By Victor Thorn
STATE COLLEGE, Pa.—Nearly seven years ago, Ray Gricar—Centre County, Pa.’s District Attorney for two decades—vanished into thin air. According to law enforcement officials, he hasn’t been seen since. Yet, is this official verdict accurate, or does the missing D.A.’s disappearance have direct ties to high-ranking politicians, Jerry Sandusky’s Penn State child molestation scandal, and even federal officials who are involved in the cover-up?
The Mystery Begins
On Apr. 15, 2005, Gricar told his live-in girlfriend that he intended to take a day off work so that he could take a leisurely drive out of scenic Happy Valley in his beloved Mini Cooper automobile. Hours later he wound up in Lewisburg, Pa.—about an hour away from their residence—where it’s believed Gricar shopped at local antique stores, intermittently in the company of a woman that wasn’t his girlfriend. However, although shop owners and area residents claimed to have seen Gricar that morning, the details are only circumstantial.
On Jan. 25, this writer interviewed a researcher that, for personal reasons, would only go on the record if anonymity were insured. The source began, “There is no physical evidence of Gricar’s visit to Lewisburg. Granted, people did see him, but none of them personally knew Gricar. Plus, nothing can be concretely confirmed because there were no photographs, surveillance videos, credit card receipts or a money trail. Further, the mystery woman in his presence remains unidentified and has never stepped forward, even though this was the area’s highest profile case in recent memory.”
When Gricar didn’t return to his home in Bellefonte that evening, panic arose. After discovering his vehicle the following day in a parking lot near the Susquehanna River, a string of peculiarities began to unfold.
The source continued, “When search dogs were brought in on Apr. 17, they couldn’t locate Gricar’s scent at the Street of Shops or around the river. Then, only two days after he went missing, Gricar’s Mini Cooper was returned to his girlfriend instead of being held as evidence. This point is important because Gricar’s car withheld a secret compartment that had not been searched.”
In ensuing weeks, fishermen found Gricar’s laptop computer in the Susquehanna. Except, its hard-drive had been deliberately removed and only located months later. Investigators added more intrigue when revealing that Gricar had purchased software enabling him to “wipe clean” a hard-drive in addition to performing Google searches on “how to fry a hard-drive.”
Did Gricar’s county-issued computer contain incriminating evidence, or did he purposefully leave these obvious clues to make it appear as if foul play had been involved?
Murder, Suicide, or a Missing Person?
Although Gricar’s daughter pushed to have her father officially declared dead in July 2011, a question remains: could the D.A. still be alive? The source told AFP, “In the two-and-a-half years before his disappearance, Gricar withdrew over $16,000 in cash from ATM machines. Plus, nothing was in his name. Gricar lived in his girlfriend’s house, his car was in her name, plus his assets were surprisingly low for a man of his stature and age.”
Indeed, Gricar’s total assets were barely above $100,000 despite a yearly six-figure income. Moreover, he had no investment accounts, no stocks, plus he maintained a joint checking account with his daughter who lived on the west coast. Had Gricar been planning this event for some time, thereby protecting his assets?
This writer’s source next explained a little known fact. “In the late 1990s a woman named Pamela West approached Gricar with information relating to the infamous 1969 murder of Penn State student Betsy Aardsma in the university’s campus library. With Gricar’s encouragement, West proceeded to write a fictionalized science-fiction novel entitled 20/20 Vision.”
What makes this book important are striking similarities to Gricar’s disappearance. The source continued, “Gricar and West’s main character both disappeared on nearly the same dates of April 14 and April 15. The setting for each was State College, Pa. Both Gricar and her detective drove sporty cars with personalized license plates. Both Gricar and West’s protagonist were soon about to retire, and ashes were found in both vehicles. Lastly, West’s detective proceeded to fake his own death. The way I see it, there are no coincidences. What are the chances that so many things lined up in this way? Pam West was so freaked out that she contacted the authorities with this information.”
Interestingly, cigarette ashes on the passenger seat and a faint smell of tobacco smoke were the only physical evidence found inside Gricar’s Mini Cooper. Being an ardent non-smoker, Gricar adamantly refused to ever allow anyone to smoke inside his car.
The source picked up the story from here. “After Gricar vanished, Pamela West came forward and said that Gricar knew about her book. A state police trooper confirmed that Gricar had read it. West was startled by how closely Gricar’s case mimicked details in her novel. On top of that, West theorized that a policeman or an influential member of the Penn State community had murdered Aardsma. So, Gricar told her to write the book, but suggested that she fictionalize it and not name any names.”
Was Somebody Being Protected?
During a Jan. 26 interview, reporter Torsen Ove of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told AFP more about the Betsy Aardsma murder. “It was a very surgical kind of killing—one knife wound directly through her heart. With this type of crime, there are usually multiple stab wounds. Yet it became obvious that whoever did it was pretty skilled, like a military man trained to kill. There was even talk years later about Ted Bundy being the culprit, but it’s not really his MO.” Ironically, in 1969 at the time of Aardsma’s murder, Bundy did indeed attend Temple University in nearby Philadelphia.
As previously noted, a Pa. State Trooper verified that Gricar had borrowed his copy of West’s 20/20 Vision. More peculiar, as Eric Weiss wrote for Onward State on Sept. 28, 2011, “[Pa.] state police will not publicize any of their records that could assist in determining [Aardsma’s] killer, and The Daily Collegian [PSU’s campus newspaper] has removed all of their articles regarding the case from their public archives.”
Immediately, mainstream media sources pursued the angle that Gricar hadn’t been seen since his stroll through downtown Lewisburg on the morning of Apr. 15, 2005. Contrarily, the aforementioned source told AFP, “At 3:00 pm on Apr. 15, an assistant D.A. named Carolyn Fenton swears she saw Gricar behind the Bellefonte Courthouse [where his office was located], and he wasn’t in his Mini Cooper. Fenton was very firm on the date. Another colleague, Judge Jonathan Grine, also claimed to see him, but he wasn’t as firm on the timing. Both said Gricar drove a metallic-colored car that they had never seen before.”
When examined deeper, a plausible scenario surfaces. If Gricar deliberately intended to disappear, he needed an accomplice. Could this individual happen to be the woman seen intermittently strolling with him in Lewisburg? After making certain that others saw him that morning, did Gricar use the metallic-colored car to slip away after covertly dropping his confidant back at the courthouse?
Once the FBI issued a “Missing Person” bulletin, on May 27, 2005, a retired Southfield, Michigan police officer said he saw Gricar. Then, in Aug. 2005 a woman at a Texas Chili’s restaurant became so convinced that a fellow diner resembled Gricar that she secretly snapped a photo of him with her cell phone. According to an Aug. 17, 2005 article by Paula Ward of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The woman noted that the man she saw had a small scar on his right cheek. Gricar had a similar scar. The hairline, age and body-type all match Gricar’s, too.”
In light of this intriguing data, skeptics may rightfully ask: why would a successful D.A. only eight months from retirement want to fake his own death? What would motivate him? Some in the media posit that Gricar had recently prosecuted a major drug dealer. Still, over the course of his career, Gricar never flinched from similar cases.
Or, had a more sinister message been delivered to Gricar—one with serious life-and-death ramifications? Namely, what if Gricar had uncovered incriminating evidence of such importance that it threatened the very existence of a nearby institution, as well as those employed there? Or, what if the repercussions stretched all the way to state, and even federal, government officials?
The invaluable source used for this article provided further insights. “I really believe that law enforcement hasn’t thoroughly investigated the Gricar case. Somebody in a position of power knows what happened, but they’re allowing it to remain a ‘botched investigation.’ When Stacey Parks Miller became D.A. in 2010, she commented on learning how much the public didn’t know about Gricar’s case. They’ve only been give a tip of the iceberg, and homicide seems the least likely scenario.”
The source attributes this undisclosed evidence to a troubling possibility. “Did Gricar disappear because he realized what happened to people like him that knew too much? They get killed. Maybe that’s the real message.”
AFP readers understand this point. When considering the Clinton Body Count, dozens of whistleblower “suicides,” and umpteen political assassinations, did Gricar learn a valuable lesson by making his “disappearance” look like a murder? To complicate matters, Gricar’s brother committed suicide in 1996. Oddly enough, he did so by drowning in a river.
If Gricar voluntarily vanished because of damning information in his possession, or if he got an ominous tap on the shoulder, it then makes sense that elite politicians and members of law enforcement—as well as the mainstream media—would push the murder and suicide angles over him deliberately deciding to disappear. In this sense, is Gricar in a quasi-witness protection program? Stated differently, in exchange for not blowing the whistle on some high crimes and misdemeanors, Gricar was permitted to escape with his life and live incognito at an undisclosed location.
On a final note, the source stated, “My gut feeling is that Gricar—or someone associated with him—made his disappearance look like foul play by deliberately throwing his computer into the river after ripping out its hard-drive. Also, as a safeguard to add more confusion, they made it look remarkably like his brother’s suicide.”
When AFP inquired about Pamela West’s 20/20 Vision novel, the source remarked, “Gricar had to be involved with all these similarities. He set it up. Although not many people read that book, it was his way of leaving a clue to let those closest to him realize the truth about what happened.”
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and the author of over 30 books.