Patty Fornicola’s significant other calls her at approximately 11:30 AM, to let her know that he is taking a well-deserved morning off of work. Patty thinks nothing of it. It didn’t take a genius to notice that her longtime boyfriend has been extremely stressed out at work, and she thinks a long drive in his favorite car may help ease the tension he’s been feeling. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. The morning turns into afternoon, and the afternoon turns into evening without warning that something terrible would occur. She becomes worried, “It’s not like him to be this late without him contacting me, something must be wrong,” she thinks. Texts and phone calls continuously go unanswered and she becomes restless. The clock turns 11:30 PM. It’s been exactly 12 hours since she last spoke to him. She calls the police to report him as a missing person. He went missing on April 15, 2005 with no word from him since then. Evidence of his disappearance is limited and leads go without an answer. He was legally pronounced dead in July 2011 so his family can receive some closure. Now around 6 years later, her loved one’s name has been brought up again, and not for a very good reason. This man is “now” known for being the man who didn’t charge Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for child sex abuse back in 2005. Now you have to wonder if this man’s involvement in the Penn State scandal is linked to his disappearance. Did he know too much? That man is Ray Gricar and this is his story.
Ray Frank Gricar was born on October 9, 1945. For 20 years (1985-2005), he served as the district attorney of Centre County, Pennsylvania. After earning the reputation as a hardworking and dedicated lawyer for 20 years, Gricar was planning on retiring in December 2005, even though he was up for re-election. He married and divorced twice, with his first wife coincidentally working at Penn State (hmm...). He and his first wife also adopted a baby girl, Lara in 1978. Lara was considered to be the most important person in his life and he would do anything for her. At the time of his disappearance, Gricar was living with his girlfriend of three years, Patty Fornicola who he called the love of his life. 2005 was a big year in the Gricar case. It wasn’t only the year he disappeared, it was the year he re-opened the investigation of the child sex-abuse allegations against Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. He first investigated it in 1998 but never charged Sandusky because of the “lack of evidence.” According to NESN.com, “District attorney Ray Gricar was working on getting to the bottom of things, disregarding Sandusky’s position at Penn State and in the community” (Hardacker). On the verge of breaking the case, Ray Gricar mysteriously disappeared, being last seen on April 15, 2005 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. On that day, he took a half-day off of work and left his place of employment, to go for a drive in his 2004 red Mini Cooper. While driving, Ray called his girlfriend Patty at approximately 11:30 AM, to let her know of his plans. He told her he was driving east-northeast on Route 192 toward Lewisburg, Pennsylvania in Union County. When Ray didn’t arrive home, Patty called the police and reported him missing at 11:30 PM on the same day. To this day, there has been no activity on his cell phone, email, bank accounts or credit cards since his April 2005 disappearance.
Ray was a prosecutor which meant he was involved in some high-profiled cases. “But authorities stated that no threats had been made against him and they did not believe his disappearance had anything to do with his job” (Charley Project). Ray’s family and friends reported that he felt overworked and fatigued before he went missing. According to Patty Fornicola, “he was so exhausted that I suggested he see a doctor.” But apparently he did not so. On April 16, the day after Ray vanished, his red Mini Cooper was found in a dirt parking lot on the outskirts of Lewisburg in Union County, near the Susquehanna River (located 45 miles east of his Bellefonte home). There was no sign of him or evidence of foul play in the regions near where his parked car was found. However there was cigarette ashes were found inside the Mini Cooper. According to charleyproject.org, “Ray dislikes cigarette smoke and would be unlikely to allow someone to smoke in his car.” In his locked car, his cell phone was found along with a water bottle. Ray’s DNA was on the mouth of the bottle. The Mini Cooper’s car keys were not found in the area and still haven’t been found to this day. Nearby where the car was found, was an antiques store. The owner of this antiques store thought maybe Ray was in his store the day of April 15 but wasn’t 100% sure. This could be a possibility because of his interest in antiques and he has been to that store before. The store owner also said a man fitting Ray’s description appeared to be waiting for someone.
After finding hardly any evidence where his car was found, investigators moved to the residence where Ray and Patty lived. They immediately noticed that none of Ray’s luggage, clothing, or other belongings were found to be missing. The only thing that was missing was his county-issued laptop and a pair of sunglasses. The laptop’s case and power source were left behind. charleyproject.org mentions, “In late July 2005, Ray’s laptop was found by fishermen in the Susquehanna River, lodged against a bridge support several hundred yards from where his car had been found. It was determined that the hard drive had been removed before the computer was thrown in the water. Investigators stated that the computer had been in the river for a long time, possibly since the time Ray vanished. His family said he did not normally take the laptop with him on trips.” In late October 2005, over six months after Ray’s disappearance, his computer hard drive was found on the banks of the Susquehanna River. The hard drive was so badly damaged, that investigators were unable to obtain any clues from it. Awhile later, investigators discovered someone (not necessarily Gricar) had done searches on Gricar’s home computer for “how to wreck a hard drive” and “water damage to a notebook computer.”
Coincidentally, Ray’s older brother Roy disappeared on very similar circumstances in Dayton, Ohio in May 1996. Roy Gricar informed his wife he was going out to buy mulch and never returned. Like his brother Ray, Roy’s car was found abandoned as well. Later, his body was pulled from the Great Miami River. The coroner concluded that Roy’s drowning was a suicide. Roy’s son Tony released this statement: “He was not a swimmer. He was not a fan of water. So, if there has ever been anything questionable about my dad’s suicide, that is it. It’s sort of like if you’re afraid of fire, you’re not going to set yourself on fire. So that is the one question that’s always been in the back of my mind. Other than that, it’s cut and dry” (Lohr, Aolnews.com).
Authorities investigated the possibility that Ray suffered from depression and committed suicide like his brother did, but there has been no evidence founded to support this theory. There have been quite a few possible sightings of Gricar in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on April 18, and in several other states, but the sightings have not been confirmed and most of them are not considered to be credible.
To this day, authorities are uncertain what caused Ray’s disappearance; foul play is being considered as a possibility but there is little evidence to support this theory. When a disappearance occurs, the first suspects become the relatives of the missing. Ray’s girlfriend Patty and daughter Lara both passed polygraph tests after he vanished and neither woman is considered a suspect. Lara lives in Seattle, Washington; she says she and her father were close, spoke on the phone frequently, and spent several weeks together each year. Authorities have considered conducting polygraphs to Ray’s two ex-wives and nephews, but decided against it. Ray maintained an amicable relationship with his daughter’s mother, whom he divorced in 1991, but reportedly didn’t get along with his other ex-wife.
Ray enjoys antiques, traveling, and outdoor activities. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and got his law degree at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He moved to Pennsylvania in the early 1980’s. Ray kept a low profile at his job despite its public nature. His case remains unsolved and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance are unclear. He was declared legally dead in July 2011.