Fear and loathing, denial and deceit, in Happy Valley
Authorities say they're not serious about
thoroughly investigating the
disappearance of DA Ray Gricar
Don't worry, be Happy
by Bill Keisling
They like to call it Happy Valley, and with good reason. Life in and around Penn State in State College and Centre County, Pennsylvania, is about tailgating parties in Beaver Stadium -- the House that Joe Pa built -- and heavy, mind-numbing drinking. It's also, for years, been all about denial of everyday concerns and realities of everyday Americans, and modern American life. Now, with the disappearance of Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, everyday concerns shared by millions of powerless and scared Americans have come home to roost and haunt Happy Valley. Something's missing in Happy Valley, and it's not just Ray Gricar.
I know something about State College, as I lived there from 1987 to 1993, on Hamilton Avenue, near the Hamilton Plaza.
Desolate PA Rt. 192, where DA Ray Gricar was last heard from
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Back in those days I learned State College is also all about isolation from the rest of the world. Nestled in a plateau overlooked by Nittany Mountain, Happy Valley is a world of its own. It's long been part of Pennsylvania political lore that mid-century party boss and Harrisburg state senator M. Harvey Taylor resisted creating a big university in the Harrisburg area precisely because he didn't want curious and idealistic students and ivory tower professors nearby to poke into the political sausage factory that is the state capitol in Harrisburg. Instead, Harv Taylor thought it wise to liberally endow State College, and ship potential troublemaking matriculates ninety miles away into the wilds of Centre County. Let them look at the manure in the cow fields, not the bullshit in the state capitol building, went the reasoning.
Ben and Abe, guys, not Ben and Jerry
This, in reality, was both a great insult and great irony. Penn State, of course, was one of the original land grant colleges created by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, like fellow-autodidactic Franklin before him, held the radical idea that higher education should be something in reach of all Americans. Long before Lincoln give birth to his hard scrabble agricultural land grant school in the Nittany valley, Franklin started what was to become the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the idea being to make education available for all. Now U. of Penn charges a yearly tuition above $40,000, (or is it $50,000?) and is unreachable to all but the elite. Ben Franklin would surely be shocked and troubled by what Penn has become, as Lincoln would be horrified by the head-in-the-sand-don't-worry-be-happy attitude prevailing in today's Penn State. Lincoln's house is burning down, and all Penn State has to contribute, it seems, is The Creamery, the spawning ground for Ben and Jerry's icecream. For that matter, Ben and Jerry, the socially concerned entrepreneurs that they are, should be humiliated by Penn State's isolation from reality.
If there was one thing that Lincoln and Franklin unflinchingly kept their eyes on, it was the everyday concerns of everyday Americans -- something long forgotten by the trustees of both their wayward schools.
And so it was with both sentimentality and some sadness that I recently returned to State College, PA, to look into the vanishing of DA Ray Gricar.
Beaver and College avenues, the main drags through town, lined with quaint shops, is about as far removed as you can get, socially and ideologically, from places like Baltimore's Preston and Eden streets, where I had been poking around for the last year. Yet, unbeknownst to most in Happy Valley, there is a connection, Ray Gricar recently told the press. A Middle East connection. At a March 31, 2005 press conference announcing the takedown of a heroin distribution network, the college paper reported, "Gricar pointed out that heroin and cocaine were problems that have been increasing throughout Pennsylvania."
A warning unheard at a creek in Lancaster
Joey Luna in 1993: an unheard warning at the water side
Click here to view a Jonathan Luna photo gallery
Ironically, or perhaps providentially, I had spent the previous weekend in the rough world of the Bronx, New York, learning about the life of murdered federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna, and how Luna had bettered himself and made something of his life, in the best tradition of Franklin and Lincoln. Luna, it turns out, deeply believed in his country and its promise, and tirelessly worked to better himself and his community, before he was mercilessly stabbed and terrorized while prosecuting a Baltimore heroin case. Lincoln could be so proud of Jonathan, and all that he accomplished, while Franklin so ashamed and aghast at what the mass media did to Luna and his family at the time of his murder. "Jonathan," one of his childhood friends told me from a balcony overlooking the Bronx, Yankee Stadium and George Washington bridge, "one day could have been president of the United States. Instead, this--." He told me of how he cried and cried upon learning of the death of his friend, who everyone called Joey. After surviving the Bronx and all its traps, Joey Luna had senselessly perished. Of all his friends, Jonathan was killed by drugs. Senseless. Vicious. A warning.
Sleepy State College, I was not surprised to see while driving in from the Bronx, hasn't changed much in the dozen years since I lived there. Many of the same shops, bars and businesses still survive, as if in a time warp. Oh, some things are missing, vanished without a trace, like DA Gricar. Gone is the Brick House and the Scorpion. Gone too is Svboda's independent book store, formerly of Beaver Street, chased out, no doubt, by the economic pressures of the sparking new and palatial Barnes and Noble on the outskirts of town. Gone too is Graham's book store on Allen Street, which used to house Ben and Jerry's. Now Ben and Jerry's has taken over the store front. Next door I found Webster's book store, stocked with lots of used books and a coffee bar, where I dutifully placed a few copies of The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna.
After sharing some memories and pleasantries with a kind clerk at Webster's book store, I drove the ten miles to Bellefonte, the county seat, with its gingerbread houses and small-town feel, to attend a press conference called to update the world on the strange vanishing of Ray Gricar.
Missing DA Ray Gricar, pictured in a March 31, 2005 press conference announcing county's biggest drug bust
The press conference was held in the unadorned council chambers on the second floor of the blocky borough building, which is shared with the police department. While I waited for the press conference to begin, I chatted with a few deeply puzzled local reporters, who drifted in and soon filled the small room.
Having covered the Luna story for the last year and a half, I have to say, it was déjà vu all over again. Reporters nervously shrugged as they contemplated the unsettling mystery of Gricar's disappearance. The only thing for certain is the mystery.
"Ray was just a genuinely nice guy," one of the reporters confided to me. "He was very bright, but he had his quirks. There are other, mmm, instances I could tell you about--." He rolled his eyes, remembering Ray. Ray once had gone off overnight to watch a baseball game in Ohio, and couldn't understand the fuss his drive had generated. Perhaps, the reporter suggested, this explained things.
Maybe DA Ray was just holed up in a hunting cabin somewhere, knocking back a tailgate-load of cold sixes, as some wooden-headed locals had been clappng their Charlie McCarthy gums about for more than a week. This brain-dead theory had brought one of the more quotable responses from Bellefonte Police Chief Duane Dixon, who, at one of his press conferences, said he doubted it, since Ray, "wasn't a big cabin person. He was a bed-and-breakfast person."
("Other travel options?" suggests a State College tourist web page. "Take a hike with the backdrop of Nittany Mountain, relax in a bed and breakfast, or visit the historic Eutaw House." Yes, why not take a hike? Why not take a longgg drive?)
'Maybe Ray was just holed up in a hunting cabin somewhere, knocking back a tailgate-load of cold sixes, some Happy Valley locals speculated for more than a week.'
I told the reporter I too had my doubts about the locked-up-in-cabin-on-a-thirty-year-drunk theory. It's one thing for a town like State College to hide from reality and engage in a thirty-year-drunk, but it's harder for a man to do, even a Republican.
A buttoned-down district attorney of twenty years like Gricar would surely know his reputation would be destroyed if he wandered off down the tracks like a careless hobo for a few days, weeks, months or decades.
"Well Ray's going to retire in seven months," came his unlikely reply, with a shrug, as if to say Gricar didn't have to worry about his reputation in retirement following national humiliation. Pure Happy Valley. One wonders, if no trace of Gricar ever materializes, if some in Happy Valley will always think he's out there in a cabin somewhere, chugging beer bongs.
Gricar had vanished without a trace on Friday, April 15, 2005, it so happens, two weeks after he'd announced the grand jury investigation and arrests in what he and others alleged was a "million-and-a-half dollar heroin and cocaine organization," the breakup of which they described as the largest in Centre County history. The heroin had come from the New York City/Newark area, investigators said. Ray called his girlfriend, a clerk in the DA's office, on his cell phone at about 11:15am Friday, to say he was spending his day off to leisurely drive down state Rt. 192, toward Lewisburg, where he liked to shop for antiques.
With that Ray Gricar drove into oblivion, not (at least so far) to be heard from again. The next day, Saturday April 16, police found Gricar's abandoned red and white Mini Cooper in the parking lot of a Lewisburg antique shop, it so happens a few hundred feet from the slow-moving Susquehanna River. There were no clues, no Gricar, and no laptop computer, which Ray carried with him in his car. Also missing were his keys, his wallet and his sunglasses. In his car, left behind, just as curiously, police found Gricar's cell phone. The cell phone had not been used since he called his girlfriend the day before. Nor have his credit cards or bank accounts been used, police say.
Gricar and fly car
To the well-informed, all this is eerily reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the vanishing, the mystery horror ride and, it turned out, the brutal murder of Jonathan Luna. Few, if any clues were found. And the odd similarities of what was left behind.
A popular Christian book series contemplates what shall be left behind when the righteous are taken away by God. This, on the other hand, is the equally unpopular story of what is left behind when a good man is taken away by the devil.
Like Gricar, Jonathan Luna very curiously left his cell phone behind on his desk in the Baltimore federal courthouse. Luna also left behind, every bit as curiously, his eyeglasses, which he needed to wear in order to see in court, and to drive.
It is the disappearance of Gricar's laptop that has raised the most red flags with serious criminal investigators, and the reporters I met at the Bellefonte press conference. For days the previous week, the press pool had filed their nails, and their reports, while they watched the detectives and bobbing divers drag the shallow river, finding no trace of either Gricar or his laptop.
"He's just not in the river," a radio reporter from Lewisburg told me, with a shrug of amazement. "I mean they looked everywhere."
"What about the laptop?" I asked the mystified reporter. He was sitting beside me on the stiff chairs in the council chambers, thumbing his microphone while we waited for the press conference to begin.
"It doesn't seem likely a man would jump into the river with his laptop," the reporter allowed, giving voice to everyone's worst fears.
"Maybe he was running Windows 98," I suggested, which brought a laugh.
Then there's the tedious problem of the unlikely sightings. As in the Luna case, there had been some supposed and unlikely sightings of Gricar on Saturday April 16, a day after he'd been reported missing. The manager of the Lewisburg antiques mall said he was "ninety-five percent" certain he had seen a man fitting Gricar's description -- respectable, white, with a receding hairline, wearing a blue-fleece jacket -- in the mall, as if waiting for someone, perhaps Jesus on the road to Emaus. The owner of an under-construction storefront echoed the claim in a separate account.
Any serious criminal investigator, and any seasoned reporter, naturally has to take these well-meaning sightings with a grain of salt. It's the remaining "five percent of doubt" that always grows more certain. Every disappearance I've ever covered has included false, unlikely sightings. The cycle becomes part of these stories. In the early 90s, when I wrote about the disappearance of convicted Cambria County Judge Joseph O'Kicki, there were sighting galore of the bald, white-bearded, on-the-run judge in every imaginable setting, at Jiffy-Lube greasepits and pancake houses from Boston to Macungie. It soon turned that out that O'Kicki, meticulously planning to avoid a jail sentence, had long since hopped a flight to Slovenia, by way of Canada, when the supposed "sure" sightings were reported.
And so while more seasoned hands are naturally cautious about the supposed sightings of Gricar, the apparently inexperienced staff of the State College daily newspaper, the Centre Daily Times (called by everyone simply the CDT), ran with the story. Even as I write this, nearly every account filed by the CDT has contained these fanciful and wishful sightings. By April 29, 2005, the CDT, in true O'Kicki fashion, has begun to report sightings of Gricar in Wilkes-Barre, reporting "The Wilkes-Barre witnesses 'were positive that that's who the individual was,' Bellefonte Police Chief Duane Dixon said Thursday, adding the individual was wearing 'clothing entirely different' from what Lewisburg witnesses reported." The individual, Dixon later would add, wore a suit. No word yet about whether that's a red suit, with reindeer.)
In the marvelously brave movie My Dinner with André, dialogist André Gregory sadly recounts the sad period in his life when his mother lay dying in a hospital. Her arm got infected, he relates, and her doctor called in a specialist to look at the arm. Following his examination, while the family waited on bated breath, the arm specialist emerged from bedside beaming that the mother's arm was in fine shape, even while Gregory's mother lay dying.
Do you know what that doctor was? Gregory angrily asks. "That man was a reality assassin!" Gregory complains. The dummy specialist was only looking at, and talking about, her arm, giving the family false hope, when their mother was dying.
And so it is with the CDT's incessant rattling about sightings of Gricar a day after he vanished. They're reality assassins, reporting unlikely sightings as if set in stone. In the Gricar case, the CDT's role in this is all the more amazing, when viewed in context of Jonathan Luna's ride into oblivion. The CDT is owned by Knight-Ridder, which also bankrolls the state's flagship corporate rag, the long-since emasculated Philadelphia Inquirer. In Luna's case, it was the Inquirer which dredged up a surely spurious account of Luna buying a soda at a turnpike rest stop at a time when Luna, almost certainly, was bleeding to death, under knife point. The Inky's account achieved what its baby sibling paper's account does in the Gricar story -- its wastes valuable time, at a time when the first few hours of a vanishing or murder are incalculably valuable. It's also worthwhile to remember that these newspaper pack rats will muck up a story to sell a few editions, destroy reputations and lives, and then they'll be nowhere around to put things right when the facts come in, as they've already moved on to the next story they're mucking up and getting wrong. Luna was falsely and unfairly accused of everything in the press from theft to prostitution. These guys love to blame the victim.
While waiting for the press conference to begin, I discerned that, like me, not many of the reporters in the room took much stock in the sightings of Gricar the day after his disappearance. "People mean well and want to help," I told the radio guy next to me, "but there's an awful lot of middle-age white guys with receding hairlines in Lewisburg. There's three of us sitting in this row here."
"And an awful lot of blue fleece jackets," in this, the home of Blue and White, my conversant agreed with a smile, pulling at the nap of his own blue jacket.
Bellefonte, PA, Police Chief Duane Dixon at podium
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The moment at last arrived for the press conference to begin. Chief Duane Dixon led a contingent of dour family members into the room. It's a scene all too familiar in modern American life. The family sat at the borough council table, behind the chief, who acted as spokesman. Chief Dixon took his place behind a podium to Meet the Depressed, as Rush, Lord of Oxycodone, would say. Behind Dixon, off to his side, stood a stone-faced and tall, neatly-coifed man in plain clothes who vaguely resembled Lurch the Doorman, and who was not introduced. Either a state trooper, I surmised, or a federal You-Know-What, Jonathan.
Chief Dixon gave a brief update, then with courtesy answered the questions that were mostly soft-tossed to him by reporters. With a few notable and glaring exceptions, Dixon did an earnest job with the material at hand. Rather, the material not at hand. Chief Dixon said no stranger's finger prints had turned up on the car. Gricar's vehicle was stunningly sterile of clues, an amazing and truly chilling trait shared with Jonathan Luna's blood-soaked Honda Accord. Either no one was in Gricar's company, or the shadowy perpetrator was, shall we say, an expert in the field of criminology and how not to leave prints and clues. Dixon said nine divers had scoured the shallow but muddy Susquehanna and had found nothing, and they were unlikely to search the river again anytime soon. A review of Gricar's medical records revealed no medical or psychiatric problems that could explain his disappearance, the chief announced. Nor had Gricar's bank accounts, credit cards or cell phone been touched since he vanished, making a vacation seem unlikely.
The talk shifted to the great curiosity of Gricar's cell phone having been left behind in his car, while the laptop vanished with the DA. An abandoned cell phone seems instinctively strange to modern Americans, like walking out in a blizzard without one's shoes must've seemed to a pioneer. Chief Dixon said the cell phone left behind in the car indeed seemed odd to him, and earned his suspicion.
In the Luna case, local police chief Edward Karcher of Brecknock Township, Lancaster County, told me that one of his men had patrolled the parking lot where Luna's car had been found earlier on the night of Luna's death, on December 4, 2003, but nothing out of the ordinary had been noticed. I asked Chief Dixon whether the parking lot of the Street of Malls, in Lewisburg, had been patrolled by police the Friday evening of Gricar's disappearance. Apparently not, came the answer. Forget sightings of Gricar: even Gricar's car hadn't been spotted in Lewisburg until Saturday April 16. That's as tangible as this mystery gets.
The cookie list is missing
Another reporter asked about Gricar's wayward laptop, and Chief Dixon said it still hadn't turned up. There obviously is a question of whether someone may have wanted information presumably contained in the laptop. For example, had Gricar's laptop contained information on the grand jury proceedings of the alleged "million-and-a-half dollar" drug ring, or other cases, or names of informants, or others implicated in the alleged heroin ring centered in the New York City/Newark area?
Heroin came from same area in both cases involving Luna and Gricar
In the case of Luna, who also was prosecuting a New York area-supplied drug ring the day of his death, Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Barry Walp had commented that the nature of Jonathan's wounds suggested, "You would think they were perhaps after information from the guy when you see something like this." When a federal prosecutor like Luna is viciously tortured and killed in the middle of a high-stakes heroin case, you don't have to think too hard to imagine who may have wanted information from him. Probably not the Girl Scouts, and they probably don't want his cookie order sheet. And so it is with DA Gricar's missing laptop. Surely, I thought, someone must know what's on Gricar's machine.
Was there a backup of the data on the laptop? I inquired of Chief Dixon.
No, there was no backup, he said, quite curiously, I thought. Though Dixon said Gricar's laptop was county property, he said he'd been told Gricar carried the laptop mostly for personal use, shuttling between the office and home, and that it remarkably contained only personal data. The problem is, in the case of names and addresses of informants, and other extremely sensitive information known by a DA, the police obviously must reassure their informants, known in the trade as sources, that their names are not being passed around among a ruthless gang of killers who stop at nothing. The sanctity of informant dealings is a sacred subject, one about which the FBI, for example, historically feels justified in outright misleading the public. No use busting the Witness Protection budget, if one can help it. Chief Dixon's interesting claim that a district attorney's laptop contained no DA work product, but only personal distractions and pleasantries, presumably like asteroids, solitaire, recipes, chat logs and the like, is hard to swallow. But, after all, this is Happy Valley. Despite Chief Dixon's claim, not too many Centre County drug informants can be sleeping too well these cool April nights, which normally are so inducing of sound slumber and stupor in Happy Valley.
The data on other office computers was being examined, Chief Dixon added.
Not a thorough, serious investigation?
And here we arrived at what is a real problem from the outset of the Ray Gricar missing person investigation. I inquired about the very real possibility that Gricar may have been stalked by a vengeful supplier connected to the "million-and-a-half-dollar" heroin and cocaine ring Gricar had just helped shut down. Gricar's photograph, I pointed out, had been prominently displayed on a press release issued by the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. This observation, regrettably, made the family flinch. (Gricar had also missed a drug hearing the Monday following his weekend disappearance.) "They're looking into that," Chief Dixon said, addressing the possible connection with the drug case. Then, just as quickly, he amazingly dismissed this line of inquiry as a theory someone somewhere deemed not worthy of exhaustive exploration. Referring to decisions already made somewhere in Attorney General Corbett's office, Dixon said, for some reason "they don't think" the recent, "million-and-a-half-dollar" drug case involving alleged middleman Taji "Verbal" Lee had anything to do with DA Gricar's strange disappearance. Though Chief Dixon has jurisdiction in the missing person case, he was strangely ceding authority in this area to others.
'Everybody in town already knew what Ray looked like.' Gricar (l) pictured in drug bust press release, published on the net two weeks before his vanishing
As for Gricar's photo on the internet press release, Chief Dixon all but dismissed any possible threat with a scoff, saying the photo was of no real concern because,"everybody in town already knew what Ray looked like." It apparently is not being considered that a heinous crime could have been committed by someone from outside of Happy Valley; say, perhaps, from New York, where billions of dollars in heroin yearly filters in from abroad.
Though Gricar's now-hapless-seeming face was pasted all over the advertisement in the marketplace, the case was being taken to the kitchen and prosecuted, after all, not by Gricar, Chief Dixon said, but by Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael T. Madeira. And so, Dixon concluded, "they" don't think Ray would be a target, and "they" had apparently ruled out a meticulous raking of the transcripts and questioning of those involved in the case for leads and clues to Ray Gricar's disappearance. It's unbelievable and, if he were most people's father, it would be wholly unacceptable. Things like that just didn't happen in Happy Valley, he might as well have said. Well wake up guys and smell the vinegar in the heroin; maybe now they do.
The problem is, drug killers don't read and respect the organizational charts like a lawyer does, to appreciate the finer point that Madeira is prosecuting the case, and not Gricar. This is the essence of the slumber now enveloping Happy Valley.
They don't understand the fire that's burning in places like Baltimore and, now, State College. They don't yet comprehend the nature of the fire that Jonathan Luna surely died trying to extinguish, and hoped to warn us about. The uninformed people of Happy Valley are, in fact, by and large unaware that a fire is even burning, much less its consequences.
It's not just a particular gang of drug suppliers that's the growing problem. The connection between the Luna and Gricar cases doesn't necessary have to be direct, involving the same people. Rather, it's a mindset heroin dealers increasingly share, up and down the supply line. These are people who stop at nothing for drug profits.
Not on anyone's organizational chart: The Dawson family: (Top left to bottom right): Angela, Lawanda, Juan, Kevin, Keith and Carnell Jr. Carnell Sr. is not pictured. Their home burned down in Baltimore in 2002.
The five Dawson children, and their parents, whose names are still mostly unknown in State College (and the rest of America), were consumed in a fire in the forgotten Baltimore neighborhood of Oliver in late 2002. The entire Dawson family was burned to death by a laughing, street-level drug dealer simply because their house stood in the way of profits. Left untended, Jonathan Luna knew, this fire will grow, until our American house is consumed.
Yet, the Dawsons weren't on anyone's organizational chart. That's precisely why they burned to death.
Take a long hard look at it, Happy Valley, and understand it. It's a very jagged, bitter, and deadly little pill. Penn State sends scholars to every far-flung corner of the globe to study long-dead civilizations. Is it too much to ask Happy Valley, and broader America, to consider the consequences of ignoring hell holes like the Oliver neighborhood of Baltimore, where a multi-billion dollar industry has been created?
Why would a drug gang target someone like Ray Gricar? I later asked a long-time observer of the law enforcement and security professions. "Because Gricar hurt them," came his answer. Are you kidding? he grimaced. He looked annoyed by the stupidity of my question. The internet press release crows that DA Gricar's office started the investigation, only later turning it over to the state attorney general's office. "Gricar cost them at least a million and a half dollars."
Not too many DAs, he predicted, will be posing for the attorney general's press releases in the near future.
My disbelief grew by the moment at the Bellefonte press conference. I asked Chief Dixon whether he was aware that drug dealers had produced a DVD, titled Quit Snitching, widely distributed in inner cities like Baltimore, in which retaliation is threatened for anyone cooperating with drug prosecutions. More precisely, the DVD promises a "bullet in the head."
A surprised Chief Dixon said he was unaware of the DVD.
Many in the room seemed genuinely shocked. A few gasped.
Shocked they should be. In the last year and a half, two prosecutors immersed in heroin cases have vanished in the Pennsylvania countryside under highly mysterious circumstances, leaving behind amazingly few clues, while managing to leave behind oddly personal items.
The alleged middleman in Gricar's recent, record bust, "Verbal" Lee, should certainly be questioned, if the investigation into Ray Gricar's disappearance is to be taken at all seriously. That's what the public not only wants to hear, but expects to see happen. Whether Lee, now behind bars, has anything to say, is another matter. It's simply shocking, and unbelievable, that this line of inquiry isn't being vigorously pursued, if what Chief Dixon says is correct. It simply means they're not serious about conducting a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Ray Gricar. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.
State College, someone suggested to me, must really be chock full of slumbering dummies, who really do believe that District Attorney Ray Gricar ambled off to some cabin for a three-week Happy Valley drunk.
Having spent a year studying Baltimore, its estimated 120,000 junkies, and its billion dollar heroin trade, I felt I'd returned to Happy Valley with a warning only a few wanted to hear, or even were prepared to consider.
"Look on the bright side," a friend tried to console me. "If another one disappears, you can write a trilogy."
There are, I suppose, more profound implications than another book scribbled by me. At some point, for instance, it may be prudent for officials to take these oddly recurring events to heart and issue a warning to others who may be at risk, so that precautions can be taken. At the Penn State reactor, physicists don't ignore two similar accidents. Nor do the engineers in the school of engineering scoff at two similar stress fractures in a bridge. These are trends that a reasonable person can see; trends pointing to a possible danger that society demands these professions responsibly warn others of.
Your offense may not be dazzling, but you can still win with a strong defense. And no slouching on your homework. That's what Joe Paterno taught us, isn't it?
The midday pleasure drive of Ray Gricar
After the press conference in Bellfonte I drove down Rt. 192, from Centre Hall to Lewisburg, retracing at least part of Ray Gricar's midday drive. It's a pleasant, if isolated, drive through a wide valley of farmland, rustic towns, and state forests. In spots lots of Amish and Mennonites skip down the road in buggies and buckboards. (One other peculiar similarity in both the Gricar and Luna vanishings, is that Luna's body reappeared in an Amish community, while Gricar vanished in one. If you really want to get creeped out thinking about this, consider reports in recent years that Amish youth had been recruited into the drug trade by motorcycle gangs....) Off to either side, miles and miles of dirt trails lead up into the wooded hills. There are stretches of Rt. 192 where you don't see another soul, or car, for miles. It seemed to me that Gricar could easily have been followed, and waylaid on this road, and quizzed about his planned destination.
The Street of Shops in Lewisburg, PA (top); the parking lot across the street where Gricar's car was found (middle); and nearby bridge over the Susquehanna (bottom). Click images to enlarge.
In the strange, seemingly inexplicable rides of Jonathan Luna and Ray Gricar, with both victims apparently walking away from their lives, leaving important items behind, it's not too far-fetched to even conjecture that each may have been commanded to drop everything and come along by someone with a badge. They sure as hell don't want the public thinking about the implications of that....
Such is the utterly lonely road where Ray Gricar vanished. I followed the desolate pavement all the way down to the river, to the spot where Gricar's flashy car was quietly and neatly parked in front of the antique store, crisply locked with his cell phone left behind.
I walked down to the river, to the wide Susquehanna. An old railroad trestle bridge lay barricaded at the shore. A few hundred feet to its right, a modern bridge carried cars across the river, forty feet or so above the water. High enough, I supposed, for a 59 year old man to hurt himself had he splashed into the shallow drink.
It's just damn hard to picture a laptop full of Happy Valley distractions in the drink with him.
Posted 4-27-05. Updated 4-29-05 12:30pm
Copyright © 2005 William Keisling. All rights reserved.