Police say only one sighting of missing DA is 'credible'

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He's reportedly been seen in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Virginia. But in all but one of those instances, Michigan, police were able to prove beyond doubt that the man people saw was not missing Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.

Gricar disappeared April 15. The red and white Mini Cooper he was driving was found the next evening in a parking lot outside an antique shop in Lewisburg, Union County, about 50 miles from, Bellefonte, the Centre County seat.

Police found no signs of a struggle in or around the car, and they spent days searching by air and on foot along the Susquehanna River. No evidence was found, and there has been no activity on any of Gricar's credit cards or bank accounts.

Since then, people have called Bellefonte police from all over the East Coast, saying they thought they had seen him.

The recent sighting police have been unable to rule out is the one in Michigan, where a retired Detroit police officer who also worked as a composite artist said he saw a man who looked familiar to him at a restaurant May 27 in Southfield, Mich.

The man was dining with an older woman, who appeared to be in her 70s. That night, after dinner, the retired officer turned on his TV set and saw a feature on Gricar's disappearance.

"As soon as the picture popped up, he said, 'That's the person I'm talking about,' " said Bellefonte police Chief Duane Dixon. The Detroit officer later picked Gricar's picture out of a photo lineup.

"It's a credible sighting," Dixon said. "Am I 100 percent sure? No. There are a lot of people out there who look just like other people."

For example, there was a supposed sighting at a grocery store in Columbus, Ohio, about 3 p.m. June 7. A shopper said she thought she saw Gricar in the deli department.

Gricar's nephew, Chris Gricar, 31, who lives in Columbus, reviewed security-camera videotaken from five spots in the store.

"My brother and I had to really take a hard look at the tape," said Tony Gricar, 33, another nephew, who lives in Dayton.

They could tell by the man's waistline and hairline that it was not their uncle.

"You could just have easily said that was Ray," Tony Gricar said. "It was that convincing."

Tips have been coming in with less frequency lately, as the national spotlight has turned away from the case. Tony Gricar set up a Web site, www.raygricar.com, so people could e-mail tips and look at photographs of his uncle. He gets about 10 e-mails a day, many of them from well-wishers showing support for the family.

Ray Gricar is divorced and has a daughter in Seattle. At the time of his disappearance, he was living with his girlfriend.

Police continue to work whatever information they receive.

"Everything that could be done at this point has been," Dixon said. "Sooner or later, you really do run out of things to work on."

That's one of the reasons the family requested, and the police department readily agreed, to bring in a psychic. They chose Carla Baron, who grew up in Lock Haven, Clinton County, and four years ago worked on the case of a missing Penn State University student, Cindy Song, who has not been found.

"She was brought in a heck of a lot quicker than you might typically see," Tony Gricar said. "We recognized in the first week there was nothing to provide direction."

Tony Gricar says he hopes Baron can help the family.

"I've always positioned myself as being cautiously optimistic," he said.

Baron has told the family and police that she believes Ray Gricar is dead, a murder victim.

"She's also said she hopes she's wrong for everyone's sake," said Officer Darrel Zaccagni, the lead investigator on the case.

Generally, Tony Gricar said, the feeling within his family is that his uncle is dead. He hopes, though, that it wasn't homicide.

"We're kind of preparing ourselves for worst-case scenarios," he said.

Initially, Tony Gricar and his brother, Chris, thought their uncle might have killed himself. Their father, Roy, who was Ray Gricar's brother, killed himself nine years ago. The difference, Tony Gricar said, is that his father battled bipolar disorder for 20 years before his death. That was not the case with his uncle.

Turning to a psychic is sometimes looked upon as wasteful within law enforcement, said Robert McCrie, a professor of security management at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

There is no scientific evidence to support the use of psychics, McCrie said, despite generations of people trying to find it. But in cases where all other means have been exhausted, using a psychic can't hurt, as long as investigators continue to work the case and don't waste their resources.

"In cases of unusual murders and lost persons, if police are confused or don't have any leads to follow, they turn to unusual means," McCrie said. "Generally, police are under pressure to do something."

Psychics who have been successful, like detectives who are successful, have "unusually developed deductive powers," McCrie said.

Baron, 44, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, calls herself a psychic profiler. She is a direct intuitive who is able to retrieve pieces of information through remote viewing, just by talking to the lead investigator of a case, or the victim's family members. She can work with them over the phone.

"I'm reading what's been imprinted on the ethers of time and space," she said.

The information she learns comes to her as disconnected items, and then it's up to her and investigators to assemble them into a workable scenario.

"We basically use her as a tool to tie into whatever other evidence we come up with," Zaccagni said.

Police continue to work with the information from Baron, as well as any other sources.

"We have not ruled out anything," Dixon said. "If Ray's still out there and felt he had to get away, God bless him. Would we be a little mad? Yeah. [But] I hope that's the case here."

Paula Reed Ward can be reached at pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1601.


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