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Sunday, June 9, 2024

Ray Gricar: The Missing District Attorney

The Ray Gricar Missing Person Investigation

     In Bellefonte, Pennsylvania at 11:30 in the morning of Friday, April 15, 2005, Ray Gricar, the 59-year-old district attorney of Centre County, the home of Penn State University, called his live-in girlfriend to inform her he was on a pleasure drive through an area in the region called Penns Valley. Twelve hours later his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, called 911 and reported him missing.

     The next day Mr. Gricar's red Mini Cooper was found parked near an antique mall in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 55 miles east of Bellefonte. The interior of the vehicle reeked of cigarettes. Gricar, who didn't smoke, didn't like that smell. The car had been locked and Gricar's cellphone was inside. According to a Lewisburg shop owner whose antique store Gricar had patronized in the past, the district attorney, on the day he left Bellefonte was walking around the mall with a tall, dark-haired woman in her late 30s or early 40s. Investigators made no effort to identify and question this woman. Because this information wasn't published until 13 months after the district attorney's disappearance the police received no help from the public in identifying this possible witness. By the time the story came out the case had grown cold.

     In July 2005, three months after Ray Gricar drove off in his Mini Cooper and didn't return, his county-issued laptop was found in the Susquehanna River not far from the abandoned car. Three months after that the hard drive turned up in the same area of the river. Water had damaged it to the point that no data could be retrieved.

     Following the recoveries from the river the investigation of Gricar's disappearance, conducted by the Bellefonte Police Department (the Pennsylvania State Police didn't want the case and the FBI wasn't involved) ground to a halt. In the summer of 2008, with Ray Gricar still missing and no clues as to what happened to him or where he was, two of his colleagues, Bob Buehne Jr., the district attorney of Montour County and prosecutor Ted McKnight of Clinton County, held a press conference in Lewisburg where Gricar's vehicle had been found. Both men were highly critical of the Gricar missing person's investigation. The neighboring prosecutors said they couldn't understand why the information about Gricar and the mystery woman at the mall hadn't been made public until May 2006.

     On April 14, 2009, four years after Ray Gricar's disappearance, investigators discovered that someone using the missing man's home computer had, shortly before he went missing, searched the Internet on "how to fry a hard drive," and "water damage to a notebook computer." Assuming Mr. Gricar had made these inquiries, one of the more innocent explanations behind the Internet search was that Gricar, in contemplation of his retirement in nine months, wanted to clear his computer before handing it back to the county. This didn't explain, however, why the computer and hard drive ended up in the river. A more ominous motive was that before killing himself Mr. Gricar wanted to destroy data he didn't want anyone to see.

     On July 25, 2011 at the request of Ray Gricar's daughter, a Centre County judge declared him legally deceased.

Theories of Ray Gricar's Disappearance

     There are three schools of thought regarding what happened to Ray Gricar. He could have been murdered, committed suicide or walked off to start a new life under a different identity. The two most popular murder theories featured a mistress who lured him to the Susquehanna River where he was murdered by the woman's husband. The second murder scenario involved a criminal murdering the district attorney out of revenge. Since prosecutors are rarely murdered by people they have prosecuted or planned to put behind bars, the latter theory was the most improbable.

     Suicide seemed more likely than murder in this case. Ray Gricar's brother, Roy J. Gricar, committed suicide in May 1996 by jumping off a bridge over the Great Miami River near West Chester, Ohio. If Ray Gricar had jumped from a bridge across the Susquehanna River, what were the chances his body would have been found? Some believed the odds were great that his body would have been recovered. Others disagreed. To have an opinion on this question, one would have to know the ins and outs of the Susquehanna River.

     The so-called "walkaway" theory, that Mr. Gricar walked-off to start a new life under a new identity, while quite intriguing, didn't make much sense. For one thing he didn't clean out his bank account and drove off without tying up a lot of loose-ends. Following his disappearance there were more than 300 false sightings of him. Those who subscribed to the walkaway theory pointed out that Mr. Gricar had been fascinated by the 1985 disappearance of an Ohio police chief. Inside the chief's car, parked near Lake Erie, searchers found his wallet and his badge. They never found the chief's body. Some of those who believed that Mr. Gricar was still alive believed he could be hiding out in the federal government's witness protection program. (This possibility is out of the question because prosecutors are not eligible for the program.)          

Ray Gricar, The Man

     Ray Frank Gricar was born on October 9, 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Gilmour, a prestigious Catholic high school in Gates Mills, Ohio. In 1966 while attending the University of Dayton he met his future wife, Barbara Gray. They were married in 1969. After graduating from Case Western Law School in Cleveland Mr. Gricar started his career as a prosecutor in northwest Ohio's Cuyahoga, County.

     In 1980 the couple and their daughter Lara moved to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania when Barbara landed a job at Penn State University in nearby State College. Shortly after that David Grine, the district attorney of Centre County, hired Ray as an assistant prosecutor. Five years later Mr. Gricar ran for the office of district attorney and won.

     Barbara and Ray divorced in 1991, and five years later Ray married his second wife, Emma. Following a tumultuous marriage he and Emma divorced in 2001. Two years later Ray Gricar moved in with Patty Fornicola, an employee of the Centre County District Attorney's Office who lived in a section of Bellefonte called Halfmoon Hill. By April 2005, having served several terms as district attorney, Ray Gricar was planning to retire in nine months.

     Although a private, somewhat distant person, District Attorney Gricar's colleagues considered him an outstanding career prosecutor with high ethical standards. Because he never had political ambitions beyond the district attorney's office he was not, according to his legal colleagues, subject to political pressure or influence. On a personal level he was known as a bit of a ladies' man.

Ray Gricar and the Jerry Sandusky Pedophilia Case

     In May 1998 when Jerry Sandusky was still an assistant football coach under Joe Paterno at Penn State University and active in his organization for troubled youth called The Second Mile, two 11-year-old boys told their parents that coach Sandusky had fondled them in the Penn State locker room showers. The mother of one of the accusers contacted Detective Ronald Schreffler with the University Police Department. Shortly after receiving the complaint, Mr. Schreffler, on a pretext, got Mr. Sandusky to meet the mother at her house where she confronted him about his being nude in the shower with her son. With the detective in the next room recording the conversation the boy's mother asked Jerry Sandusky if he had been sexually aroused by his physical contact with her son, and if his "private parts" had touched the boy. Sandusky did not deny showering with her son. Regarding the arousal question, he said, "I don't think so--maybe. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won't get it from you. I wish I were dead."

     A child psychologist who interviewed the boy concluded that his account, and coach Sandusky's response to the mother's interrogation indicated to him that he was "likely a pedophile." A second psychologist, Dr. John Seasock, after analyzing the same information came to a different conclusion.

     On June 2, 1998 District Attorney Ray Gricar decided not to prosecute the Penn State football coach. Four years later, the boy, referred to as victim # 6, took the stand at Sandusky's sexual abuse trial and described how the coach had lathered him up with soap then said, "I'm going to squeeze your guts out." Ronald Schreffler, later with the Department of Homeland Security, testified in June 2012 that he had wanted Ray Gricar to prosecute Sandusky in 1998 but was overruled.

     Had Ray Gricar prosecuted Jerry Sandusky for indecent assault, corruption of a minor and child endangerment, more victims, ones Mr. Sandusky had raped, might have come forward. Even if they hadn't, the district attorney would have exposed a pedophile within the Penn State system.

     In 1999 Jerry Sandusky retired from Penn State. He was awarded the title professor emeritus and given an office in the football building. He had full access to all of the sports facilities and used this access and his youth organization to attract and molest young boys.

     If Ray Gricar was not murdered or was still alive, he must have killed himself. The question was, did his decision not to prosecute Jerry Sandusky weigh on his conscience and play a role in his suicide? Between the time the prosecutor closed the case on Sandusky and his disappearance, Mr. Gricar must have been aware that accusations against the coach were still being made. Did he have regrets? Was he second-guessing himself?

     On June 23, 2012 a jury in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania found 68-year-old Jerry Sandusky guilty of sexually assaulting ten boys over a period of fifteen years. The judge sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in prison.

     People who have had access to Ray Gricar's papers say there was no reference in them to Jerry Sandusky. If this were true, whether or not Jerry Sandusky's pedophilia and Ray Gricar's disappearance were in any way connected will remain a mystery.

     On April 13, 2018, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania State Police Troop G announced that a new investigator, Trooper Dana Martini, had been assigned to track down leads in the 13-year-old Gricar disappearance. 
     As of August 2022, Ray Gricar remains missing and is presumed dead.


  1. The chances of a body beiong found in the river are about 99%. This man is alive.

  2. I believe Ray ended his own life and left the evidence to throw people off the real trail.

  3. To me suicide makes no sense. His body would have been found like his brother. Obviously he met a women by the river and either she lured him to a place where he was killed and his body gotten rid of or she gave him his new idendity and life. He had Sandusky cold years ago and due to political pressure from powerful people backed off in some deal. Sandusky's lawyer was HW Bush's lawyer from Washington DC and Sandusky's "charity" was a front exploiting vulnerable boys to be used playthings by wealthy alumni later for blackmail etc. and to get money out of. Similar to the Franklingate Scandal using Boy's Town kids for sex parties in DC including in the Bush White House. Gricar was set to retire and could have wanted a big cash payday from the creeps for go away money and maybe the woman was the contact who either gave it to him or more likely took him to his death-a pro hit with his body cremated or disolved by the mob. Now where's Hoffa? Or how about what happened to Senator Wellstone or the Kennedys? You could go on and on b ut that's reality in America. Another prosecuter was found in the area murdered but his body was by his car with numerous stab wounds.

  4. Gricar's body would have been found if he committed suicide like his brother's. He is dead, the creeps he was dealing with would have found it cheaper to kill him and "evaporate" the body than pay him off taking the chance he would demand more money later.

  5. He was murdered in Lewisburg, PA and his body was taken to a remote area and dumped. The evidence is all there, hidden in plain view.

  6. Why do you suppose all of these comments are "Anonymous"? Of course he was murdered and it is a real possibility that he was about to implicate persons involved with the Grand Jury. There was no reason whatsoever for a delay in the charges being filed. The new A.G. says she will "get to the bottom" of this, and hopefully, she will, unless a a Karen Silkwood accident befalls her beforehand.

  7. I can only offer my opinion based on the facts shown in the documentary I viewed about this on TV this evening.
    Has his girlfriend ever been considered a suspect based on the following?
    As he was planning his retirement, could the information on the destroyed hard drive be related to a will he was working on, which she read secretly and discovered she not included at all or for very little, therefore arrange for his disappearance for obvious reasons?
    After all, she was only a basic employee at his office and very dependent on him for her future security. Interesting that after all this time together, still not married.
    Could the information found on the main pc relating to how to destroy a hard drive be her search query and not his?
    She provided a convincing alibi with notes left for him when came home to feed or walk the dogs, spoke to her on cell to say was going for a drive instead and of course, she was at work all day.
    Is it possible that she arranged for someone to force him to drive to that location, dispose of the body elsewhere,before disposing of the laptop and abandoning the car? The culprit smoked a cigarette in the car before leaving it in the car park where it was found.
    She also stated that he told her he was taking the day off. Is it possible that she arranged for the culprit to come to the house that morning and force him to go with him and take the laptop as well.
    The girlfriend would have advised the fellow staff that he was taking the day off when she arrived at work to waive any concerns and eliminate him having to call in to advise of this.
    It just seems too unbelievable that he would cause this much pain to his daughter and other family members to just walk away based on his relationship with them portrayed in the documentary. The guy just seemed too responsible to do something so out of character by taking off, as his daughter insisted.
    The girlfriend just happens to be still living in the house and does she have claim to all his money left behind?
    Did his daughter benefit in any way financially under US law based on the circumstances.
    I could be way off the mark here, but just a hunch.
    If this is even a slight possibility, a lie detector is a good starting point.
    My sincerest apologies to her if I am wrong.

    1. Gricar's daughter got a substantial pension benefit, after he was declared dead, not to mention the cash he had in the bank. So far as I know, his girlfriend got nothing. His daughter was about 2000 miles away when he disappeared.

      Interestingly, had Gricar died or disappeared after retirement, she would have gotten substantially less.

      At least 9 witnesses put him alive after he left home. Two saw him parking the car in the lot where where it was found. A bloodhound detected his scent in that parking lot.

    2. Also, from what I've read, the house was his girl friend's house. So, of course it stands to reason she would still be living in it.

  8. Yes, it is her house, where she has lived since childhood. Gricar had the Mini Cooper in her name as well.

    A few other things:

    1. The girlfriend took a lower paying job in the office, about 3 months before, because she was planning to retire and travel with Gricar.

    2. She was questioned by the State Police the week after Gricar disappeared, and nothing suspicious was found. About a week later, to DA's from area counties sat down with her for several hours to go over what happened. She volunteered for both and had no attorney present. In July, she was polygraphed and passed.

    And, somehow, the police have determined that Gricar did the computer searches.

  9. My gut tells me that Ray Gricar was given a very large sum of money to disappear by the powers that be involving Sandusky, etal...
    It is very easy to get a drivers license by presenting the type of visa that would allow the generation of a social security number, especially if you have inside officials helping. Once you have a drivers license with a new name, your set.

    The car, the computer and the black haired woman were all obvious diversions.

    Where the hell did some of these sworn law professionals get their training.....the Andy Griffith show! What a frightening disappointment of our so called sentinals. When a child is sexually assaulted it is a psychological life death sentence. These victims are affected for the rest of their lives. That is if they don't shorten it by suicide. The lifelong negative manifestations affecting the quality of life of these children of tender age are too numerous to list.

    What coward, gutless, self serving, immoral and unempathetic people there are involved here. They do not deserve to be called civilized or human.

    You will eventually be found out. It's your decision.
    Who has the b...s to take a stand and fight the fight for children......I do.

    M. Malloy

    1. Shawn, as far as I can tell, Gricar had no evidence of sudden wealth or unexplained money in his accounts. It was a little bit over $100,000, but he had grossed more than $100 K in the five years prior to his disappearance.

  10. It is all mysterious about what might have really happened.

  11. One thing that offers up more questions than answers is the fact that Gricar had dismal assets for a man making close to or six figures a year for many years. He lived in his girlfriends house, drove a car titled to her and had 100k in the bank. That is really bad money money management to say the least. He was divorced twice so maybe he got cleaned out by the divorces. If that is not the case the investigation revealed Gricar withdrew on average about 500 a month from his ATM for 2 1/2 years prior to his disappearance. So, just in those 3 years he made 300k and withdrew 16k in cash. Assuming a high 30% tax bracket your left with over 220k in cash after taxes and ATM withdraws. Was he spending 7.5k a month on living expenses? And when you figure this is only a 3 year period what happened to all his money to have only 100k at the time of his disappearance. I believe the answer to this mystery lies in what did Gricar do with all the money he made as DA in a small PA town. Dis he divert it? spending years hiding it while planning his escape? Who knows. But one thing is certain, if someone went through the past 10 years of his income and tried to account for it all they would probably find a lead as to what happened.

    1. It has always bothered me that you don't hear anything about a forensic accounting of his income/assets. He was making good money, living in his girlfriend's family home, driving a modest car. Was he paying that much in alimony? Follow the money!

  12. What if gricar did disappear because of the Sandusky arrest following molestation charges ect..not because he didn't chose to prosecute Sandusky but because he too was molesting young boys and was afraid someone would implicate him as well.maybe that's why he fleed.one guy said when he was interviewed about gricar disappearance he was asked wierd questions like did you ever see gricar in his underpants ect...

  13. Jim Jim Jim... Perhaps you never heard the Judge O'kicki story? Nice read but a bit off.

  14. Gricar's daughter got a substantial pension benefit, after he was declared dead, not to mention the cash he had in the bank. So far as I know, his girlfriend got nothing. His daughter was about 2000 miles away when he disappeared.
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