Although recently released information on a missing former Centre County district attorney came as a surprise to most -- including the prosector's family members -- police said Wednesday they've known of the information for years and issued details Tuesday to raise interest in the case.
The Bellefonte Police Department released early this week that missing District Attorney Ray Gricar had searched for information on "water damage to a notebook computer" on his home computer months before his county-issued laptop was discovered in the Susquehanna River.
This information, which Bellefonte Det. Matthew Rickard first discovered about two and a half years ago, was released Tuesday, one day before the four-year anniversary of the former prosecutor's disappearance. In the press release, police wrote that Gricar may have wanted to erase his county-issued laptop before returning it to the DA's office. Months after Gricar announced he would soon retire, he called his girlfriend to say he was going for a drive, but never returned. His car was found later near the Susquehanna River. He was reported missing April 15, 2005, and his disappearance remains an active case.
The sudden circulation of this new information -- that Gricar purchased hard drive-erasing software and made searches on his home computer about how to destroy a hard drive -- has added to the difficulties the family faces with the anniversary, said Tony Gricar, Ray Gricar's nephew and family spokesman.
"There's frustrations that I wasn't given a heads up on this," Tony Gricar said Tuesday.
Rather than upholding the theory of foul play, Tony Gricar said, the information pushes to the forefront the theory that his uncle committed suicide or simply walked away from his post and family.
Bellefonte police and the current Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira maintain that the information was released in response to the anniversary and was meant to encourage interest in the case.
The press release was not intended to "sensationalize the information," Rickard said, acknowledging that "it kind of focuses on the idea of a walk-away or a suicide, but doesn't eliminate the possibility of homicide."
Madeira chalked the information up to be "another piece of evidence in this unfortunately, to date, unsolvable puzzle."
Officers don't have the luxury of picking one theory and ignoring the others, he said, and the public knows a great deal more about the disappearance of former DA Ray Gricar than other county cases.
"This is not a customary case," Madeira said.
Rather, it's a big case with a lot of responsibility attached to it, Rickard said. Officers are still following leads, the detective said, and although it can be frustrating, he always has the case in mind. Rickard said he's even bringing his work home with him in hopes that he can find some resolution.
"I think about this case constantly," he said.
Rickard also encourages members of the public to come forward with any information they may have about the case, "no matter how insignificant it might seem."
Anyone with information can contact the Bellefonte Police Department at 353-2320.