More than six years after he disappeared, Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar has been declared dead.
Amos Goodall, an attorney for the Gricar family based in State College, said Centre County President Judge David E. Grine approved a June 30 petition to declare Mr. Gricar dead at a hearing last Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Gricar, who served as district attorney for 20 years, went missing April 15, 2005. The 59-year-old had the day off from work and called his live-in partner, Patricia Fornicola, that morning to tell her he intended to go for a drive.
No one has heard from Mr. Gricar since. His car was found at an antiques market in Lewisburg, Union County, the next day, and his county-issued laptop and laptop hard drive eventually were recovered from the Susquehanna River.
Police found that the hard drive was too damaged to yield any evidence. Current Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller's review of Mr. Gricar's case last spring also failed to turn up major clues.
Based on the type of investigation law enforcement launched into the disappearance, the publicity surrounding that probe and "the type of person Mr. Gricar was," Mr. Goodall said he argued that Mr. Gricar must be deceased.
Bellefonte police detective Matthew Rickard testified at the hearing, as well as Ms. Fornicola. Mr. Gricar's daughter, Lara Gricar, testified via phone.
No testimony was entered to challenge the family's petition, Mr. Goodall said. Tony Gricar, the former district attorney's nephew, said the court's declaration had more practical than emotional significance for his family.
Lara Gricar, who asked for the petition to be filed, has handled tax filings and insurance payments on her father's behalf since he went missing, Tony Gricar said. She no longer will have to do so following the court's order.
"We view this as an administrative declaration," he said. "We don't look at it and say, 'We have to have a funeral,' or, 'We have this kind of closure.' There's still just not the answer of what happened that day. This doesn't show anything other than that in the court's eyes, he's deceased."
Mr. Goodall said he expected law enforcement officials to continue their probe, but Tony Gricar said he believed that it would take "a stroke of sheer luck" for investigators to find answers about his uncle's disappearance.
"We're so far beyond 'needle in haystack' that at this point, I think it will take the discovery of a body to give us something to go on," Tony Gricar said.
Lauren Rosenthal: firstname.lastname@example.org .