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Is this unidentified man Ray Gricar?
July 26, 2011 8:37 AM   Subscribe

On April 15, 2005, Centre County Pennsylvania District Attorney Ray Gricar disappeared under mysterious circumstances. A little over six years later, he was declared legally dead. In early July, 2011, a mysterious man was arrested in Provo City, Utah and refused to give his name, baffling police. One day after he was declared dead, people are asking could Utah's John Doe prisoner be Ray Gricar?
posted by MegoSteve (65 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
So it's like Paris, Texas but without all the great cinematography and the impossibly gorgeous Natassja Kinski.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


nothing would surpirse me these days.
posted by Qrops at 8:41 AM on July 26, 2011


The dead guy report delivered to you by PennLive.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 8:43 AM on July 26, 2011


I would think a prosecutor's fingerprints would be in the system.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:44 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"If Gricar were to be found alive after being declared legally dead, his estate would probably not be affected, but there are no cases like that in Pennsylvania history."

Really?? That sounds like it would happen occasionally, to be honest.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 AM on July 26, 2011


Here's another picture of Gricar. Not seeing the resemblance, to be honest. The hairline seems a little off.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:48 AM on July 26, 2011


At first glance the two men don't particularly look alike...
posted by CheesesOfNazareth at 8:48 AM on July 26, 2011


Hopefully it's the same guy, because I want my fondue set back.
posted by Senator at 8:48 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the two men have different left ears.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:48 AM on July 26, 2011


There was a ...Radiolab? This American Life? story about an accountant. He was talking about the one thing all his male clients over a certain age have. An escape fund. Not "For mistress" not "For gambling and/or drugs" not even "Just money I don't want to share with my wife." but money speficially put away so they could blot and start a new life if they wanted to - and it's just a fetish really, it's never enough to really vanish - or even sustain them for a week - but they always, always have one and he's got to push on them to make sure they reveal it.
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on July 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


I would think a prosecutor's fingerprints would be in the system.

Not just a prosecutor but any attorney in Utah. Having an FBI background check done (including fingerprinting) is part of the character & fitness check before being allowed to sit for the bar exam. It's possible that Gricar was admitted before that became a requirement, though.
posted by jedicus at 8:53 AM on July 26, 2011


He wasn't an attorney in Utah. Pennsylvania.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:54 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The guy is enjoying his three hots and a cot. Beats sleeping on the street. He himself said he would want out someday (sounded like it was a specific day) and presumably would reveal his name to do so. That seems to imply that he is not worried about being made as a fugitive if he thinks he can get out anytime by revealing.

I would release him and follow him. More likely to find out who he is than waiting him out.
posted by AugustWest at 8:55 AM on July 26, 2011


Not without some amazing plastic surgery.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2011


I would think a prosecutor's fingerprints would be in the system

No, not really. Unless he's been arrested before there's no reason for them to be in the system. Fingerprints submitted to law enforcement for background checks usually aren't retained, I don't think.
posted by jayder at 9:01 AM on July 26, 2011


What's kind of odd is that this is the second "reappearance after mysterious disappearance" story that the Harrisburg Patriot has covered this year. The first was Michelle McMullen.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:02 AM on July 26, 2011


Jedicus, when I've applied for state bar admission it was made pretty clear that the fingerprints would not be retained.
posted by jayder at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2011


I think it's really really significant that "Ray Gricar" is almost an palindrome.
posted by Bromius at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


He wasn't an attorney in Utah. Pennsylvania.

Serves me for skimming. Anyway, Pennsylvania has the same requirement.
posted by jedicus at 9:04 AM on July 26, 2011


If Gricar were to be found alive after being declared legally dead, his estate would probably not be affected, but there are no cases like that in Pennsylvania history.

Pennsylvania has, what, 350 years of common law history? Agreed with smackfu -- I'm sure that it has happened before. Bet-the-farm certain that it must have happened before.

Unless it's just lazy reporting, in which case -- nevermind. I answered my own question.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:06 AM on July 26, 2011


Their heads aren't even the same shape. Internet detective fail on this one.
posted by Gator at 9:06 AM on July 26, 2011


I would think a prosecutor's fingerprints would be in the system.

And even if they're not, they must be able to find his prints in his house or on his stuff, no? On, say, power tools in the basement or dad's old plastic comb or musty tax returns? And eliminating the other family members would be pretty simple to do?

But I'm not a cop. I haven't taken Fingerprinting 101.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:13 AM on July 26, 2011


If it's him, he grew 2 or 3 inches. All the missing person reports for Gricar list his height at 6 feet even; the guy in the pokey is 6-2 or 6-3 depending on which report you read.
posted by beagle at 9:13 AM on July 26, 2011


23andme has a $99 DNA test right now. How hard would it be for the Patriot News reporter to get the prisoner to spit on her?
posted by rh at 9:16 AM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


So…how much money does it take to disappear and start a new life?
posted by jepler at 9:16 AM on July 26, 2011


Reading this reminded me of the mysterious murder of US Assistant Attorney Jonathan Luna in 2003; left his office in Baltimore without his glasses or cell phone, his car was found 5 hours away in Lancaster PA and his body was in a nearby stream with multiple stab wounds from his own knife. The Lancaster coroner ruled it a homicide but Baltimore treated it as a suicide and did a piss-poor job investigating it.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:16 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's another picture of Gricar. Not seeing the resemblance, to be honest. The hairline seems a little off.

I think this photo looks more like 'John Doe' than the ones linked in the post. There's something about the noses, facial structure, chins, half-smiles, etc. I can't completely rule out the possibility as others have.
posted by marimeko at 9:20 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just have to wonder what was on that laptop hard drive that was important enough for the owner to destroy it, and then disappear.
posted by happyroach at 9:22 AM on July 26, 2011


Remember how in all these AskMe threads about online dating we talk about how hard it is for people come up with a photo that really "looks" like them?

Honestly from the photos I don't see one single thing that makes it seem super improbable that they're the same guy. With few pics to work from it's pretty dicey to cast a firm opinion either way.
posted by hermitosis at 9:23 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I knew, or perhaps know Ray Gricar. I actually mentioned him in this comment a few months ago. That picture of the guy in Utah—I'm pretty sure that's not him.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:23 AM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Looks like this is a case (puts on sunglasses) for the DA. (YEEEEEEEAOW.)

Pennsylvania to Utah in six years? (puts on sunglasses) Shoulda taken the bus. (YEEEEEEAOW.)

No name, no money, no prints. (puts on sunglasses) No me gusta. (YEEEEEEEAOW.)
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


Pennsylvania has, what, 350 years of common law history? Agreed with smackfu -- I'm sure that it has happened before. Bet-the-farm certain that it must have happened before.

You'd be surprised. There is very little case law on this topic. Martin v. Phillips, 514 So.2d 338 (Miss. 1987) and Southern Farm. Bureau Life Ins. Co. v. Burney, 590 F.Supp. 1016 (E.D.Ark. 1984) are two such cases, but it gets pretty thin after that. I suspect people showing up after being declared dead is more common than that but usually doesn't result in a lawsuit. The allegedly deceased either had no significant assets to reclaim, didn't bother fighting for them, or were welcomed back by their spouse or whoever inherited their estate.

We wrote a bit about this kind of situation for Law and the Multiverse.
posted by jedicus at 9:25 AM on July 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


jepler: So…how much money does it take to disappear and start a new life?

You can live without money, but that's a pretty stark lifestyle.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:29 AM on July 26, 2011


Toekneesan, that's really interesting. I currently live in SC but moved here after the disappearance. I'm curious as to what the local theory or theories are. The part about him searching the internet for ways to destroy a hard drive are compelling, but ultimately inconclusive. What was the prevailing wisdom at the time and/or has that changed recently?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:31 AM on July 26, 2011


And, although the story is strange/interesting/confounding, it is sobering to consider what this all means to the friends and family of Gricar. I wouldn't even know which outcome I'd prefer, at this point, if that were my father, sibling, partner. To discover that he has truly passed, in whatever way, would be at least some measure of relief. But to find out that he is still alive, that he simply left, moved on, and chose to do so in a way that presumably nearly ruined the lives of those looking for him - that might be even more awful. Hopefully the ruling yesterday gave them some closure, and yet still, as with this John Doe fella - wouldn't it be natural to always be holding out hope?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:41 AM on July 26, 2011


I've got to say, the only disappearing person I've been at all related to (Lived in same town, worked at same place) did not end well: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2010/03/19/f-cranswick-chalk-river-missing.html
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2010/06/21/ottawa-cranswick-body-identified.html
posted by Canageek at 9:44 AM on July 26, 2011


I would release him and follow him. More likely to find out who he is than waiting him out.

I am not sure I have ever heard, "Let's follow him and see what he eats," proposed as an investigative strategy outside a Scooby-Doo carton.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's not Ray Gricar. I think he walked away from his life for whatever reason or maybe he was killed (either murdered or fell into the stream his car was left near). But, that man in Utah doesn't look anything like him.

Toekneesan -- did you run Svoboda's bookstore? It was a sad day when that bookstore closed.
posted by backwords at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2011


I have no idea, and the theories I've heard have been all over the board. The case was bungled in so many ways that I had frequently heard folks suspect the subsequent DA, Michael Madeira, had to be involved. He was one of the most incompetent D.A.s the county has ever seen, and he and Gricar had had a few dust-ups in the past, so I can certainly understand folks suspecting him or at least thinking the worst of him. But I don't think a single piece of evidence was ever produced that linked him to the crime.

As for the hard drive, Ray was a D.A. and could have easily been investigating how that might be done for any number of cases he was working on at that time.

I am glad to report though that his successor is no longer D.A. I think I was most outraged by his conduct when he told the local paper that he wouldn't be prosecuting a legally blind driver who ran over and killed a cyclist because the case was unprecedented in the Commonwealth and that meant it couldn't be won. I don't think he knows what unprecedented means. It was later revealed that the driver was an old friend of that D.A. He's currently a motivational speaker.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:55 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, I did run Svoboda's. I miss that store every day.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:56 AM on July 26, 2011


If my experience is anything to go by, this kind of think happens more often than you would think.

We had a neighbor fake his own death when his restaurant went under in an attempt to get the insurance money, and it was big news at the time. And my Dad met a guy he had worked with, supposedly dead (in fact Dad went to the memorial service a few years prior), just ran into him on the street one day not far from our home.

The guy's wife, thinking she was a widow, had moved back home to Maryland by that time, but it came out that for a couple years after he faked his death he was living less than 50 miles away from her under an assumed name. Had a new family with kids and everything.

And it's not like I lived in a big city at the time; this was in a little suburb of Tampa.
posted by misha at 10:09 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


related AskMe
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Supposedly, ear prints are as unique as finger prints. It doesn't seem like it should be all that difficult to find some clear pictures of Gricar's ears for comparison.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:26 AM on July 26, 2011


jedicus is probably right on the "This is new" bit. While I'm sure, like others, that this has happened before, odds are decent that it hasn't happened in such a way that would produce case law. The vast majority of states don't even report their trial court opinions, as such would involve a massive quantity of mundane and redundant cases of no precedential value.

So if someone showed up after being declared dead and there wasn't a lawsuit, we have no case law. If there was a lawsuit, and it was resolved on the trial level, we still don't have case law. With those two filters in place, it's not that surprising that there wouldn't be such a case on record.
posted by valkyryn at 10:49 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, to me they look exactly alike. Y'all really aren't seeing it?
posted by chronkite at 10:54 AM on July 26, 2011


Strange. I looked at the same photos as everyone else, and to me the resemblance was striking. But then, I'm no expert.

Nothing in Pennsylvania would surprise me (I'm a fifth-generation Pennsylvanian). I had a good friend who worked for the DA in Erie County; one day he was pulled over for a "dubious" inspection sticker, so he pulled it off and ate it. Turns out he'd become schizophrenic... funny that nobody in the DA's office noticed.

Those faces looked remarkably similar to me, with the obvious changes stress and age would impose. I don't feel nearly as confident as others that this isn't the same guy.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2011


chronkite, me too. I'm surprised at how the opinion here is almost unanimously no, and with deference to Toekneesan and backwords, I could very easily believe it's the same person, except that the Utah guy's been living rough for the year+ he's been gone, and he's lost a ton of weight. Same high cheekbones, similar squint of the eyes, same nose tip, similar mouth shape.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:59 AM on July 26, 2011


Btw, I noticed the resemblance after seeing the photos in the first and third links, but it's the side-by-side in the fourth link that convinces me.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:01 AM on July 26, 2011


ImproviseorDie: The image in the fourth link has changed since the first posting. It looks like they've found a picture that more closely matches the John Doe mugshot. I've got to say, it is more convincing. Still, I'm hung up on the left ear thing. John Doe's left ear sticks out Colbert-style while Gricar's does not appear to do so.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:03 AM on July 26, 2011


Maybe his name is Flitcraft?
posted by chrchr at 11:06 AM on July 26, 2011


Take a look at the vertical creases on the forehead of the pictures of Ray in this picture. Ray was kind of an intense guy. Those lines come from his proclivity to furrow his brow. Where are they on the Utah guy? Have you ever met anyone who loses those as they get older? In the split pictures, they use pictures of Ray that are really out of focus. I'm not sure how any comparison is really made looking at those.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:24 AM on July 26, 2011


Have you ever met anyone who loses those as they get older?

Botox?
posted by ericb at 12:23 PM on July 26, 2011


Investigators say probably not
posted by MegoSteve at 12:37 PM on July 26, 2011


Like I said, their heads aren't even the same shape, as I think that split photo helps to show. Gricar had a big ol' dome.
posted by Gator at 12:39 PM on July 26, 2011


What I'm not sure about is how long they can keep him there. What's the sentencing guidelines for trespass? Isn't that a misdemeanor? Would the guy just get sentenced as John Doe? I presume it might be several months before his case gets heard --- but when it does, even if he pleads I'd think he'd get off with time served by then.
posted by Diablevert at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2011


No link since I'm on my phone, but the Penn Live site has user comments indicating the Utah guy has been identified by family as Philip Todd Beavers of NM.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:22 PM on July 26, 2011


Here's a link.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2011


> I suspect people showing up after being declared dead is more common than that but usually
> doesn't result in a lawsuit. The allegedly deceased either had no significant assets to
> reclaim, didn't bother fighting for them, or were welcomed back by their spouse or whoever
> inherited their estate.

According to Sam Goldwyn, so many people went to Louis B. Meyer's funeral because they wanted to make sure he was dead. Well, Meyer turned a lot of heads last Thursday when he showed up at MGM headquarters looking pale but rested. "There's been a lot of people dancing on my grave for a long time," he was quoted as saying. "Starting tomorrow they dance to a different tune."
posted by jfuller at 1:34 PM on July 26, 2011


Note to self. Buy and trash a hard drive. Google how to trash a hard drive from the computer of the person you plan to whack. Whack person. Leave trashed hard drive. Dispose of body.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:37 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shame it wasn't him. I'm just glad Darrel Zaccagni wore that outfit in the fourth photo down of the first link. I hope Gricar is found so we can get a movie version of Zaccagni ASAFP.
posted by daedsiluap at 6:41 PM on July 26, 2011


For what it's worth, behind ol' Darrel there in picture 4 is the Mike Madeira, who I mentioned above. Not one of his most inspiring photos. They are quite a pair. I have to admit that I kind of disregarded the PennLive update that said "Investigators say it's not him" because the investigators they're referring to there are the Bellefonte police department. Darrel's squad. Ray lived and worked primarily in State College but the court house is in Bellefonte. They are markedly different places. Since that was the last place he was seen, they were "in charge" of the investigation. They did not distinguish themselves in this investigation and I think it's safe to say that they are not qualified to identify Ray Gricar. Much of the criticism of this investigation can be traced to those two individuals. The case should have been turned over to the State College police department, the State Police, the FBI, anyone else with more resources and sense. But it wasn't. And therein lies the problem.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:04 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have been several 'found after declared dead' stories this month.

As a DMV spokesman said in my first link "Technology is catching up". It is getting harder and harder to just disappear.
posted by eye of newt at 9:03 PM on July 26, 2011


The photos are just shot with different lenses, the Utah guy seems more broad but the image is obviously warped.
posted by Oyéah at 9:28 PM on July 26, 2011


This is curious:
"Tips from strangers, from prison inmates, even from the author of a novel whose fictional story contained three strange parallels..."
Anyone know which book?
(from the first link)
posted by doctornemo at 10:38 AM on July 27, 2011


The Whelk-you read that comment about "secret hidden accounts" on Metafilter. I had that comment fAvorited for a long time.

Oh-congratulations, as long as we are chatting.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:55 AM on July 28, 2011


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