Four years after Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar went missing, the Bellefonte Police Department has released information saying the prosecutor bought software to erase a computer hard drive before his disappearance.
According to the Tuesday press release prepared by Bellefonte Police and current Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira, Gricar also made related searches on his separate home computer, including "how to wreck a hard drive," "how to fry a hard drive," and "Window Washer 5.0."
Gricar was reported missing on April 15, 2005. Since then, investigations into his disappearance have lead to several dead ends -- including Gricar's abandoned laptop hard drive, found in a river.
"It was believed that pending Mr. Gricar's retirement, he may have wanted to erase his county-issued laptop computer prior to returning the laptop to the District Attorney's office," police wrote in the release.
Tony Gricar, Ray Gricar's nephew and spokesman for the family, said the public has a right to know about his uncle's purchase and the searches, adding if Gricar left the county on his own, "the public would be rightfully outraged."
He is quick to point out, however, that the information released by Bellefonte Police minimizes the theory of foul play and pushes the idea that Gricar might have committed suicide or simply walked away.
"A walk-away can really turn public opinion away from someone that can still be a victim in this case," Tony Gricar said. "This makes it look like a selfish act or a malicious act, when we don't know that that's the case."
Gricar announced more than a year before his disappearance that he would retire in 2005, at the end of his fifth term as district attorney.
"I have always wanted to retire at 60; that has been my plan from the start," Gricar said after his announcement. "And it was very hard to keep my retirement a secret, believe me."
The following year, Gricar called his girlfriend saying he was taking off work and going for a drive. Gricar's Mini Cooper and laptop were soon found in Lewisburg without their owner.
In October 2005 -- six months after his disappearance -- the laptop's hard drive was discovered about 100 yards from where Gricar's laptop was found in the Susquehanna River.
A Minnesota company processed the hard drive about three years later, but none of the contents could be recovered.
Tony Gricar said he had been out of contact with the police and the county's head prosecutor for months until Tuesday afternoon when he was contacted about the release.
The nephew said this anniversary of his uncle's disappearance is a little more difficult after the family was "blindsided by this proverbial curveball." Family was aware that the former prosecutor may have purchased the software, but did not know about the searches until the press release was issued, he said.
It seems strange, a frustrated Tony Gricar said, that his uncle would use another computer to complete the searches on wiping hard drives without going to great lengths to hide his actions.
Madeira could not be reached for comment as of press time Tuesday.