FBI to scan photos of DA, his look-alike from Texas
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In the photographs, it looks like the man is eating with his left hand. He's having water with his salad. He looks a bit disheveled.www.raygricar.com
A woman eating at a Chili's restaurant in Lufkin, Texas, on Aug. 8 thought that this patron bore such a striking resemblance to missing Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, shown above in March, that she took his picture with her cell phone's camera.
Click photo for larger image.
But the man also had a small scar on his right cheek, and he hesitated when answering a question about where he was from.
All those factors play off each other when it comes to determining if the man recently spotted in a Chili's restaurant in Lufkin, Texas, was really missing Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.
A woman eating with her family at a Chili's about 2 p.m. on Aug. 8 saw the man dining alone. He bore such a striking resemblance to the man she'd seen featured in the national media that she approached him.
She made small talk, asking him if knew how to get to the nearby zoo. The man, who was friendly enough, said he wasn't from the area. Pressing him, she asked him where he was from.
"This guy hesitated like he had to think for a minute," said Bellefonte Detective Darrel Zaccagni. "And then he said Tennessee."
The woman was so sure it was Gricar that she used the camera built into her cell phone to take his picture, pretending, though, that she was taking a group photo of her family. A couple of days later, she went to local police in Texas and spoke with them, who routed the information to Bellefonte.
Looking at the photographs, which are of poor quality, there's certainly a resemblance to the 6-foot-tall, 59-year-old man who went missing April 15 in Lewisburg, Union County.
"We're 50/50," Zaccagni said. "I've got a couple guys that will swear that's him."
The woman noted that the man she saw had a small scar on his right cheek. Gricar has a similar scar. The hairline, age and body-type all match Gricar's too.
But Gricar is not left-handed. He didn't typically have water with his meal and he would usually be dressed more neatly.
"He's always very prim and proper. He has an air about him -- a little aristocratic," Zaccagni said.
Gricar's live-in girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, believes the man in the photographs could be the missing district attorney, police said. His nephews, daughter and ex-wife disagree.
"Nobody in the Gricar family thinks the gentleman in the picture is Ray," said Tony Gricar, a nephew who lives in Dayton, Ohio.
After comparing characteristics from the skin tone to the size of the man's nose, Gricar says it's not his uncle. When he and his brother looked at the photographs, there was no question.
"Immediately, both of us said, 'No,' " Gricar said.
But, he acknowledged, there are similarities, and it's hard to make an absolute decision.
"I could stare at that picture for an hour and give you 50 reasons it is him, and 50 reasons why it's not," he said.
Bellefonte police expected to receive the cell phone from Texas yesterday. They were going to turn it over to the FBI for further examination. Zaccagni hopes that the bureau can pull the photographs directly off the internal camera, and that they will be clearer. The FBI also is expected to try to use a facial recognition program on the photos to compare with Gricar.
"Ears are a lot like fingerprints," Zaccagni said. Because the photos show the man at Chili's in profile, police are hopeful the ears can be compared to those in a known photograph of Gricar.
In the meantime, police in Lufkin have questioned a food server at Chili's who waited on the unidentified man. When the woman was shown an array of photographs, she picked out a photo of Gricar.
They also are making rounds at local hotels, bookstores and libraries -- places that Gricar might frequent. So far, said Detective Mike Shurley, of the Lufkin Police Department, they've had no luck.
A story on the possible sighting ran in Lufkin on Monday night, Shurley said. Police are hoping the man at the restaurant will come forward and identify himself.
"We're kind of limited on information to go on," he said. "We've about exhausted all possible leads down here."
Though Gricar doesn't have any known connections in Texas, police have not ruled out the possibility that he may have decided to drop out of his life for a while and travel.
"Ray has always talked about this big adventure he wanted to go on," Zaccagni said.
Over the last 2 1/2 years, bank records show Gricar withdrew about $16,000 in cash from automatic teller machines. That's not unusual, though, Zaccagni said. Often, Gricar was taking out money while he and Fornicola were on vacation. But, it could also indicate that he was setting money aside.
"He could be doing it, but it's not very likely," the detective said. "I think chances are better he's dead than alive."
First Published August 17, 2005 12:00 am