ShareThis Page

Former Centre County prosecutor missing since '05 declared dead

| Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Legally, Ray Gricar is dead.

A Centre County judge ruled on Monday that the fruitless efforts of law enforcement to find the missing former prosecutor, his lack of contact with his family and no movement in bank and cell phone records are enough to declare him deceased. His daughter can start distributing his estate, and his county pension will be paid to his beneficiary.

But after a court hearing, the lead investigator, Bellefonte police Detective Matthew Rickard, said he won't stop trying to solve the mystery. A task force, including authorities from the FBI, continues to meet and pursue creative leads, including one last week that led them to Altoona.

"I don't think the mystery is ever going to be solved," attorney H. Amos Goodall Jr. said. He filed the petition on behalf of Gricar's only daughter and sole heir, Lara.

"But it lets them move on with their lives," he said. "Close the case, and continue to live the way they were planning on living."

Since he vanished on April 15, 2005, Gricar's daughter and his live-in girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, testified they've had no contact with Gricar. But they have had to keep up with certain financial obligations, such as his bar association license fees.

Gricar, 59, disappeared after taking a day off work as the Centre County district attorney. His red Mini Cooper was found abandoned in a Lewisburg parking lot, and his county laptop and hard drive were found in the nearby Susquehanna River, too badly damaged to be read.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller has said there is no good evidence to point to suicide, homicide or a walkaway.

Goodall believes his friend was murdered.

"I think he's been killed. I don't know what else to say," he said.

Gricar was about eight months from retirement when he vanished. During the hearing, Fornicola testified that she noticed he had been sleeping a lot more in the days leading up to his disappearance. But she didn't notice depression, anxiety or know of any personal or work-related problems in his life, she said.

"We talked about traveling," she said. "He just wanted to enjoy the rest of his life."

His daughter, who lives near Seattle, talked to her father for the last time on the phone on April 14, 2005. She said the conversation was normal.

The last break in the case was around the four-year anniversary, when police revealed that Gricar's home computer had saved searches for "how to wreck a hard drive" and "water damage to a notebook computer."

Yesterday, in the gallery of the Bellefonte courtroom -- where Gricar tried many cases -- several of his former associates and friends watched. His first wife sat with Fornicola and comforted her as she cried after her testimony.

President Judge David E. Grine announced he was satisfied after Lara Gricar said her dad would not allow a charade investigation to go on for six years, three months.

"Would he realize that his disappearance was causing hardship and anxiety for you and other people that he loved?" Goodall asked.

"Without a doubt, absolutely," she answered.

"Do you believe your father is deceased?" he asked.

"Without a doubt, yes."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me