A Shikellamy High School graduate has created a podcast that she says will expose what happened to Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar who went missing 16 years ago.
Rebecca Knight said during the past decade she has obtained the entire police case file, about 6,000 pages of documents, as well as interviewed Gricar’s family, friends, colleagues, people Gricar prosecuted during his 20-year career and police who investigated his disappearance.
“The solution to this has been hidden in plain sight for so long,” said Knight, a Northumberland native who lived in State College for several years when Gricar served as district attorney. “I got really upset about why it hadn’t been solved.”
Gricar, who had been the district attorney since 1985 and was planning to retire in less than a year when he left his Bellefonte home on April 15, 2005, and drove his red Mini Cooper to Lewisburg where he told his girlfriend he planned to go antiquing.
The next day, his vehicle was found in the parking lot at the Street of Shops in Lewisburg but there was no trace of him.
His laptop and hard drive were found six months later in the nearby Susquehanna River. No evidence was found on the devices and the police investigation uncovered that before Gricar disappeared someone had searched on his home computer “how to wreck a hard drive” and “water damage to a notebook computer.”
While many believe that Gricar committed suicide by drowning in the same manner as his brother, Roy Gricar, nine years earlier, others, like Knight, believe he was the victim of foul play.
“A lot of very good policing was done, but they weren’t looking at a homicide,” she said, referring to the Bellefonte and state police investigation. The state police took over the case in 2014 and agency spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said this week that the investigation remains open.
Knight is laying out her case in an episodic podcast, “Final Argument. The Disappearance of Ray Gricar, District Attorney.” To date, two episodes are available and another eight are expected to be released.
Former Montour County District Attorney Rober Buehner also believes Gricar was targeted for death and hopes, like Knight, that the podcast will lead to a grand jury investigation.
“My hope is that we’ll find out what happened to my friend and colleague,” said Buehner, who in 2008 along with former Clinton County District Attorney Ted McKnight, publicly criticized the investigation and then-Attorney General Tom Corbett for not getting involved.
“A sitting district attorney goes missing and the attorney general refuses to take over the investigation?,” Buehner said. “If some person or persons can make a sitting DA disappear and the state attorney general does nothing about it, what chance does an average person have when one of their loved ones goes missing.”
He’s still critical of Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson for not calling on Corbett to intervene.
Johnson said it was not his decision to make since the disappearance was being investigated by the Bellefonte police with assistance from the state police.
“I was being told what they (investigators) were doing and I felt they were doing a good job,” he said.
“There is no evidence of a crime. We don’t know what happened, but we don’t believe it’s criminal,” said Johnson, who knew Gricar for 15 years and describes him as a deeply private man who “in a room full of people was alone.”
He adds that the circumstances surrounding Gricar’s brother’s suicide in an Ohio river in 1996 are very similar to the location on the Susquehanna River where Gricar went missing. Johnson said there are areas on the river where Gricar’s body could have gone and never surfaced.
After listening to the first two episodes of the podcast, Johnson raised issues with some of Knight’s findings, in particular that no fingerprints were found inside his vehicle or the failure to mention that a witness reported seeing Gricar in his vehicle with a blonde woman in the passenger seat that day.
Johnson said only two cases he’s prosecuted since 1995 have involved fingerprint evidence.
Despite the many unanswered questions in Gricar’s disappearance, Johnson said there would be little worth in a grand jury investigation other than for “public relations” reasons. “As a solution to his death? No.”
Johnson also questions Knight’s decision to charge a $19.99 fee to review some of the materials she has obtained, including police and forensic reports.
Knight defends the one-time fee, of which a portion will be donated to the National Center for Victims of Crime.
“It is not at all unusual for podcasts to charge a fee for access to certain areas in order to offset costs associated with production, not unlike being charged to buy a book or see a movie on crime,” she said.