Part III: Online Discussion
What follows is of a much different nature than the content of the preceding sections. Each reader, just as his/her empaneled counterparts in the deliberation room, will have to decide what to make of it.
Sometimes in cases I tried there would be some piece of information or conduct by one of the involved parties which was so strange, bizarre even, that neither I nor defense counsel quite knew what a jury would make of it. Sometimes neither side offered it for that reason. At other times, it was offered on the rationale that the jury's job was, after all, to sort out everything known about the case, and they would have to decide what, if any, value the information or conduct had to them in making their decision.
The decision to include Part III of this site followed the latter analysis, though not without some hesitation. The deciding factor was this. If what is found in the discussion forum reflects intent to affect the investigation, public perception of the investigation or impact public opinion as to what likely happened to Gricar, I believe it is fairly something to be included on this site. I doubt that many Centre Countians routinely or regularly read the forum discussion, if in fact they are even aware that it exists. Thus, to the extent that anything on it is deemed to have any potential relevance to the Gricar investigation, relatively few local citizens would likely ever become aware of it.
The site in question is Courttv.com Message Boards: Gricar. You can reach the site by typing "courttv" and "gricar" as search words. There are a total of 24 "threads" or subtopics of discussion still available as of the date this site is being prepared. When the site is opened only a few of them appear, representing those in which there has been the most recent activity/discussion. If you want to view the others, you go to the bottom of the page, where, beside the word "from", the site defaults to 'past 30 days'. You hit the arrow beside 'past 30 days', scroll down and select 'the beginning', then hit 'go' to bring up all 24 threads.
A few words about the site. Participants offer their observations/opinions under screen names of their choosing. The sole exception is participant "Tony Gricar", who since entering on July 14, 2006, has used a given name. Various rules (terms of service) exist, for violation of which a poster may be 'banned'. When a poster is 'banned', his/her entire output on the boards is permanently removed and the status of that screen name as 'banned' appears in his/her 'profile'. Some of the original threads have been removed in their entirety when the individual who started them has been 'banned'. However, a significant volume of the content previously offered by posters who have not been banned is also no longer present. For that I have no explanation.
If one has an interest in reviewing the output only of a particular participant, one can go to that participants 'profile' under a search feature and hit an 'all posts' link which leads to 2-3 line summaries of 'posts' made by that individual over time. The total number of 'posts' attributed to a particular screen name is in most cases significantly higher than the number of available summaries, indicating that not all output is still publicly available. Posters who have been 'banned' generally list as having 0 'posts', because their output has been removed.
For those readers who have not 'tuned in' on a regular basis to this discussion over the past two years, which I expect would be true of most readers of this site, it would surely take weeks to go back and read from beginning to end everything offered which is still available. However, it is by looking at the entire picture, or by having followed the discussion as it developed over time, that patterns become most obvious.
What follows is very much a 'readers digest version' of very selected portions of a vastly more complex discussion which has over time involved 20-30 posters. It is narrowly focused on summarizing certain discussion and participants which to me reflect the presence of knowledge of Ray's family and/or details of the investigation into his disappearance which would not be possessed by an ordinary member of the public, and/or which appear to be focused on promoting the idea that Gricar's disappearance cannot and will not be solved.
Where "he" or "she" is used as a pronoun, it is done arbitrarily and as a matter of convenience only. Apart from the family spokesperson, who, IF the name represents the actual person, is obviously a 'he', gender of the remaining participants is, just as their identity, unknown.
When I began reading this discussion forum last year, it was simply because it was a source of public exchange of ideas on Ray's disappearance, even though there was no assurance that discussion participants were from Centre County or had any personal interest in his situation. Apart from occasional questions and answers posted on the ongoing CDT Gricar blog, there was, and still is, nothing else. I would probably not have continued the effort very long had I not begun to see a curious pattern forming.
As a prosecutor, it often seemed that in the more typical investigation, where there was not a confession or the equivalent of a ‘smoking gun’, that one could often 'follow the breadcrumbs’ to at least some aspects of the truth in the form of small things that were said in police interviews, rationales proffered where none were called for, levels of concern exhibited about particular matters, small points, which a person with no ‘horse in the race’ would not likely have entertained. This is the nature of what I have found fascinating in the Gricar forum over time.
The forum has its share of what I would think of as ‘recreational posters’ or 'true crime buffs'. They stand apart as they normally have offered opinions in a variety of different cases over time and their posts may be found on many different forums. Tara Grinstead, Jon Benet, Ray Gricar.
With one or two exceptions, the screen ‘personalities’ on the Gricar site are not of that character. The majority participate only in the Gricar discussion. Many participants with the most prolific output did not first join the discussion until between 12 and 18 months after Ray's disappearance, long after the case was receiving any significant publicity, even locally, and when logic would suggest that posters with no particular stake in the matter would long since have moved on to cases of more current vintage. The majority of these 'late-comers' appeared during the months between the expiration of the original 7/31/06 deadline for the cia review report and the time it was actually completed in November of 2006.
On May 5, 2005, three weeks after Ray disappeared, the forum was joined by participant "Billywahoo” (BW). He presented himself as an ‘insider’ to the investigation, stating 4 days after joining, "You would choke on your mouse if you realized who you are talking to." BW suggested that he might turn out to be one of the "absolute core people" involved in the investigation. He pointed out that his ability to accurately advise others of the dates and subject matter of not-yet-publicly-announced news events was proof that he had 'just a smidgen of insight' into the police investigation.
And indeed BW did appear to have the 'inside track'. His predictions of articles in local media in advance of their actual appearance proved to be correct. News conferences duly occurred when he said that they would. He offered information on the progress of the Gricar 'reward site', indicating it had been delayed because the family lawyer was out of town. He detailed things which had been said during press conferences which had not been reported by the media. He offered information on Ray's paramour's former position within the DA Office. He advised other participants that the police search warrant to acquire Ray's medical records did not refer to him as "depressed". He offered information on the timing of a group meeting of DAs convened to discuss the disappearance during the early weeks of the investigation. He commended the assistance offered to Ray's family by the DA of a neighboring county.
There are many other examples on the site, of which those above are illustrative, which suggest that indeed BW was/is a person who was privy to both the family and the investigation, at least at early points after the disappearance. On a single occasion, BW stated that he was an attorney in his 'day job', but he offered no further details and as far as I can recall never made that assertion again.
Some of BW's early output would suggest out-of-county residence and possible family connections. He compared Ray's position to the DA slot in his own area, noting that his own DA rarely tried cases and the position was basically a political one. He offered that the suicide of Roy Gricar was attributable to difficult events that had occurred in Roy's life around the time he died, provided the name of the Ohio coroner assigned to Roy's case, and on May 10, 2005, noted that "9 years ago today, he [Roy] was currently in the river." He expressed surprise that no other participant had 'picked up on' the fact that his last name (Wahoo) was the name of the mascot for 'Ray's beloved Cleveland Indians' (Chief Wahoo). Factoring these additional statements into the mix, BW presented as someone intimate to the police investigation, privy to police documents and plans for press conferences, familiar with the name of the Cleveland Indian's mascot, familiar with factors behind Roy Gricar's suicide, familiar with Ray's paramour's former position at the DA office, knowledgeable about the group DA meeting, the Gricar reward site/its progress, self-described as one of the 'absolute, core people' involved in the situation and with a day job as an attorney.
While the list is of possibilities would be short, it is by no means exclusive. Police obviously could ask and receive whatever information they wished on whatever subject. Some of Ray's family are geographically located in Ohio. Several employees of the DA's Office, past and present, have attended Ohio schools. However, what is obvious is that BW does not present as an ordinary Joe from Nebraska, who is idly tuning in to post on a missing person case, but rather someone specifically involved with and knowledgeable about the Gricar disappearance. The question for me: 'why is BW here?'
BW's role in the discussion for the first several weeks seemed to be one of simply reporting to 'locals' (his term) what was occurring that he believed they should know. There was not initially any raising of preferred theories on what may have happened to Ray. But this changed fairly quickly. By about the third week, BW was noting that Ray's having simply walked away was "as plausible a scenario as any other", and that if he did perhaps he had suffered a 'detachment from reality' or a 'breakdown'.
A few weeks later BW suggested that very likely Ray, being too self-identified with his job, had been unable to cope with the idea of going into retirement and had walked off or committed suicide for that reason. This theme was reiterated and more strongly pursued at later points. Other participants were told that it's "well known" that suicide levels increase for white males when they face retirement. Suicide was in one BW post offered as having 'the highest level of probability'. By late July, 2005, BW was presenting his view that suicide and walkaway were equally likely. In support of suicide, he offered that the Lewisburg scene where the Mini-Cooper was discovered was 'eerily similar' to the setting in which Roy Gricar's body was found. In support of walkoff, he offered that the appearance of the laptop combined with the absence of a suicide note made walkoff the more likely disappearance event.
BW's input dropped off significantly in September 2005 through January 2006, as the investigation itself languished. On January 20, 2006, he emerged to complain of TV personality Nancy Grace's approach to interviewing Det. Zaccagni and the family spokesperson, characterizing it as an 'ambush'. He popped back in in April, 2006, to explain a photograph taken of DA Madeira and Ray's paramour which hadbeen published by The Daily Collegian following the one-year anniversary press conference, in which they appeared to be laughing. He indicated that the photo had been taken when someone present at that news conference had made a 'lighthearted comment', and noted that the photograph should not have been published.
In the next 3-4 months, BW posted only sporadically. He offered that the flowers found in Lewisburg (discussed in the earliest media accounts in 2005) had been discovered by Tony Gricar on Sunday, April 17, 2005. He stated that both the FBI and BPD had conducted investigations into Ray's finances. He asserted that he was familiar with polygraph questions which had been posed to Ray's paramour the year before and that the polygrapher was "beyond satisfied" with the paramour's answers to them. At two points, the writer of this site was referred to. The first was mention of "the illustrous KA" without point of reference or explanation for the characterization. The second was reference to my having been involved in the investigation during the first 24 hours after Ray's disappearance, which as far as I am aware has not been information covered by public media.
As of the date that this narrative is being finalized, the individual BW posts which are summarized above are still publicly available on the "Ray Gricar, 59, msg. 4/15/05 'thread' of the forum discussion, which was for a long time the predominant thread in the overall discussion. Occasional BW posts are found on other 'threads'. On July 14, 2006, on the "Witness Protection" thread, BW advised other board participants that "a relevant party" would soon be joining the discussion, if that had not in fact already occurred. On the same date, July 14, 2006, "Tony Gricar" registered to enter the discussion. BW's last involvement in the Gricar forum occurred two weeks later, on July 28, 2006.
Saunterer was a participant in the Gricar forum from around the time of the first polygraph in the summer of 2005 until sometime in July or August of 2006, when he was 'banned' and all of his output removed from the board. The Saunterer screen name is no longer listed as having been a member of the discussion. However, reference to the name can be still found in the output of other posters who were responding to things he said.
Given the lack of public access to Saunterer's output, this discussion will make no attempt to describe it, beyond noting that he appeared to frequently share the same positions being advanced by BW. Unlike BW, Saunterer claimed no 'insider' status, contending that he was simply a citizen interested in the Gricar situation, with no affiliation with Ray's family or the investigation itself. Sometimes his approach was abrasive and he was 'taken to task' for rudeness by other participants. On one of these occasions he provided, by way of apology, a most unusual 'link'. As his output is now gone, I could only 'guesstimate' that it occurred in the late spring or early summer of 2006. The link, when clicked, opened to a page on which were written the words "I'm sorry" and had an audio component in which a man said, repeatedly andsomewhat sarcastically, over and over that he was sorry.
At the time this site is being prepared, the link is still independently publicly available on the internet. It proved to be part of a larger website maintained by a teacher at a parochial high school in Ohio. I think it inappropriate to compound an arguable act of recklessness in the link's having been put up by referencing the site address here. If media entertains any doubt it exists, I have downloaded the content as I imagine have countless others, and it is physically available for verification. On the same link are found photographs of one of Ray's nephews, together with information about his college enrollment for the following year. The "I'm sorry" page is the only thing on thesite which is not related to school activities. No plausible explanation for the offering has ever been made. And surely none is apparent. The result of its being 'put up' publicly--surely an entirely predictable result--was that the forum discussion turned, at least for a short time, to speculation as to whether this nephew had played some part in, or had some knowledge of Ray's disappearance. To what purpose?
For those who were active readers during Saunterer's participation and have followed the forum discussion since that time, there is much to suggest that participant Serendipitous 1 (S1), who first registered on October 8, 2006, represents the same individual and that S1 has intentionally made that apparent. S1 is an active poster who has not been banned. An 'all posts' search for the S1 screen name indicates a total output of 265 posts, with summaries available for about 220 of those. The summaries begin about a month after he joined the board, with the first summary being for a post made on November 1, 2006.
However, S1's actual first offering on the board just after his registration in October, 2006 was one in which he provocatively stated that he wished that the other board participants "could have seen" how beautiful and happy Ray's daughter had looked at her graduation in 2006, more than a year after Ray's disappearance. The implication was inescapable that he had either been present at the event or otherwise had knowledge of it. He/she has periodically provided other 'tidbits' of family history. On June 15, 2007, he 'corrected' discussion of Ray and his first wife having lived 'in' Warriors Mark, noting that it was "Warriors Mark PO". The same day he apprised the board that Ray's divorce from his second wife was filed after she had physically moved to southeastern Pennsylvania.
On November 18, 2006 S1 observed that not many in the discussion could 'truly appreciate' the relationship between Ray and his housemate. On November 22, 2006, S1 used innuendo to direct suspicion toward Ray's second wife, putting on the public board her full name, how long the marriage lasted, when divorce was filed for, the date the joint home of the couple was sold, the name of the ex-wife's current husband, two locations they have lived since her remarriage and the date of sale of their first home together, concluding with 'where is she, what does she know?'
Screen name "tonyGricar" ("TG") joined the Gricar forum about two weeks before the results of the PSP-CIA review/report were originally stated to be due, registering on July 14, 2006. I have put quotes around it because, to the best of my knowledge, Ray's family spokesperson has never publically acknowledged to Centre County media his participation in the forum discussion. It has always seemed odd that no local media over the 11 months he has participated have ever asked him about this during periodic contacts seeking comments on the case. The forum discussion itself has been referenced on multiple occasions, both before and since TG entered as a participant, in questions posed by the public to the CDT's Q&A blog and in the CDT online comment option in several of its articles on the case. Poster TG is listed as having offered posts on 168 occasions since joining the discussion . Summaries are publicly available, at the time this site is being prepared, for 108 of those. Poster TG has not been banned or taken to task for the content of his posts.
During the first week or so after TG joined the forum discussion, there were doubts expressed by other participants as to whether the screen name represented the actual person. One of the long-term participants, Logicworks (LW), compiled a list of examples of particular expressions and language choices which were found both in the output of BW during his tenure on the board and subsequently by TG in his. The example I can readily recall was the use of the word 'contrarian' and the phrase 'playing the contrarian' (a term also used by JJ in Phila since his entry in September, 2006 ), but there were a number of other examples offered. LW suggested that BW and TG were likely the same person, which by implication would necessarily have been TG.
Immediate outcry followed this assertion. Although LW was not 'banned', a participant who had started a discussion thread specific to that issue promptly disappeared, as did the thread itself. LW did not further pursue the matter and to my awareness it has not been again raised by others. The identity of poster TG as TG the actual person has been, among board participants, for many months now treated as established, whether or not it is actual, fact. Therefore, the observations and comments below proceed on that assumption, subject to correction by the family spokesperson if erroneous.
Positing that TG is the actual person, the question: 'to what purpose?' The obvious answer--information-gathering over a national audience--seems questionable in this case. TG has personally maintained the Ray Gricar reward site since shortly after Ray's disappearance. While there is no longer any monetary reward available, the site still provides the number for Bellefonte Police, a number for TG himself and a direct email link designated to be used for "tips, thoughts and well-wishers". It has recently begun to consistently appear as the first listing in searches using the word 'gricar', which I believe is an option which adds to the cost of running the site. Avenues of public information-gathering appear to be fully covered. TG has several times observed in the forum discussion that serving as spokesperson and maintaining the reward site has been a large burden on his available time, a situation surely not improved by discussion on another forum.
Why would a family member choose to engage a national and largely anonymous audience using his given name? That is more a question in light of the fact that TG has stated on several occasions on the CTV forum that he has suffered some 'harassment' as the result of maintaining the reward site. If the purpose of involvement were merely to engage others in discussion of alternatives as to what may have happened to Ray, it could be just as easily accomplished by proceeding under the screen name option which other posters employ. Certainly any insight or ideas gained from the debating process would be exactly the same. Any potentially new information could be shared with police in equal measure. Arguably the process would be enhanced by proceeding under a screen name, lest other participants otherwise be reluctantto present a particular idea or viewpoint out of fear of offending a known family member.
And in fact, that precise dynamic has been very much in evidence. Expressions of thoughts by other participants have been more than once preceded by language such as "TG, please don't be offended by this, but..." On at least two occasions, when posters were more direct in questioning some aspect of TG's output, he has stated that perhaps he shouldleave the board so that posters will feel 'freer to discuss' the case. Mea culpas by others follow entreating him not to do so. Obviously the discussion itself is in the public realm for allto read, including TG and any other family members. Fear that a family member will be offended presents the same risk if the family is reading as if they are actually participating. The dynamic thus seems to me to be both overtly manipulative and very much the direct result of a choice to use his own name.
Toward the end of his participation on the board, BW's 'insider' offerings were being questioned with more frequency than initially and challenges made as to his source of information, with some participants questioning his 'credibility'. I offer no opinion on LW's position that BW and TG represent the same person. But what I believe is entirely fair and accurate to observe is that "TG" during his tenure has occupied exactly the same role--that of "insider", "information-giver" and "corrector" of perspectives expressed by others in the discussion--which BW occupied from early May, 2005 until his departure two weeks after TG entered the discussion. And again the question is "to what purpose?"
On June 15, 2007, "TG" made a post which well-illustrates the dynamics discussed. He notes that he has just returned to the board to catch up and after reading others' observations he would "spend much of my time, as I have done in the past, knocking down theories and rumors". He offers that other participants are wrong in their analyses, and rues that his being forced to correct them "makes me a target for comments of cover-up, throwing one off the course, or just plain rude". He styles the offerings of poster Logicworks "a complete fabrication", noting "man, is that wrong". It is far from clear why TG or any other poster would deem it their role to 'knock down theories', but it reflects the same approach taken by BW beginning three weeks after Ray's disappearance. Nor has "TG" to my recollection ever been accused of 'cover-up', throwing other posters off course, or rudeness. Virtually every poster in the discussion has continuously deferred to him. The dynamic --you are wrong and I must suffer for correcting you--is overtly manipulative. And the question is 'why?'
Participant Tokuen joined the forum discussion on October 28, 2006. Tokuenhas made 8 public offerings, one in 2006 and the other 7 in 2007. Summaries are still available for those in 2007.
An individual self-identified as Tokuen posted a lengthy online comment to the CDT's December 13, 2006 article on the cia review, "Gricar case review dispirits family" (Bosak),which as of the time this narrative is being prepared is still archived online at http://pod01.prospero.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx. The comment expresses areas of concern with each of the three police theories and concludes that it is unlikely that an answer will ever be forthcoming 'so long as there continues to be no absolute commitment to finding the truth'.
Tokuen is obviously a rather unique name, even for a public discussion forum. An online search of the word, which appears to be associated with Eastern spirituality, brings up only two domestic listings.
The first is conversation between Tokuen and one of Ray's nephews. In December, 2004, he posts inquiry describing himself as a family member of Roy James Gricar, grandson of Anthony Gricar and Velma Skufca and seeks information about his grandparents and their siblings (parents of Roy and Ray). Two years later in October, 2006, Tokuen responds to the inquiry, correcting the maiden name of his grandmother and providing a link to a Cleveland-area site which contains information on the birth and death dates of Ray and Roy's parents and their siblings.
The second listing contains several issues of a newsletter produced by the Mt. Equity Zendo, a religious community located in Pennsdale, Pennsylvania. Pictured in both issues is Ray's first wife, his daughter's mother, designated under her professional name with Tokuen inserted as a middle name apparently bestowed by the community.
Does Tokuen represent anonymous board participation by Ray's first wife? Only she would be able to answer that question. A Tokuen post on February 25, 2007 contained a decidedly Zen-like observation about the nature of trees. A post made in April, 2007, merely thanked forum participants for keeping the issue alive of what had become of Gricar.
Subsequent Tokuen posts have been more obscure. On June 5, 2007, Tokuen posts a small portion of what is apparently the screenplay for the movie version of The Abyss. In it, the male protagonist, diving far below the surface, advises his ex-wife, who is above water, that he has insufficient oxygen to make it back, ending with his observation that he knew going down it was 'a one-way trip', but he had to make it. The analogy to 'walkoff' theory is obvious. On June 12, 2007, Tokuen comes on on two occasions to complain that the Gricar investigation is 'unique', should not be 'compared' with other investigations and that board participants are missing that. Other participants' requests for explanation of what Tokuen's posts mean are uniformly met with silence.
Two readings of the output of BW, S, S1, TG and Tokuen are possible. One is that they represent the work of actual family members or persons intimate to the family. The other is that a person or persons with a fairly extensive knowledge of Ray's extended family, family history and current family events has spent a significant period of time attempting to create the impression that they are involved. In either case, the question is the same: To what purpose?
Seventeen months after Ray's disappearance, on September 23, 2006, the record-holder for prolific output in the Gricar forum discussion, JJ in Phila (JJ), registered. There followed an immediate frenzy of posting activity, whose volume has remained constant since, with JJ offering opinions on the case an average of 5-6 times per day, 24/7, weekends and holidays included.
At the time this narrative is being prepared, JJ is credited as having 'posted' some 1, 543 times. An 'all posts' search reveals that about 1,042 of these are still publicly available. I have no explanation for the 500 or so that appear to have been expunged. JJ, like TG and S1, has not been banned, nor, as far as I am aware, has he/she been taken to task for posting inappropriate content. Apart from a one-word post on 9/25/06, JJ's posts still available for public view begin only on October 11, 2006, about 3 weeks after he began his participation. To all I can discern, gone is extensive discussion he offered on the Luna case, extensive discussion between JJ and another poster on the technicalities of working with search dogs, and the Mel Wiley discussion described below.
JJ's premise was that he/she had closely followed the Gricar forum discussion for 17 months before entering it. JJ is self-described as a middle-aged, never-married male, a graduate of PSU, formerly from Johnstown, at one time in his life a county official in a county outside Centre, no longer actively working because of an unspecified disability. At several points, he has referred to having previously testified as an expert witness,but it has never been stated in what area his expertise lay/lies.
JJ during the course of hisoutput has offered opinion on a near-endless variety of subjects. JJ firmly contends that all of his/her knowledge comes from his memory, reading, online research and in some cases his prior experience as a county official. The output covers the gamut--how long it takes vehicular transfer information to get into PennDot's databank, federal prison inmate assignments, GS pay scales, practices by ICE (former INS) and how they might have impacted the Vargas case Ray was prosecuting at the time he disappeared, medical evaluation of shaken baby cases (also Vargas), financial disclosure requirements for county officials/employees, opinions on polygraphy, the operation of the phone system and certain office procedures within the Centre County DA office, Ray's cell calling record, the capability of tracking dogs, the significance of fingerprint findings, the specifics of the Luna and Wiley cases, recent developments in common law marriage in Pennsylvania, tidbits concerning judges off the bench for more than 20 years, Ray's early salary, and federal rules of evidence concerning the admission of hearsay testimony. He has focused on a number of Ray's past cases and investigations, some at least ten years old.
The list of topics on which JJ has opined is long and by no means will any attempt be made to summarizeit in this section. JJ is included in this sectionprimarily for what is outlined below. The topics below are discussed in no particular order, other than I suppose to start with the simplest. The reader is left to decide whether some, all or none of the areas discussed below have any apparent relevance to the case.
JJ in his earliest offerings took a determinedly-focussed and bipartite approach. Simply stated,
he was adamant that (1) Ray "walked off", and (2) that the laptop found in the Susquehanna in late summer of 2005 absolutely constituted the most important 'evidence' (JJ's term) of walkoff. Only after taken to task byother participants questioning why he would not at least consider other possible alternative scenarios did JJ first offer his hypothetical 'killer' scenario, for which he created a special discussion 'thread' called "Murder Scenario". It is that post ('the killer scenario') which is dated October 11, 2006 and represents the first of his output that is still publicly available.
JJ raised on the board early on various cases in which he indicated that a formerly responsible, apparently well-functioning adult had, for no apparent reason, simply walked off from his/her life never to be heard from again, or, in one case he brought up, to resurface many years later living a 'new' life. The cases were all raised to support JJ's argument that, notwithstanding the singular dearth of evidence of walkoff, that Ray had likely done the same thing.
One of the cases raised by JJ stands well apart from all the others he cited, and that is the 1985 disappearance of Chief Mel Wiley, head of the Hinckley, Ohio police department, a small town near Cleveland, Ohio. He initially raised the case as part of a list of other 'walkoff' situations within the first few days of his entry if I recall correctly. It was little-discussed initially but very extensively discussed at a later point in the discussion. I'm not sure without going through the 1,000+ summaries if any of the renewed discussion on Wiley is still available publicly, but the Wiley case can be independently reviewed through media archives local to that area, once you know the name and have the relevant timeframe of the incident.
Mel Wiley's disappearance occurred in late July of 1985. Whether it was something of which Ray or individuals in the office who had attended Ohio schools knew about, I'm not sure. Part of me has a vague sense that perhaps Wiley's name was once mentioned in the office, some reference to "good old Mel Wiley", though not by Ray, but when JJ brought it up, it did not initially sound familiar, so I'm not sure if the memory of the name beingmentioned is in fact accurate. In either event, the facts of the case were definitely not something Iever recall hearing prior to JJ's bringing it up. At the time Wiley disappeared, Ray would have been living in Centre County about 4-5 years and had just been elected DA for the first time.
A check of media local to that area during the time period reveals that Chief Mel Wiley disappeared, under near-identical circumstances to those surrounding Ray's disappearance. His vehicle was left parked by a lake near a Cleveland park some miles away from the town of Hinckley, locked with police badge, trousers, shirt, wallet and beach towel inside, no sign of foul play, last seen by a girlfriend 3 days before, his apartment in order with nothing disturbed, initially theorized to be in Lake Erie, a two-day river search turned up no body, theories then turned to walkoff. Wiley, who'd been Chief 3 years and in law enforcement for 20 years, was described as somewhat of a loner, private about his personal life, divorced for 2 years, in an apparent good frame of mind prior to his disappearance, with no mental health history. Though he was in frequent contact with his mother, he gave her no indication of any plans to leave or problems in his last regular call to her. He left without making arrangements for the ongoing care of his much-beloved household pets.
Within a short time of the disappearance, Wiley's departmental officers, investigating his disappearance, announced that they had unrolled a ribbon from his office typewriter and were able to 'reconstruct' from the keystrokes on the ribbon the wording of a letter which seemed to suggest that he might be considering leaving. If I recall correctly, the letter itself had never been sent to its intended recipient.
Wiley, unlike Ray, had a known hobby of writing crime fiction stories, and theories were posed by the police investigators from within his department that he was perhaps living out a fantasy or the plot of a book he was working on. Local media noted that Chief Wiley was, at that time at least, the only police chief ever to be included on the FBI's missing persons site. Meaningful investigation lasted only a brief time, the case was nominally kept 'open' for several years after his disappearance and then officially closed on the premise he had 'most likely' volitionally disappeared.
Wiley's mother belatedly employed private investigators to work on the case, to no avail. After 8 years, she went to court to get a judicial order declaring that him ‘legally dead’ in order to be able to settle his estate, primarily his still-unclaimed public retirement and deferred compensation accounts, stating to the judge presiding at that proceeding that she did not and would never believe he had walked off. Coverage at the time indicated the property division might take several years to determine, the contestants being Wiley's mother, an ex-wife claiming unpaid alimony and a female friend who was in possession of a paper signed by Wiley sometime during the year before he disappeared which purported to name the female friend as his 'sole beneficiary'.
Mel Wiley is still unaccounted for, the man who never returned. Who is no longer being sought, save perhaps by his family. Who was simply assumed to have 'walked off'. Once one knows Wiley's name, there are indeed some internet articles on the incident, but they are not something one 'falls over'. As an exercise of curiosity I've asked several fellow prosecutors about the case and none had heard of it. JJ offered that he simply remembered the case from coverage twenty years before when it occurred.
There is pure coincidence, remarkable coincidence and too much coincidence. The reader is left to determine where JJ's early proffer of the Mel Wiley disappearance falls on that continuum. For those wishing to look at Wiley coverage from 1985, the local print media is the Akron Beacon Journal.
A brief preface for those unfamiliar with the Luna case. Jonathan Luna was a federal prosecutor based in the DOJ's Baltimore office. Between two days of a drug trial in December, 2003, he is said to have gone back to his office at the courthouse, left the office around 11 PM without his cellphone or glasses and traversed the interstates through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania for about 5 hours before being found dead with multiple stab wounds (36 or 32 depending on source) in the yard of an Amish well-drilling company in Denver, Pennsylvania at around 5:00-5:30 AM, still wearing his business suit and federal court identification badge, face-down in a shallow creek, with his car partly out over the creek and the engine still running. All blood in his vehicle was found on the floor of the back seat and on the outside of the driver's side door. About 3 months after his death, a penknife appeared at the spot where his body had been found, evading discovery by a number of police police searching the area for a mile downstream on the morning he died.
Luna's murder remains unsolved. It was ruled a homicide after autopsy and pursued by federal authoritiesas such. Within the first year, the investigative focus shifted to pursuit of the idea that he had perhaps committed suicide, self-inflicting all his own wounds. Two trips by federal authorities are reported to have been made to the Lancaster Coroner's office seeking to have the cause of death officially changed from homicide, both unsuccessful. The most recent development in the case occurred last December when the Lancaster county coroner, confronted by Lancaster media with information provided by the Maryland funeral director who prepared Luna's body for burial that he had had multiple 'defensive wounds' to his hands, at least one stab wound in the back and other theretofore unreported injuries, essentially confirmed the information. A Lancaster County editorial dated December 10, 2006 addressing the Luna investigation is archived at lancasteronline.com. A court motion seeking an inquest was filed, dismissed on procedural grounds, and was to have been immediately refiled in the correct form. That is the last development of which I am aware.
The Luna case, like some distant, brief musical motif, has made appearances at occasional points throughout the two years since Ray's disappearance. It has been raised and discussed periodically on the ctv forum and at one point even had its own separate discussion 'thread', which has since been expunged. The disappearance of JJ's discussion on Luna from the forum is unfortunate, because there were myriad citations/links to Lancaster and Baltimore Sun articles dating back to his death in 2003 which now would have to be reconstructed to have the same information available.
Before Ray's disappearance I had never heard of Luna. My first awareness came as the result of BPD's announcement very early on after Ray's disappearance that the Luna case was 'absolutely unrelated' to Ray's situation. When I originally read that assertion my questions were, in equal measure, what's the 'Luna case'?, how could anyone know immediately that it was 'unrelated' when essentially nothing was known about what happened to Ray at all? who had suggested that Luna WAS related? For a long time I assumed the BPD statement was made to set aside theories being bandied about by writer Keisling, author of The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna, who by report came to the early news conferences BPD held in Ray's case and was apparently expressing his opinion that the two situations likely were tied by some unspecified 'drug connection'. It was only many months later that I became aware that private investigative personnel in the Luna case had traveled to Bellefonte very shortly after Ray's disappearance and sought permission to interview his housemate, which was denied.
JJ's stated perspective on Luna was that Luna had self-inflicted his wounds, that he was demonstrably an incompetent attorney, about to be fired by his boss, may have been having an extra-marital affair and likely stole money which was evidence in one of his prior cases. The forum discussion over time as far as I can recall largely consisted of JJ providing 'links' to later Baltimore Sun articles in which federal sources talked about possiblesuicide as a cause, and other posters countering with links to earlier Sun articles in which federal authorities were treating the death as a homicide.
While JJ's CTV forum output on Luna appears to be no longer available, his views on the case are fortunately not lost. "JJ in Phila", same writing style and surely the same JJ, posted much of the same perspective on the likelihood that Luna killed himself on another public discussion forum called Web Detectives, http://webdetectives.mywowbb.com/forum20 between January 30, 2005 and March 31, 2005, immediately prior to Ray's disappearance. At the time this site is being offered, the WD discussion is still available online.
JJ's position was that the Luna and Gricar cases were radically different in virtually all respects save their both being prosecutors and there was no possibility of any link between them. As I recall the Luna discussion on the CTV site ended somewhat abruptly with the Lancaster media flurry over Luna's previously-unreported injuries, including defensive wounds to his hands which JJ had been theretofore quite insistent that Luna did not have. JJ's output in Luna is notable primarily in being one of three areas of discussion which appear to generate strong emotional response by JJ, the other two being the Wedler park sighting and any discussion whatsoever of Ray's paramour.
JJ throughout his output has offered vehement defenses of Ray's paramour as someone who could not conceivably have any knowledge related to his disappearance or have had any part in it. That alone would not be notable, as opinions on the forum to the same effect, as well as those arguing the opposite, have repeatedly been made during the discussion for its entire existence. JJ's output is notable in its more insistent pursuit of the issue. Board participants have been repeatedly accused of subscribing to an "evil [paramour]" scenario and '[paramour]-bashing'. JJ contends that the issue has been conclusively and finally settled bypolygraphy, and should not any longer be a topic of discussion.
JJ has offered several explications on the subject of why the phone call to the DA office on April 15, 2007 could not have been 'faked' or 'pre-planned' (JJ's designations). The most recent of these at the time of this writing occurred during the period June 14-16, 2007. In discussion during that period, JJ has offered that inquiry concerning Ray's romantic entanglement serves to take the "focus" away from persons who, "if" Gricar were murdered, "COULD have done it". As the recent discussion became heated, JJ on June 13, 2007, offered the following: "It is MY forum....Trying to 'nail' someone who is exonerated by the known evidence doesn't help..." Later the same date, he offered: "I don't know why a few posters feel the need to turn this into the "Let's try to pin this on [paramour]" thread..."
JJ evidenced familiarity with a number of cases in which Ray had been involved, some of many years before, such as the 1996 Ferguson Township PD case involving the shooting of Kitu Sampson. On February 26, 2007, JJ proffered factual summaries, though not names of a number of Centre County murders, specifically indicating those that Ray had prosecuted. The descriptions are as follows: "mother killed her baby by drowning, 1987-8...one of the first post-partum defenses" [Actual case: Sharon Comitz], "the sniper shootings [at PSU] c.1996" [Actual case: Jillian Robins], " a mini-mart clerk during a robbery, late 1990's IIRC [IIRC=if I recall correctly]. RFG signed a plea agreement for second degree as there were questions about the killer's sanity" [Actual case: unknown to me], "older woman, during a robbery, late 1990's. Unsure if a suspect was tried." [Actual case: unknown to me], "early 2000s, elderly man killed his elderly wife, IIRC" [Actual case: apparently Dietrich Brandt, charged in 1998, tried in 1999]. At one point reference was made to an ARD denial which had resulted in an accusation of racial bias against Ray.
On May 30, 2007 and again on June 2, 2007 ("Ray Gricar Discussion, cont." thread) , JJ offered as fact that the writer of this site was "present in the office" on April 15, 2005. How JJ would have 'known' such a thing is up to the reader to determine, but I personally know no one named JJ, from Philadelphia or elsewhere.
In about the third week of May, in the course of defending his position that Ray himself had turned his cell phone off, he citing some examples of situations where the cell would have to have remained on such as Ray's awaiting return of a verdict in a case he had tried, certainly a common office situation. He observed that the DA's office has multiple secretaries, and in another posting stated that the DA's office has 'never been a one-man operation', and that it was not such back in 1980 when Ray had first been appointed an ADA. A couple of months back, JJ made reference to a member of a local law firm who when he left to become a judge had removed his name from the masthead of the law firm. That individual was no longer on the bench when I came to Centre County in 1987, so the information goes back to a point more than 20 years ago. On June 16, 2007, JJ asserted that Ray's salary at the time of his [early 90s] divorce from his first wife was $40,000. During the first week of June, he offered the information on the occupation of the father Ray's paramour's ex-husband. All amazing knowledge for a disabled guy living in Philly.
JJ on June 10-11 began a discussion on the issue of whether Ray and his paramour could be held to have been legally "common-law married", so as to entitle the paramour to lay claim to his pension if/when he is legally declared dead, which JJ indicates would not occur until 2012. JJ offered links to a Commonwealth Court case and a subsequent statute passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature which became effective January 1, 2005, under which common-law marriages 'contracted' for on or after January 1, 2005 are no longer valid to convey married status. He pointed out that Ray and his paramour had cohabited for 16 months prior to that legislative change and therefore that she has a 'relatively strong' claim to his pension. He offered as well that "most pensions" do not permit children, in this case LG, to be designated as beneficiaries, and opined that it therefore 'makes a great deal of sense to designate PEF as beneficiary on his pension.' With respect to the pension he observed that if it were not given to Ray's paramour under the common-law marriage rationale, it would end up with either one of his ex-wives or 'go back to the bank'.
Another participant pointed to the lack of joint ownership of property between the pair or any public use of common last name as reasons to question whether they were 'holding themselves out' as married to the public, consistent with common-law arrangements. JJ responded that perhaps the pair 'felt that' they were 'already married'. JJ cited rules of evidence, albeit federal rather than state, in support of his proposition that hearsay would be admissible in court to establish the existence of a common-law marriage even if Ray never returned, such testimony to come, he posited, perhaps from Ray's daughter.
Just as confounding as the rest of his output is JJ's "Murder Scenario" which is the first listed substantive post which is still publicly available. I paid scant attention to the details of the scenario at the time it was offered, as it appeared so clearly designed to be a counter to other participant's complaints that JJ was only willing to consider 'walkoff'. Recently another reader of the board pointed out that I was mentioned in it in several places, which certainly got my attention. Reading through several subsequent JJ addenda to his "Murder" thread, I found two such references. The first, posted October 11, 2006, notes that K (killer) would 'need access to Arnold's records'. The second, posted October 12, 2006, states as follows: "K [killer] says at this point 'I'm worried about my job'. Was it Arnold that was fired at the change of administrations at the DA's office?"
When one actually reads the original 'murder scenario', posted on October 11, 2006, it has many intriguing details. K, the killer, is posited to have a grudge of a personal nature against Ray, and to have a tangential connection to Centre County government, politics or the State Attorney General's Office. He/she is noted to be either an employee or a contract worker employed by the County, with access to various records. [The County's computer system is maintained by a private contractor and there is a shared 'server' among County offices.]
The 'killer's' plan is to 'lure' Ray to some remote location for purposes of reviewing some 'forged' documentation suggesting impropriety by a member of the DA office, by DA Madeira, who is then running in the Republican primary, or perhaps by a County official. JJ offers that K may have gotten his idea from 'memogate', the incident in which party documents were accessed by the opposite party on a Congressional system through a shared server.
The basic scenario is then that K gives Ray 'forged documents' which, while false, appear to be real and to be incriminating of whomever they concern, but fall short of proof. K, having involved Gricar in his handiwork, promises to get 'more proof'. Under the theory, several weeks pass, during which Ray is distraught about the entire situation, waiting for further information. During this time, K prepares the future murder site and the abandoned well where the body will be disposed. A second meeting is set up to which Ray is told to bring his laptop. He is induced to leave the Mini-Cooper in Lewisburg because it is so distinctive-looking, goes with the killer to the remote location and there, apparently, is murdered and put into the well. The hard drive is then removed 'just in case' and the laptop tossed in the Susquehanna by "killer" under cover of darkness.
Make of it what you will, readers. Perhaps just a disabled former County official in Philadelphia who has a good imagination and limitless time to write scripts, Mel Wiley style. I've never personally been particularly convinced that Ray was in Lewisburg at all on April 15, 2005, and still am not, but I have to confess that JJ's scenario, were it actually to turn out to be 'true', might serve to finally explain just why Ray appeared to be so distraught during the week of his disappearance.
I suppose its rather like the police interviews that I would read in cases where a child had told authorities some portion of what happened during ongoing contact with an adult defendant, but lacked details or had not told the entirety. Sometimes when the adult was interviewed he/she would say something like: "Did she (or he) tell you that I.....?" or "If she/he told you that I......that isn't true." Slippage.
Cinderella joined the discussion in the June, 2006. His/her early offerings were notable for an assertion of knowledge beyond doubt that Ray was alive and deliberately hiding and that the family was very much aware of it. That position was later recanted. Recently, Cinderella has asserted equally definite knowledge that Ray was conducting an affair and has offered to 'privately' provide the name of the liason to other board participants upon request (June 7, 2007, "Puzzling" thread). That position to date has not been recanted.
SherriJean joined the forum in October, 2006. She/he presents as an older female from Milroy. For the bulk of her time in the discussion, she has pursued a theory that Ray disappeared because of some involvement with a 'drug bust' which occurred in the Lewisburg area. More recently she has offered a lengthy quote from an article contending that men were likely to be depressed and not recognize or seek treatment for it.
JJ has throughout his/her tenure made derisive comments about the former Centre County Commissioner who reported encountering Ray and his paramour in Tallyrand Park on April 14, 2005, suggesting that she had some 'agenda' and should not be trusted to be telling the truth. When the incident was first reported in the summer of 2005, BW exhibited a similarly derisive attitude toward this individual, suggesting that by going to media rather than police, she was seeking self-aggrandizement. Recently, SherriJean has joined the anti-Wedler chorus.
Cinderella on June 9, 2007, announced that she/he and SherriJean had together traveled the previous day to Halfmoon Hill in Bellefonte where, by happenstance, they ran into Ray's paramour, who was outside walking a dog. She described a brief conversation and offered her opinion that the conversation convinced both beyond doubt that she could have no involvement or knowledge of matters concerning Ray's disappearance. Questions were raised by others as to the likelihood that such a conversation would occur with two total strangers. SherriJean then offered her/his corroboration of the incident on the basis that Cinderella's word was being questioned. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of both these posts was that the posters were in both cases at pains to offer flattering physical descriptions of Ray's housemate as beautiful, petite, stylish, not 'heavy'. SherriJean added that she was definitely not 'homely'. This aspect of the discussion of the encouter stands wholly unexplained. Neither on the board nor in any media that I at least have ever read, has anyone ever suggested that this individual was or is 'heavy' or 'homely' or any other negative physical characterization.
One of the things offered as having been said by Ray's paramour was that she had told Ray at the outset of the relationship that if he ever wanted to leave, that he should be straightforward in telling her that. This set off new challenges, with other posters questioning hy such a personal statement would have been offered to total strangers. JJ immediately stepped in to chastise the challengers for their doubts. Amidst the controversy, on June 11, 2007, SherriJean contended that her husband had been told by someone known to her to be 'reliable' that in fact there was to be a marriage between Ray and his paramour. Cinderella on the same date stated her belief that Ray was going out to buy a wedding or engagement ring on the date of his disappearance.
JJ stands alone among the entire forum 'populace' in having, on what at the time of this writing are at least three separate occasions, suggested the possibility that Ray hadbeen 'poisoned' or 'slowly poisoned' (June, 2007) by his domestic partner. The observations wereoffered as a sort of 'straw man' situation, where JJ first presented the 'poison' straw man and then offered reasons for why it could not have happened.
JJ, alone among posters, has suggested that if murdered, Ray's body was placed into an abandoned well.
JJ, alone among posters, has suggested that perhaps Ray was depressed (thus walked off) because of sexual performance problems.
On June 14, 2006, JJ suggested that the 'psychological symptoms' (fatigue and frequent napping apparently) of someone bent on suicide and someone bent on walkout, i.e. 'killing' one's identity, might be the same.
What the reader makes of "JJ" is his/her own call. My own questions include the following:
(1) Why would so prolific and impassioned a participant as JJ, with so vast an array of opinion to offer concerning the case, enter the discussion only after 17 months post-disappearance?
(2) What are the probabilities that a disabled former county official from Philadelphia just happened to recall the specifics of a twenty-year-old case from an obscure small town in Ohio which turns out to be a virtual 'carbon copy' of the facts surrounding Ray's disappearance?
(3) How does someone in JJ's self-described position have knowledge of the occupation of the father of his paramour's ex-husband, of the exact number of months of co-habitation between the two (offered as 16 to my recall), of a new statute affecting common-law marriage rights which became effective on January 1, 2005, Ray's salary at the time of his first divorce, the status of judges who haven't been active on the bench for more than 20 years, the size of the DA professional staff back in 1980, knowledge of the facts of cases Ray tried going back to at least the late 1980s, and, in a larger venue, fairly extensive knowledge of the Luna case, the 1985 Wiley disappearance, federal rules concerning hearsay evidence offered at trial, etc, etc.?
(4) Why of the countless cases raised and discussed by JJ over time, including a number of Ray's own cases from years past which I would suspect that most local residents have themselves long-since forgotten, only discussion of the Luna case, discussion of the Wedler report and discussion of Ray's paramour appear to be subjects in which there is arguably a 'personal' element?
(5) Do the conflicting signals sent out by JJ's offerings suggest a person with a horse in the race trying to direct suspicion in another direction? Someone engaging in a deliberate misinformation campaign which points in all directions and at all parties save those actually involved? Both? Neither?
I honestly have no answers to any of these questions, although I believe No. 5 is by far the most important in terms of the investigation. Whatever else may be said, JJ in Phila has spent a staggering amount oftime and effort since September, 2006, advancing the idea that the most likely explanation for Ray's disappearance, if in fact any explanation is ever to be forthcoming, is that Ray walked awayfrom his life. I suspect its for a good reason.
It was only in the course of looking at individual thread content in preparing this Section that I realized the extent to which portions of the output of active, non-banned posters appears to have disappeared from what is publicly accessible. I am aware that it once existed only because throughout 2006 I read the discussion routinely and I would assume other participants who did the same would have the same awareness. I have no explanation for what has occurred, though perhaps one exists somewhere in cyberland. Suffice it to say that what's noted to be present when this site is being prepared is indeed present. If it goes poof later, please keep that in mind.
Readers, just as any other jurors, may reject Part III as having any relevance to Ray's disappearance and the investigation. I have included it because I believe that this is no ordinary discussion forum and that consistent throughout the two years of the discussion, there has been a focus on molding opinion to the position that answers to Ray's disappearance will never be found. It began within several weeks of his and has only increased in intensity as theinvestigation itself has sat stagnant. And because I believe that had there been any reason to believe that Ray walked off, or that he committed suicide, there would have been no purpose served by it.
Enormous amounts of time and effort have gone into pursuing that end. It is perhaps a hopeful thing to note that if what is occurring is indeed a deliberate campaign to manipulate public opinion in the matter, apparently the end is not perceived to have been yet accomplished, as the activity is, if anything, more intense now, more than two years after the disappearance, than it was at the beginning of the discussion.
Very early in BW's output, he noted that his reason for having joined the discussion was that he was 'well aware of the power of the internet'. As are we all. To inform and to misinform. To direct and to misdirect. To do with smoke and mirrors what cannot be done when ordinary citizens demand the truth.
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