Every day is an emotional roller coaster for a family with only grief and no answers. Each new development brings them hope, but each fizzled lead sends them right back to five years ago -- that first day they found out former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar went missing.
Gricar disappeared five years ago today, but few clues have surfaced and no concrete leads have been established.
The family said they are left only to hope -- hope that by some stroke of luck they will get an answer.
And even though Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller recently created a team to re-examine the case, top officials are keeping quiet on the details -- even to Gricar's family members.
Was Gricar murdered -- or did he commit suicide? Is he living a new life, taking in Cleveland Indians baseball games, having just walked away from the retirement he was so looking forward to? Or is it something else? There are many theories, but no answers. No one can find Ray Gricar.
Final moments in Centre County
In 2005, the then-district attorney was looking forward to his retirement, said Montour County District Attorney Bob Buehner, one of Gricar's close friends.
Buehner said the prosecutor told him he couldn't wait to finally relax after 35 years on the job. He had plans to visit his daughter, Lara Gricar, in Washington and to shop for antiques, Buehner said.
"He loved his family very much," Buehner said. "He never would have left them in the lurch."
This is what police know. On April 15, 2005, Gricar drove his red-and-white 2004 MINI Cooper along Route 192, though no one knew where exactly he was going. He called girlfriend Patty Fornicola to tell her he would not return home in time to take care of their dog, according to court documents.
Ray Gricar did not return home at all.
On April 16, 2005, police found his abandoned car near a Lewisburg antiques market, according to court documents.
Then in July, two fishermen on the Susquehanna River recovered his county-issued laptop. There was no hard drive in it.
In October, the hard drive was found about 100 yards away from where the laptop was found, but neither a crime lab in Harrisburg nor the FBI in California could recover any information because of extensive water damage.
Gricar's family considers either foul play or suicide to be the reasons behind the district attorney's disappearance.
But with the limited facts, they haven't been able to really rule one scenario out over the other, said Gricar's nephew, family spokesman Tony Gricar.
Gricar was very serious about his work as a prosecutor, Buehner said, and he tended to be a private person. The former district attorney prosecuted many high-stress cases, but "he just sailed through those kind of things," Buehner said.
There were no signs Gricar would ever harm himself. He was financially secure, set up with a quality pension. He lived a modest lifestyle and was looking forward to that retirement, with no plans of returning to criminal justice.
No one knew of anyone who could have been after Gricar, but that does not change the constant threat to the life of a prosecutor, Buehner said.
"District attorneys have real enemies in people that want to harm us," Buehner said. "It goes with the territory."
Despite the limited evidence and lack of leads in the past five years, the case is far from closed. Parks Miller pledged during her 2009 campaign she would re-open the case if she were elected.
Earlier this month, Parks Miller created a new investigative team, though she did not reveal who was on it.
New life in an old case
Plenty of people don't want to talk about Ray Gricar. Fornicola, Parks Miller, former prosecutor Steve Sloane and former Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira all declined to comment on the case or could not be reached.
But on Internet message boards dedicated to cracking the case, independent investigators have been at work for years.
Enter the man who calls himself "J. J. in Phila," a leader in what has become an online quest to find Gricar.
"J.J." -- also known as Jonathan Jacobs, Class of 1985 -- said he has done his own extensive research without the help of the authorities. He's reached out to the people closest to Gricar and has been dedicated to the case since its inception.
He hasn't settled on an ultimate conclusion. But through his own research of the case and what little evidence has been gathered by police, he thinks it's most likely that the prosecutor just walked away.
Gricar had gone missing before, Jacobs said. Sloane reported Gricar once left for a day and a half to see a baseball game in Cleveland, his hometown.
When Gricar went missing in 2005, police checked the parking lot of the baseball field to see if his car was there, exploring the possibility he may have just left for the day again, Jacobs said.
Rumors of sightings started to circulate the same weekend Gricar went missing. Though none of those sighting were deemed to have any merit by police, one still stands out from the other theories, Jacobs said.
On April 18, 2005, both an off-duty Wilkes-Barre police officer and a bartender identified a photograph of Ray Gricar to authorities as the man who sat at the Wilkes-Barre bar wearing a jacket and tie and watching the Cleveland Indians play baseball.
That man was never found.
But Jacobs wants authorities to explore other avenues. He noted talk of Gricar expressing interest in the case of a former Cleveland chief of police who voluntarily walked away from his own life in 1985.
Jacobs believes old car records could reveal evidence that could potentially solve the case. An investigation of car sales in Lewisburg from either April 14 or 15 in 2005 could be very telling, Jacobs said.
If a buyer either did not re-register the car when its registration expired or re-registered it out of state, it could point to a purchase made by the former district attorney the same weekend he went missing, Jacobs said.
As more evidence surfaces, more ideas circulate about where Gricar could have gone. One of the biggest topics of discussion has been the hard drive, wiped clean of all files.
Last year, the Bellefonte Police Department revealed Gricar had some mysterious searches on his home computer in addition to purchasing hard drive-erasing software.
Some of the searches included "how to wreck a hard drive," "how to fry a hard drive" and "Window Washer 5.0," police said.
But even with that new information, unanswered questions still keep the investigation from pointing more toward one conclusion over any other.
Ray Gricar had a county-issued laptop, and with his pending retirement, he could have wanted to erase personal information as innocent as his credit card number, Jacobs said.
A family mourns
Re-examining the laptop and the hard drive is something the investigative team could look at, family members said.
But while Tony Gricar believes there is always a possibility a new lead could be uncovered or new clues could be revealed, he said the only way something will come out now is by "happenstance."
The family never knows whether to expect a call "out of the blue" with new clues -- or to give up and accept that they will never really know what happened to Ray Gricar.
What the family really wants is some sort of closure -- at least, for the former district attorney's daughter, Tony said, "for Lara's sake."