the DA failed to return home later that night, and calls to his cell phone went unanswered. Concerned, Fornicola contacted Bellefonte police and reported him missing.
The following day, Gricar's red and white 2004 Mini Cooper was found locked and abandoned in a Lewisburg parking lot, not far from the Susquehanna River, and he was nowhere to be found. A search of his vehicle did not indicate a struggle or any sign of foul play, but investigators did find cigarette ashes inside the car.
"Now we're not talking a lot. [It was] some minute cigarette ash on the passenger's side," Bellefonte police officer Darrell Zaccagni told the Cleveland Free Times in 2005. "When they opened the car ... a cigarette smell came out of the car. Ray didn't smoke. And he never let anybody smoke inside his Mini Cooper. Ray was very fastidious about his car."
Gricar's cell phone was locked inside the vehicle, but his keys and other personal effects, including his wallet, were missing. Search dogs were brought in, but they were unable to pick up on Gricar's scent.
Investigators questioned nearby store owners about Gricar. At least one thought he had seen the district attorney inside his shop on the day he disappeared and another was certain he saw Gricar speaking with an unknown woman, but it remains unclear whether the man they saw was actually Gricar.
A search of the Centre County home that Gricar and Fornicola shared also failed to produce any leads. None of his personal belongings were missing, but his work laptop was nowhere to be found.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to go through. In some ways, it's worse than having a parent die, I think, because you have no closure. I just want to know where my dad is," Lara Gricar said in a 2005 interview with the Centre Daily Times.
In the days that followed, the FBI and Pennsylvania State Police investigators were called in to assist in the case. Speculation soon turned to suicide -- a subject the Gricar family is all too familiar with.
READ THE GRAND JURY REPORT: (ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)
In May 1996, Roy J. Gricar -- Ray Gricar's brother and Tony Gricar's father -- disappeared in Dayton, Ohio. His car was found abandoned across the street from the office where his son worked. A search of the area was conducted, but authorities found no trace of Roy Gricar.
Roy Gricar was missing for a few days before his body turned up in the Great Miami River. The coroner later ruled Roy Gricar's death a suicide by drowning. He reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder.
Fearing Ray Gricar might have taken his own life, investigators conducted an extensive search of the Susquehanna River but were unable to locate any sign of the district attorney.
Although Ray Gricar's body has not been found, two men fishing in the river in July 2005 found his missing laptop lodged against a support under the bridge. The laptop, while obviously severely damaged by exposure to the water, was complete -- minus the hard drive.
Roughly two months after Gricar's laptop was recovered, a woman walking along the banks of the river discovered the hard drive. It was near a railroad bridge, about 200 yards from the parking lot where Gricar's Mini Cooper was recovered. Unfortunately for investigators, the hard drive was so severely damaged that they were unable to retrieve any information from it. Whatever clues the laptop might have held were long since destroyed.
After the missing hard drive was found, the case quickly grew cold. Sporadic sightings of Gricar were reported throughout Pennsylvania and other states, but none of the tips yielded results.
Investigators explored a variety of possibilities but were unable to say for certain what might have happened. Polygraph examinations were given to several family members, but no people of interest developed.
In April 2009, investigators made a startling announcement in the case when they revealed the context of Internet searches that had allegedly been conducted on Gricar's home computer. According to police, someone had researched various ways of destroying computer hard drives in the weeks leading up to Gricar's disappearance. A coincidence or a vital clue? No one knows.
For now, the mystery remains.
"I still don't have a guess one way or the other," Tony Gricar said. "Do I think there is any connection to the Sandusky case? No."
According to the Associated Press, authorities also doubt there is a connection between the two cases.
In regard to why his uncle did not proceed with a case against the former Penn State coach, Gricar said there likely was not enough evidence.
"I have no idea other than he did not feel he had enough for a case," he said. "If he doesn't have the evidence to do it then everybody loses and you bring in double jeopardy at that point."
Gricar added, "People around the situation in 1998 recognize it was a bad situation, but there is a difference between recognizing it and being able to do anything about it."
This author will be discussing the Ray Gricar case on "Justice with Judge Jeanine" on Fox News Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern.
WATCH AN INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY SPECIAL ON THE RAY GRICAR CASE: