LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
OF THE JURY:
The Ray Gricar Disappearance
~~J. Karen Arnold
“It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.”
--US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson (1950)
The lesson of nineteen years of presenting cases to Centre County juries is that ordinary citizens, given clearly-presented information, in virtually every case reach a reasonable, well-thought-out result. By the time of trial, both sides tended to have attitudes 'set in cement' as to what happened and what was important. Juries invariably found new perspectives that neither side had envisioned. I believe that the Ray Gricar disappearance badly needs that kind of objective public attention. "Fresh eyes" not of another government reviewer, looking at the opinions and theories of those who came before, but of ordinary citizens filling much the same role that jurors fill at trial. The disappearance of an elected official during his term of office is no one's 'private' affair. I hope that this site will encourage my fellow citizens to 'step up to the plate'.
The Centre County public in the matter of Ray's disappearance has been given little information, and much of what has been given is patently inconsistent with common sense. The duty of public accountability by agencies and officials who have that duty has been nowhere in evidence. Last fall's censorship of local media--requiring they have any questions pre-submitted and approved before they could be uttered at what purported to be a public news conference--was simply the most extreme example. If we as individual citizens do not require accountability, certainly no one else is going to. The duties of citizenship are not delegable.
Both during my campaign in 2005 and a dozen or so times since my discharge in January, 2006, I have been asked by various local media to comment on what I recall of the time surrounding Ray's disappearance and upon matters raised since then. Apart from my brief observations on the CDT's online site in April, 2006, I have declined. I believed then, and still do, that what is needed is not a 'sound-bite' from an employee/former employee on some tangential aspect of the investigation, but a sustained, genuine and fervent commitment by local media, and by the public, to explore and challenge every aspect of the way the disappearance has been handled, virtually from the first day. To ask hard if impolitic questions, to resist censorship in any form and to any degree, and to demand responsive, open, plausible answers offered publicly and in a timely fashion.
Rev. King once observed, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." I have thought of this often in the past few months as I've wrestled with the decision to offer this site. Because for whatever notoriety it may potentially generate, I have no ultimate answers to provide. My own observations and questions have no more importance than those of my fellow citizens. But I believe it's well past time that the voices of those fellow citizens be raised and heard in the matter. There are many places in the world where a judge, prosecutor or other elected official can simply 'disappear' without explanation or accountability. If that is to happen in our own country, it is to be hoped that Centre County will not provide the first example.
It is for all of these reasons that this site is offered.
Because this site is lengthy, I've included a brief snyopsis in Part D below as an aid in pinpointing areas of interest for those who choose not to read the entire site verbatim, at least initially. However, I hope that you will eventually return to do so. Part of the reason for the site's length is that it has always seemed to me that there is no available single source from which one can get an overview of the situation, only periodic reiteration of some of the 'high points' that were discussed early on.
Most of what is discussed here has been referenced in news conferences, media articles and a significant volume of online forum discussion over the past two years. Where something offered is fundamentally my own opinion, I trust that that will always be apparent. Like any other jurors, you arenot being asked to accept arguments at face value, nor necessarily to accept them at all, simply to consider them along with all else that you deem to be of value in drawing your own conclusions.
I have tried to include matters which are fundamentally objective in nature, and where opinion is offered, to state the specific reasons for that opinion. And by the same token I have tried to exclude information provided by others, other than where the source is noted, matters I cannot verify, things which are subject to more than one reasonable interpretation as to whether they are related to the disappearance, and those which are so subjectively-based on my professional acquaintance with Ray over almost 20 years that they might not bear the same significance for the general reader.
There are two important provisos I would offer before beginning.
The first is that this site is not intended to reflect a negative view of Centre County police generally or the Bellefonte Police Department specifically. I do not hold such a view. To the contrary, my experience over many years is unequivocally that the local police community consists of hard-working officers at all levels, who are tenacious and exacting in their approach, fair in their assessments, tireless in their willingness to do whatever is required to present solid and well-investigated cases, endlessly patient in dealing with daily and often volatile encounters with the public, perceptive about human nature, who exhibit consistently high levels of personal and professional integrity, maintain their sense of humor in the face of incredible frustrations, and who are very rarely ever thanked for all that they do. That is no less true of the BPD than any other department. It is precisely the high regard that I have for the entire Centre County law enforcement community that has made the conduct of this particular investigation so deeply troubling.
The second is that this site in Parts II and III discusses certain conduct by members of Ray's immediate and extended family, and what would appear to be family activity on an online forum, though I am far from certain that appearance represents reality. This discussion is included because I believe it's an integral part of the larger picture of what has occurred over the past two years, and because it raises questions that are reasonable and fair to ask. The discussion is not intended to reflect any lack of sympathy for the turmoil which I have no doubt that all of those in Ray's family have experienced and are still experiencing as the result of his disappearance--as many who knew, cared about, and respected him are going through.
Part I of this site begins with my observations of what I believe is the disparity between the character of Ray Gricar as I knew him for almost 20 years and that character which would be required for him to have acted in the manner theorized during the investigation. This is followed by my recollections of his behavior during the week that he disappeared, what occurred during the first 24 hours after he was declared missing, and what occurred in the months following his disappearance until the time that I left the office. Individual brief discussions are provided concerning the statute book, stewardship of the investigation and Ray's paramour's change of position within the office in early 2005. The section closes with a brief notation as to still-available online information sources.
Part II sets out a number of questions which have been particularly troubling to me as the investigation has languished over the past two years. They include arguments for public release of Ray's cellphone record, concerns over selective and apparently focusless use of polygraphy in the early stages of the investigation, the investigative lurching back and forth between suicide and walkoff theories, the ongoing failure to afford realistic consideration to the possibility of criminal conduct, and questions concerning the family's immediate assumption of walkoff.
Part III discusses what has gone on over now 26 months on a particular online national forum devoted to discussion of Ray's disappearance. Most of the participants remain anonymous. However, much of what has occurred and what has been said appears to me to clearly represent an ongoing attempt since the early weeks following the disappearance to focus public opinion on the idea that he will never be accounted for and most likely simply walked off. The output of particular 'posters' appears to me to reflect knowledge beyond what has been offered publicly and which would logically be available only to someone with some affiliation to Ray, his family or the investigation itself.
Of particular note with respect to Part III are the offerings of poster JJ in Phila, in myriad respects, not the least of which is the raising of the twenty-year-old still-unsolved disappearance of Ohio police chief Mel Wiley, which presents facts virtually identical to those surrounding Ray's disappearance. Questions are raised as to whether the output reflects a deliberate disinformation campaign. The discussion in Part III closes with brief observations on what I believe is the insufficiency of any theory which relies upon individual involvement--whether by Ray's family, his paramour or Ray himself--to explain the course of official conduct over the past two years.