Police probe claim Gricar was killed
Investigators, including the FBI, are looking into a claim that missing former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar was murdered by a former Hells Angel, according to Bellefonte police.
“It’s ongoing,” Bellefonte police Detective Matthew Rickard said Thursday of the investigation into the claim.
Rickard said more interviews needed to be conducted, and he hadn’t been briefed by the FBI as to the current status of the probe.
Rickard said he couldn’t comment on the details of the investigation but said the FBI, as well as the state police, have assisted in the investigation since the beginning and often follow up on leads at the request of the Bellefonte police, the official lead investigators in the case.
The man who made the claim to investigators earlier this year contacted the Altoona Mirror in May and said he has been a person of interest in the case because he was a ranking officer in the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
But he said the former Hells Angel allegedly responsible for ordering the killing of Gricar, 59, was an FBI informant who appeared in Centre County Court in the late 1990s.
The source asked the Mirror to not reveal his identity because of concerns for his safety.
The source has sat down for extensive interviews with the Mirror in which he contends the killing of Gricar, who vanished April 15, 2005, was at the behest of a former Hells-Angel-turned-informant and was retribution for a stiff state prison sentence stemming from an aggravated assault conviction.
The Mirror is withholding the name of the suspect named by the source because the man has not been charged.
A check of Centre County Court records confirms the Hells Angel named by the source was convicted of aggravated assault, received a multiple-year state prison sentence and had worked as an FBI informant while a Hells Angel starting in the early 1990s.
News accounts from the time confirm the former Hells Angel named had been arrested in another state in the 1980s on another charge.
A letter from the FBI to the Centre County judge who presided over the aggravated assault case in the late 1990s was read aloud during a sentencing hearing and indicated the man had provided the FBI with intelligence regarding the illegal activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs after his release from federal prison after serving five years of a 12-year sentence.
The source told the Mirror he decided to disclose the location of Gricar’s body because he believed the former Hells Angel responsible for ordering Gricar’s death was dead.
He said he wanted to bring closure to the case but learned after talking with FBI agents earlier this year that the biker-turned-informant is alive and living in another state.
The FBI did not return calls about the case, but Rickard acknowledged the FBI had talked with the source and was following up on his story.
The source said he accompanied FBI agents to a property in Pennsylvania where he said Gricar’s body was disposed after his “knee caps were spun” and his throat was slit. At the last minute, the source said he decided not to disclose the exact location of a shaft he said holds the body, the remains of four others and various guns.
The shaft has been capped and covered with several feet of dirt, the source claims.
The source said he became concerned uncovering the shaft could incriminate him in other cases, and he is seeking immunity from all prosecution related to any evidence found in the shaft.
Multiple independent sources, including law enforcement familiar with the case, confirmed the FBI had questioned the source and taken him to the location.
The source told the Mirror he wanted to put to rest speculation, and the FBI’s scrutiny of him, by telling the story of what happened to Gricar. But he said he wouldn’t incriminate himself or other Hells Angels in the process.
He said speculation that Gricar’s disappearance had something to do with the Jerry Sandusky scandal was especially annoying.
To help protect himself legally, the source brought in Harrisburg-based defense attorney William Costopoulos, he said. Costopoulos declined to comment or confirm his firm was working for the source.
Tony Gricar, nephew of Ray Gricar, said after more than eight years of false sightings and stories, it’s difficult to put any faith in any story, although he did say the latest claim is more elaborate and detailed than most he’s heard over the years.
“You take them with a grain of salt,” Tony Gricar said.
From the beginning, Tony Gricar said, there have been so many sightings and leads that came up empty that the family doesn’t get regular updates from law enforcement any longer.
Tony Gricar said the family hopes all of the stories get investigated, even though none has bore fruit so far.
“We’ve heard pretty much all the theories that anyone’s ever come up with,” he said.
In the eight years since Ray Gricar disappeared after taking off work and driving down Route 192 toward Lewisburg in a red Mini Cooper, there hasn’t been much evidence, just speculation, theories and talk, his nephew said. Even the finding of the Mini Cooper in the parking lot of a Lewisburg antique mall on April 16, 2005, and the subsequent and separate discoveries of Gricar’s county-owned laptop and its hard drive months later haven’t produced anything that can point the family to any one theory as to what happened.
Rickard said Bellefonte police have sifted through countless leads over the years, some “so ridiculous they’ve been cleared before there was time to tell the family about them.”
The publicity the case garnered, he said, has been great at generating leads, however, those leads require time and manpower to check out.
Rickard said the case is still considered a missing person case.
Tony Gricar said there’s nothing in the way of hard evidence that makes any of the three theories as to his uncle’s fate – suicide, walk away or foul play – more likely than the other.
No matter how intriguing or believable a story sounds, Tony Gricar said he’s become adept at quickly discerning claims’ veracity and said nothing, not even the latest claim, has produced hard evidence of his uncle’s fate.
The Hells Angel story, Tony Gricar said, also has red flags, including the mention by the source that the FBI was looking into the connection early on, because to his knowledge the FBI’s involvement in the beginning was limited.
And Tony Gricar said he’s not hopeful anything new will surface about his uncle’s disappearance after all these years, especially in light of the Sandusky scandal and the renewed interest in the case brought on by the revelation that Ray Gricar chose not to pursue criminal charges against Sandusky in 1998.
Tony Gricar said the family has moved past believing anything new will happen and is just trying to live with not knowing.
“None of this stuff makes any more sense now than the day he disappeared,” he said.