Part I: The Disappearance


 

A.  Building a house on sand:

 

Ray Gricar, who I knew professionally for a total of 19 years and for whom I worked for 18 of them, and Ray Gricar as he has been portrayed and theorized about since his disappearance, are in my view two entirely different people.   The actual person disappeared almost as quickly as his physical body.  The general public might lack a basis for assessing the level of disparity between the actual person and the Ray Gricar who replaced him, but there are many who knew him well over a long period of time who do not, and their silence has been deeply disturbing.  If one searches for the first misstep of many,  there is a good argument to be made that it lies in the selection of a different person with a different character, and expecting that assumptions and theories based on the new person are going to be valid.     

 

B. Ray the person: 


When I joined the DA’s Office in April, 1988, Ray asked me for a commitment of a year.  There were many reasons I found working for him rewarding enough to stay for 18.  But above all others was his commitment to making decisions basely solely on the facts and the conduct, not the socio-economic status of the person, who represented him/her or similar collateral factors.    Sentences in my cases were usually lengthy and most often reflected mandatory terms of state incarceration.   They often involved defendants whose own upbringings gave new meaning to the term 'dysfunctional family'.  Had I not been convinced that there was underlying even-handedness in the way that these prosecutions were handled, it would have been an impossible emotional task.


Ray was an intensely private person, a person who in general seemed uncomfortable expressing emotion.   His devotion to his daughter was the exception.  Over the years, staff could follow all of the major events in her life through the changing array of pictures in his office.  Mentioning her always brought a smile to his face and a discussion of her latest activities.   In other contexts, he was far more reserved.  He did not share his personal turmoils with staff.   But he was a person who had an enormous amount of compassion.  I lost both parents during the time I worked there and experienced this first-hand.  I saw it exhibited repeatedly toward other staff who had to deal with death, divorce and illness. 

 

It was a genuine compassion, not one of convenience.   He talked to me about an ADA who had committed suicide in his Cleveland office and of how he wondered still whether it could not have been prevented.   About a Centre County domestic violence case he handled in which the victim repeatedly had declined to follow through on prior incidents of violence which ended in a murder-suicide and his sadness that he could not have done more.  He drove to Philadelphia to attend the evening funeral of an ADA who had left the office 10 years earlier, then to a reception afterward to talk with her children, who had lost their father the same year, about his memories of her before driving back.   He was endlessly patient with staff when cases resulted in unexpected acquittals, offering suggestions, not blame, and sharing his own disappointing trial experiences, even though he was always by far the most skilled and successful trial attorney in the office.


He maintained his professionalism and met his court commitments no matter what else might have been going on in his personal life, no matter what criticism was leveled at him for his decisions, no matter how many irons he had in the fire.  I saw him try a jury case to conviction on a day he was clearly very ill.  By ‘office legend’ when I joined the office, he was reported to have made it on time to a trial on a morning he came out to find all of his tires slashed.  Ray was at work nights and weekends throughout the entire time I knew him, no less so when he was part-time than after the position was made full-time.  He was the most organized, productive and methodical person I have ever known.  He was also the most personally responsible, and the most predictable.


His ethical standards were ironclad.  If something occurred during a trial that was arguably improper but had not been raised by defense counsel or the judge, there was no need to even ask him whether it should be brought up to both, as his answer was always yes,  regardless of the effect on the case.   He was firm in his commitment to keeping the media and public fully informed, whether it was answering questions on cases of public interest, explaining changes in the law or explaining the rationales behind his decisions, the last example of which was his letter to the CDT shortly before his disappearance answering their challenge as to why he had permitted a lesser plea in a domestic violence case originally charged as attempted homicide.  Even after 20 years in office, he was keenly aware of his status as a public servant and the obligations that go with it.


This is the man that I knew professionally for 19 years.  The Ray Gricar who would choose not to appear for a hearing where he was an essential witness, walk away from a daughter he worshipped, expose his family to a replication of his brother’s suicide, lay to waste a reputation built over 20 years, allowing himself to be remembered as a ‘head case’ who simply decided one day to ‘blow off’ his family, his responsibilities, the citizens who had elected him, his staff and his future as an attorney, is someone I do not recognize.  And I am absolutely confident that I am not alone.


C. My recollections and observations:

 

1.  April 11-15, 2005: 


I have no doubt that Ray was deeply distraught about something the week of his disappearance.  It went well beyond simple busyness or preoccupation.  I have often wondered if a simple "Is everything OK?" might have served to surface some clue to what later happened.  When I first joined the office, there was a lot of light-hearted bantering, group lunches and staff meetings.  For a while Ray awarded the Superman or Superwoman cup, which McDonald's was in those days promoting, to an ADA who'd done a particularly stellar job at a trial.   His keen sense of humor was far more apparent in those days, and I particularly recall his amusement when he came back from an overseas trip to find his always-meticulous office covered wall-to-wall in spray 'cobwebs' of the sort people decorate with at Halloween.  As the years passed,  the caseload keep increasing, staff became larger and more specialized, time was always in short supply and staff lunches at Jim's Italian became largely a thing of the past, as did some of the esprit de corps of the early years.   But his fundamental personality did not change.

 

Ray was always extremely busy, with people constantly in and out of his office running situations by him for input, preparing his own cases, and dealing with contacts by the public, police and media.  He was sometimes abrupt in his answers, particularly when he was especially busy.   But his mood during the week preceding his disappearance was of a different order of things.  The very fact that it showed was unusual.   Ray was normally good at keeping his 'game face' on regardless of what was occurring.   

 

I don't recall the last time I talked to Ray before his disappearance.  My impression has always been that he was present in his office at some point during the afternoon of Thursday, April 14, 2005.   I don't recall seeing him or talking to him.  But he had a peculiar and long-standing habit of forcefully closing his door when he was preoccupied or busy.   It was a disconcerting habit but as far as I could tell, was not intended as an angry or rude gesture, and I doubt it was something he was consciously aware of doing.   Except for the first month I was at the office, my assigned offices always shared a wall in common with Ray’s office, so when this would happen, it was always obvious.   If he was out for the day or in court, his office door generally stayed open.   I cannot recall any occasion on which any other staff would go into his office and close the door behind them in that fashion.  It occurred a number of times during that particular Thursday around mid-afternoon. 


After my CDT online observations in 2006,  I was contacted by a personal friend of the former Commissioner who reported having encountered Ray and his paramour in Tallyrand Park Thursday evening between 5-6 PM.  It was relayed to me that this individual had observed that Ray at that time appeared to have some stubble, as though he had not shaved that day.  This observation, which was not part of her reported account, initially made me wonder if I could have been wrong about his presence on Thursday.  But I do not think so.  Ray was famously fastidious about his appearance and clothing.  It seems unlikely both that he would have attended an 8 AM Prison Board meeting that morning unshaven, and that if he had in fact done so that those who have publicly commented on seeing him there would have failed to mention something so completely out of character as his appearing unshaven at a meeting which as I recall included at least one of the county judges. 

 

Ray is reported to have been last seen in surveillance footage of the VIP parking lot at the rear of the courthouse on Thursday night, entering around 6 PM and leaving shortly after 9 PM.  This would not have been unusual.  Ray commonly left the office to go out or home for supper and returned to the office in the evening to work several hours.   It usually happened at least several times a week, sometimes more often if he had an appellate brief due or a major trial upcoming.  I know that because I was generally also there.  However, on that particular Thursday I was not, as I'd left work early to go home to work on a personal project.   

 

Some of the online discussion has raised suggestions that Ray might have returned to the office the evening of April 14, 2005 in order to conduct some business or meeting in private.  Anything is certainly possible, but genuine secrecy would have been difficult to come by even after hours.  The cleaning crew came in nightly to work, sometimes after the close of business hours, sometimes later if they had other jobs.  ADAs sometimes came in to catch up on work.  Clerical staff sometimes stopped by to pickup or drop off things.  All had keys.  Doors were sometimes propped open during cleaning.  The office had multiple entrances.  In those days before the new prison opened, there were frequently large numbers of people in and out of the courthouse in the evenings to attend court-ordered DUI and anger-management classes which were held there.

 

I can recall nothing from Friday, April 15, 2005 that would stand out as unusual. I don’t remember anyone saying that Ray was not in, that he had decided to take a day off, that he had made any contact with the office or that anyone had contacted or attempted to contact him.  I have no recollection of anything coming up that day with my cases that would have triggered a need to consult with him so as to notice his absence.  I had plans to visit with relatives out-of state the following day.

 

2.  April 16-17, 2005:


On the morning of Saturday, April 16, 2005, around 11-11:30 AM, I was making preparations to leave for the trip when I received a phone call at home from Officer Zaccagni telling me that Ray had not returned home the preceding evening.   It was presented more as a curious situation than necessarily a foreboding one and he indicated that he was calling each of the staff to ask if anyone had information.  I was asked if I had noticed anything unusual about Ray's behavior that week, and told him that Ray had seemed distraught about something earlier that week.  I was told that he had already talked to various other staff members before calling me and that "everyone is telling me the same thing".  That response has stood out for me on each occasion when I have read media statements attributed to police that there was nothing unusual about Ray’s conduct that week.  I can discern no reason the comment would have been made to me at all if it were not true.  And equally no reason that Ray's being distraught that week would not have become part of the public account of what was known around the time he disappeared if it were.


Ray had a long-established contact protocol in place, under which if police needed advice or assistance, he was to be contacted first.  If he were not personally available when they called or paged, they were to refer the question first to Mr. Smith as First Assistant, and if he were also unavailable, then to ADAs in the office in order of seniority.  Each police department had a list of home/cell numbers for the DA staff in order of seniority for that express purpose.  I was next in line after Smith. 

 

I asked if Smith were aware of the situation and was told that he was not responding to calls and was believed to be out-of-town for the weekend.  I asked if I should cancel my trip and was told that it would probably be a good idea.  I was asked to come to the DA Office to let Officer Zaccagni into Ray's office to look at his computer.  I told him I was glad to come down but that I did not have Ray's personal password and that it would take me a short time to get ready.   I called my relatives, explained the circumstances and cancelled the trip.  Before I left for the office, I got a second call from Officer Zaccagni, telling me it was no longer necessary that I come, as one of the clerical staff was at the BPD station and would go down and provide the access.  I was told there was to be a news conference around 5 PM and that I might want to come down for that.  It's my understanding that police did review the content of Ray's office computer that Saturday afternoon, but this is based on information from other staff after Ray's disappearance.  I was not present if/when that occurred.  Nor do I know who was able to provide Ray's password. 


At some point which I cannot specifically pinpoint as to time but which would have to have been sometime that afternoon before going down to the station, I made contact with a County official to stress the importance of an autopsy occurring if Ray were to turn up dead.  At that extremely early stage, it was certainly not from any settled belief that he was dead.  It was simply an action taken pursuant to the existing protocol, in light of his absence and Smith's, to insure that what Ray himself would have directed in a similar situation was carried out, if that were to prove to be the case.  There had been several instances over the years where an autopsy had been foregone, usually in deference to family objections,  which later resulted in a situation where criminal charges could not be considered absent exhumation because there was no autopsy report to meet the legal requirements for establishing cause of death.  Ray had long been adamant about the need for autopsy in any case where a questionable death had occurred.   I had particular concerns about that being carried out in the situation simply because of his official status.  

 

At about 4:15 PM on Saturday I went to the BPD station to await the news conference.  When I arrived, Ray's paramour was there with a personal friend from outside the office, as were a variety of BPD officers and at least one state police trooper.  The much-reported call from Ray's cell appeared to known by that point, though I recall no discussion of the call beyond its having bounced off a tower along 192.  The car containing the cell had not  yet been reported to have been located.  His paramour provided some of the same information later reported in the media about having taken Ray a glass of orange juice in bed before leaving for work on April 15th.   Around 5 PM,  she, Officer Zaccagni, and I believe then-Chief Dixon went upstairs for the news conference.  I was not asked to participate and did not go up with them.  When they returned there seemed to be little occurring other than various personnel milling around, and I asked Officer Zaccagni to contact me at home if there were any developments or if he needed my assistance, and then left for my home in Bellefonte.  As far as I can recall, this was the last time that I spoke to Officer Zaccagni in connection with the investigation.

 

When I left the station about 5:15 or 5:30 PM, there was not yet any indication that the Mini-Cooper had been located.  I do not specifically recall how I learned that it had been found in Lewisburg that evening and would assume that it was probably during the course of one of several conversations I had with clerical staff later that evening.   At several points that day and evening I attempted to reach Mr. Smith and left messages, but did not receive a response.


On Sunday, April 17, 2005, I had still not heard back from Mr. Smith and decided to drive to Lewisburg to talk with personnel there.  I was made aware that the Mini-Cooper, when first opened, had had a strong odor of  cigarette smoke.   I recall remarking that this was certainly a 'red flag' as something unusual, as Ray was well-known to dislike smoking, and it was hard to picture him allowing anyone under any circumstances to smoke inside his car.   I was asked about Ray's live-in relationship and indicated that I knew little about it.


Ray's absence at that point was to my perception clearly being theorized to be volitional and likely in the company of an individual personally known to me to have had a long-standing friendship and admiration for him, and to be a smoker.  It was not suggested to me then, nor have I ever heard it suggested at any time since, that the relationship had evolved to a romantic one.  I did not know at that time why this particular individual had become an early focus, and assumed at the time that perhaps other longer-term DA staff who would also have been aware of the friendship had mentioned it.  This individual's description would be generally consistent with that offered of the ‘mystery woman’ in media during the past year.  I recall nothing said that would have suggested that Ray and this individual had been seen together, during that weekend or at any other time. 

 

I left to return to Bellefonte around 11:00-11:15 AM.  At that point the only activity was the anticipated arrival of a helicopter and dogs.  As I was leaving, Chief Dixon had just arrived at the barracks and I asked him if he needed anything prior to the time that Mr. Smith could be located, and he indicated that he did not.  I was told that Ray's paramour had arrived with a friend but I did not see her before I left.


On arriving back in Bellefonte, I again called Mr. Smith's cellphone.  He answered, and indicated that he was in Pittsburgh nearing one of the Parkway tunnels and would need to call me back. When he did, my recollection is that he indicated that he and his wife had been camping with the people they were visiting.  He indicated that he did not have the cellphone with him during that time, and had not received earlier messages.  I shared what I knew of the situation and asked if he wanted me to go to the BPD station to be available until he returned. He indicated that it was not necessary as he would be back in Bellefonte in a few hours, that he would make contact with Bellefonte Police when he got back to Bellefonte, and that I did not need to be further involved.  

 

I have often thought looking back on that weekend that what occurred during the 24 hours I was involved was atypical of what normally occurred under Ray's contact protocol.  Normally there would be an initial call by police outlining whatever situation they were facing.  Sometimes all that was being sought was an answer to a legal question or advice on charges.  But if the matter were something ongoing, the initial call (here's what the situation is, here's what we know at this point, here's what we're going to do) would be followed up by an update call on developments (in this case, the car has been located in Lewisburg, no apparent damage, keys missing, the forensics people will be there tonight), or a call indicating the situation had been fully resolved. What actually happened in this situation over the very brief time that I was involved was considerably more disorganized, with the only information coming to me from BPD being that Ray was missing and that there was to be a news conference.   It hard to say with any certainty why, other than that the entire situation was not being treated as a potential crime.   Not then.  And not now.    

 

3.  April 18, 2005 - January 3, 2006: 

 

(a) The first weeks post-disappearance: 

 

On Monday, April 18, 2005, the DA staff were gathered together for an in-office meeting with a County official.   Ray was supposed to testify that morning as a witness on some matter which had come up in a case being handled by the ADA who was assigned to drug cases brought by the Office.   There was some anticipation that he might still show up in time to testify at the hearing.  We were advised that if he did not appear,  the County would be offering group counseling to DA staff employees by a provider firm from Harrisburg.   He did not reappear, and as I recall,  that gathering occurred on the afternoon of Friday, April 22, 2005.  Mr. Smith advised staff individually of the date and time.  I can recall his saying to me that the session would occur in one of the courtrooms, that the shades would be pulled down, the door to the courtroom locked and staff could then speak freely about their emotions about the situation.  I told him it sounded like a séance.   I was one of two active staff members who did not participate in the session and cannot say what occurred there.  Ms. Fornicola and ADA Sloane were off work when the meeting occurred and I do not know if either came in to attend it.   After the session was held, pamphlets by the provider on its services were left in the office. 


Within a few days after Ray's disappearance I sent an email to then-Chief Dixon of BPD about an incident referred to BPD a few weeks before. An attorney previously involved in a murder case which Ray had been prosecuting at the time of his disappearance had contacted our office from a mobile phone requesting that Bellefonte police meet him at his office.  He was agitated and the conversation a bit hard to follow,  but his concern appeared to be that an individual associated with the case was en route to his office.  I don't know why he didn't simply dial 911 and perhaps he originally called hoping to speak with Ray.  Ray was gone for the day, as were most of the remaining staff, and I answered the call and made the referral to BPD. 


I indicated in my email that I had no idea how the situation had turned out or if the person had actually appeared, but that BPD would have a report on it, as BPD cars had been present at the attorney's office when I drove home that evening.   I indicated that I was familiar with the parties involved from working on the investigation for the year before formal charges were filed, and felt that BPD would be well-served to look at that particular case to determine whether it could potentially have a connection to Ray's disappearance.  My email was acknowledged as received.   If a review was conducted of the case,  I am not aware of it.

 

I have a very limited recall of specific events during the first several weeks of the investigation and the order in which they occurred, as there was a great deal going on with both my cases and the approaching primary election in mid-May, 2005.    All staff as far as I can recall were present except Ray's paramour, who was off for perhaps two weeks, and ADA Sloane, who continued to be off on medical leave.   I recall high anxiety levels among staff on the day of the river search, which ultimately yielded nothing.  I recall suggesting to Mr. Smith that he involve other County DAs in an assessment of the situation.  I can recall all of the office staff being asked to search their individual offices/work areas for Ray's laptop, because it could not be found at his house.  I recall Mr. Smith raising to me the matter of the statute book on his desk which is discussed in detail below.  I recall DA Madeira coming to the office during the first or second week and going from office to office introducing himself to and talking with individual staff members.   I can recall much investigatory time being spent in Ray's office reviewing the content of his office computer. And I can recall perhaps the second week that interviews began with members of the office staff.  


Until Mr. Sloane's public comments last spring, I would have believed that he was among the staff that police interviewed, albeit not at the DA office, as his medical leave had been in place from sometime during the winter of 2005 until May or June of that year.   I was asked to meet briefly with Det. Thal toward the end of the interview cycle, and did so, but do not recall at any point speaking with Officer, now Detective Zaccagni.   Once the computer reviews and interviews were completed,  the investigation, such as it was, appeared to me to simply 'run out of steam'.  As the summer played out to its conclusion,  the amount of investigatory time spent at the office and the manner in which it was spent would not have led me to conclude that any failure to conduct individual review of Ray's particularly volatile cases was the inevitable result of lack of time/manpower.

 

I remain puzzled by some of the public complaints made by Sloane last spring in regard to not being interviewed by police.   Until those comments, it was my understanding that he had been one of the individuals providing input about Ray to the state police profiler who the public has been told ultimately concluded that Ray had most likely committed suicide.   In a CDT article dated May 13, 2006, "Missed leads, ignored sightings" (Bosak),  Officer Zaccagni is quoted as saying that Sloane was interviewed 'for hours' by a state police profiler.  If that in fact occurred, BPD would certainly, at least upon request, have had access to any state police report in the matter.  In the same article, BPD's lead investigator is quoted as saying that the written report of the profiler was never actually received, but that BPD had spoken with that individual about the interviews.  Insofar as I am aware BPD has not challenged Sloane's contentions of non-interview, however, and I think its therefore reasonable to conclude that, regardless of any contact he may have had with the state police profiler,  an interview specifically by BPD did not occur during that weekend, and has not occurred at any time since.  


If an investigative decision was made to forego this interview, I would have to agree with Sloane that it is inexplicable.  Ray and he had a particularly close and long-standing personal as well as professional relationship, which extended beyond the DA Office, and I believe this would have been common knowledge in the office, in the court system, and in the police community.  I have no reason to believe that Sloane has information which he has withheld relative to Ray's disappearance and am not suggesting that.  But from the perspective of common sense alone,  his individualized interview by BPD should logically have been an early priority.  In fairness, traffic operates in both directions over the half-mile route from the BPD station to the courthouse, and 'standing on ceremony' as to who is to institute a contact appears a questionable approach. 


 

(b) The general course of things during 2005:


Significant changes occurred at the office fairly quickly following Ray’s disappearance in terms of previously-established policies and guidelines for case dispositions, as well as what was or was not appropriate for ARD disposition.  All of these were absolutely within the legitimate discretion of Mr. Smith as acting DA and there is no issue of legitimacy or impropriety implied.  They were simply troubling to me for reasons which I suppose are at least loosely analogous to why I found it troubling that staff counseling had already been decided upon by 9 AM on the first day that Ray would have been expected to return to the office after the weekend.   In both instances, the actions seem to reflect a mindset that Ray was not going to be returning, which was wholly unsupported by the ongoing mantra of 'three theories, all equally likely' being offered by police.  Nor was it in my view consistent with the public entreaties by his daughter and his paramour in their initial press conference imploring him directly to return,  incorporating an obvious belief that he was in a position to do so if he wished. 


Ray’s adamance that all staff conform to his policies on case disposition in minutest detail was legendary.   He at all times maintained control over individual plea agreements, requiring that each receive his approval.  A number of years before, an ADA who was the sole breadwinner for a wife and several children had been suspended without pay for a week for acquiescing in a change to a plea offer from that which Ray had specifically authorized.  Mr. Smith and I were both employed there when that occurred, and I suspect other ADAs may have known of it as a ‘cautionary tale’ as to what would happen if policy were violated.   Ray was also firm about what was/was not appropriate for ARD disposition because completion of the program eliminates all record that the offense ever occurred.   His First Assistant was sometimes given temporary responsibility for approving/disapproving ARD applications when Ray was away or in trial, and invariably tabled unusual or questionable requests until Ray was available to make the call himself.


Similarly troubling was learning through the media in November, 2005 that Ray's license had been allowed to go into suspended status.  For any attorney, the remotest possibility of a record of suspension is decidedly a very 'big deal’.   The license renewal deadline for Pennsylvania attorneys is July 1st.   Renewals are paid by the County and the renewal forms for all DA attorneys were at that time and presumably still are sent directly to the DA's Office.   Ray's status of being 'non-compliant' would therefore have been an ongoing issue for 5 months before the formal disciplinary action imposing the suspension was taken.   I'm cognizant of the rationale offered that licensing personnel had insisted that Ray must personally sign the renewal form.  However, the situation seems to have been quickly resolved and the suspension cleared, even though Ray was still unavailable to sign the form, once Ray's family became aware of the situation.   


(c) Miscellaneous issues raised in media and online discussion:  


(i)  The statute book:


I was asked last year by media if I were aware of an incident in which Mr. Smith found a volume of Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes addressing County Code on his desk after Ray's disappearance, which when handled by him opened to the section providing for replacement of an elected DA who has died, become disabled or, in this case, has disappeared.  The answer is yes.  Smith brought the incident up to me within a fairly short time after Ray's disappearance.  

 

Initially that conversation created the one and only modicum of real doubt that I have ever had that what happened to Ray was likely criminal in nature. While 'walking off' would decidedly not be conduct fitting the man, if it had nonetheless occurred, taking steps to minimize the disruption it would cause would have been.

 

Provisions for replacement of a district attorney where a vacancy has been created "either by death, resignation, removal from office or from the county, or otherwise" are found in three separate volumes of Title 16. In Counties above the fourth class, the selection of a replacement to fill the vacancy is done by the court of common pleas. These provisions are found, for Counties of the First Class in Section 7703, for Counties of the Second Class in Section 4404 and for Counties of the Third Class in Section 1404(a). I cannot recall Mr. Smith offering the number of the provision to which the book had opened, but believe it must necessarily be 16 P.S. Section 1404(b), which provides that "if any vacancy shall occur in the office of district attorney in a county of the fourth through eighth class, the first assistant district attorney shall become district attorney and discharge the duties of the district attorney until the first Monday in January following the next municipal election occurring not less than ninety days after the occurrence of the vacancy." If the first assistant in counties of the 4th-8th class declines to serve, the vacancy is again filled by the court.

 

In terms of speculation which has been bandied about in media as to who may have placed the volume on Smith's desk, it would appear to have required, at the least, someone with access to the office and its library, familiar with the fact that Purdon's Statutes contains the statutory law of Pennsylvania, aware that County Code was the portion of the Pennsylvania law which would contain replacement procedures for a missing District Attorney, able to locate County Code as being contained in the 3.5 volumes of Title 16, and aware of the legal classification of Centre County (5th Class), to know that Section 1404(b) and not Sections 1404(a), 4404 or 7703 would apply.

 

Whoever such person may have been, I have long since dismissed the idea that it could have been Ray. Ray was pragmatic and exceedingly well-organized. He was not into theatrics or game-playing. If he wished to leave a ‘clue’ as to how to proceed, he would have done so in a manner that was certain to be effective, most likely simply marking the page and putting it on Smith’s desk, perhaps with a sticky note "MS" to call his attention to it. It was commonplace that I would come into my office and find on my desk a copy of a case or a book marked with a sticky note on some point of law that I had asked Ray about previously when he was busy and which he had found the answer to when he was working after hours. I imagine others had similar experiences.

 

There had been no vacancy in the DA slot for the previous 20 years, was no reason to assume that anyone had consulted the provision during that time, and certainly none to believe it had been consulted with sufficient frequency as to cause the book to fall open to that provision. Nor has it ever made the slightest sense to me how anyone could have had the prescience to know that the book would be handled in the particular fashion it was. It seems much more likely that anyone putting a book on someone's desk to be found would have to assume that, absent a note or marker calling attention to the book, there was a high risk that the book would simply be re-shelved or a request made to clerical staff to put it back in its proper place. Ray by all police accounts was last known to have been present at the DA office Thursday night, April 14, 2005. If the book had been left then, it seems logically that it should have been noticed either on Friday, April 15th, if Mr. Smith was at work that day (and I do not recall whether he was or was not), or on Sunday, April 17th when he has stated publicly that he went directly to the DA office after returning from Pittsburgh.

 

There are well over a hundred separate volumes of Purdon’s statutes, of which this volume was one. County Code is not something which in my experience routinely, if ever, comes up in criminal cases of the type a local DA Office prosecutes. So the fact that this particular volume appeared off the shelves at all is curious. The matter was presented to me as "Karen, do you want to hear something really strange?’ It was, and it remains, ‘strange.' I have no answer for it. But for all of the reasons noted I do not believe that it is plausible that Ray had anything to do with its being there.

   


(ii)  Stewardship of the investigation:


One of the subjects raised in the CDT's Q&A forum as well as in online discussion is the assignment of Officer, now Detective Zaccagni to head the investigation into Ray's disappearance. Only former Chief Dixon would be in a position to explain the reasons for the assignment.  At the time of Ray's disappearance, Detective Thomas Thal was the only detective on staff at BPD, and was routinely assigned to investigate major cases.  It's a small department and certainly both Officer Zaccagni and other officers did criminal investigation in some cases, particularly in the juvenile crime area.  I'm confident that Det. Thal also sometimes did routine patrol/traffic work, and if he's still there probably still does.   But there was clearly a process in place in April, 2005,  under which Det. Thal was routinely assigned stewardship over cases of a more serious nature.   The fact that in the most high profile situation to come into BPD in many years, a different procedure was followed says nothing of itself.  It is simply one of many aspects in which routine procedures seem to have been suspended in this particular investigation.  Some of the others are discussed in the sections and questions which are found further on in this discussion.


(iii)  Ray's paramour's change of position: 


This issue is discussed mostly in online forums.  I do not know that it necessarily has any significance in terms of his disappearance.  It is offered only to correct some assumptions that have been offered which are not accurate.  Ray's paramour was hired to fill the position of Victim Advocate in the DA Office.  The position entailed services to victims from the time formal criminal charges were filed against an offender throughout the pendency of all appeals in the case.  She remained in the position until sometime in late January of 2005.   The position carried with it a private office, equipment and a personal secretary/assistant who shared the office.  The Office at the time had a second and separate victim advocate who had contact with victims following a criminal incident occurring but prior to filing of charges and who served as an advocate in juvenile cases. 


Around the end of January, 2005, Ray announced to the staff that she was leaving the position to take a clerical position which had been vacated at the end of the previous year by another employee.  Staff were asked by Ray to make suggestions for persons who might be interested in the Victim Advocate position so that it could be quickly filled without a backlog of work occurring.  The position remained vacant for 3-4 weeks and was ultimately filled by a neighbor of Ray's who had a domestic violence counseling background. 


The clerk position to which Ray's paramour transferred had responsibility for sorting, filing and distributing  court orders, preparing court petitions, and answering incoming telephone calls when the regular receptionist was on another line, at lunch or off for the day.  The phone system was being changed to one with individual extensions and a voicemail option around the time I was discharged, but in April of 2005,  all outside calls to the DA's Office came into one of 2 or 3 general office lines, trunk lines I suppose they are called, where if the main DA number is busy the second incoming call flips over to the next line.  At the time, there was no voice mail,  though an answering machine was provided for calls which came in when the office was not open.   During normal business hours, calls were answered by the receptionist, who asked for the name of the person who was calling, and the person the call was for was then buzzed at their desk or in their office to take the call.  If they did not respond, indicated they were busy, or had their ‘do not disturb’ block on, the receptionist took a written message.  I have no specific recollection as to whether the regular receptionist was present at work on Friday, April 15, 2005.


(iv)  Titling of the Mini-Cooper:


There have been a number of media reports to the effect that the titling of the Mini-Cooper in the name of Ray's paramour was the result of his expressed concern that it might otherwise be lost/attached/forfeited if he were sued in connection with his decisions made as DA.   This contention has always been puzzling for two reasons.  The first is that when the car was purchased, which if I recall correctly was somewhere around Christmas of 2004 or early January of 2005,  it was stated by Ray to the staff to have been a gift.   His paramour had a small model of the car in her office and of course the vanity plate.  The first time I heard the fear of lawsuit rationale was in media reports following his disappearance.  I suppose he could have styled it a gift for reasons of his own.

 

However, the second and perhaps more important reason is why Ray would have had this concern at all.  Centre County did, and I assume still does, maintain professional liability insurance for the types of situations where an attorney in the office or the office itself is sued.  Cases of that sort which came into the DA's office tended to involve irate defendants.  I can think of no instance in the 18 years I worked at the Office where any of these suits was ever successful.   An elected DA in Pennsylvania enjoys large, and largely unreviewable, discretion in most aspects of decision-making.  I believe that Ray would have known that the chance of a successful suit based on any discretionary decision he made as DA was infinitesimal, and even then would be covered by the insurance policy.


It might present a different situation if the rationale were that he feared being successfully sued in some personal aspect of his life.  But every account at least that I have read has linked his fear of loss to lawsuits arising from decisions he made as District Attorney.  It simply seems to me very implausible that Ray would have considered that sort of lawsuit a serious or realistic risk to his personal property, and he would have had twenty years of experience to the contrary. 


4.  Summing up:


The foregoing is the objective portion of what I can recall about the Gricar situation from the week that he disappeared until 9 AM on January 3, 2006, when I was called into Mr. Smith’s office by DA Madeira, to be told that I was being discharged. The provision relied upon was part of the same chapter of County Code as that providing replacement procedures for a missing DA.


5.  Online information sources:


Given the passage of time since Ray's disappearance, it is increasingly difficult to find some of the earlier coverage.  One source which is still available at the time this site is being put up is run by the organization Porchlight International for the Missing & Unidentified, address http://z10.invisionfree.com/usedtobedoe/ar/t2226.htm, which has many of the past articles by the CDT.  A few of those articles are also still independently available online.   The CDT's online Q&A forum, formerly monitored by Erin Nissley and currently by Pete Bosak, still contains the statements made by Det. Zaccagni relative to the activity on Ray's cellphone on Friday, April 15, 2005 (question posed 9/13/05, answered 9/16/05). 

 

Home

Part II: Some Core Questions

Part III: Online Discussion

Part IV: Conclusions

 

 

 

 

 

 



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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