Missing Persons

lopaka

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#93
Eye of the beholder, I guess. I can't say I really know anyone who hangs out at websites for missing children in the hopes of recognizing nine year old photos as belonging to teen-agers they know.

But there are some 'What constitutes fortean' threads if you care to contribute to them.
 

FraterLibre

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#94
Re: Re: Fortean?

Toffeenose said:
the girl had turned into a frog.
But see, if it wasn't a MAGICAL TALKING frog that vanishes in a puff of sulfuric blue smoke to the sound of tinkling fairy bells, it's not all that Fortean a frog, is it?
 
A

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#95
I found the idea of 'Licking County' (and its reams of potential double-entendres) interesting, at least... :blush:
 

FraterLibre

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#96
Rather Like

Intercourse, Blue Balls, Bird-in-Hand, and Man's Choice Pennsylvania, or Three Whores Wyoming.
 

Melf

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#97
just seen on the news:- apparently dr stevens was having a affair before he disappeared!
 

FraterLibre

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#99
A Tip of the Top

Actually the reasons people top themselves are often just the straw that breaks the camel's cigarette, and we never see the huge mound of heavy horror under them.

It's also a personality thing. For some, there IS no good reason to top one's self. For others, there is no END of good reasons, from "I don't like Monday" to "the chips was greasy" to "me mum an' da used me like a condom".

I fall somewhere much closer to the IS No Reason end of the spectrum, myself. I figure you should experience all of life you possibly can because the brackets around it are awfully damned big and dark.
 

Melf

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/3936725.stm


Affair 'led to doctor's suicide'


Dr Richard Stevens had been having an affair since January 2001
A doctor whose disappearance sparked a national manhunt killed himself because he could not cope with the stress of a secret affair, a coroner has ruled.
Dr Richard Stevens, 54, of Sale, Greater Manchester, disappeared after arriving for work on 21 July, 2003.
The consultant paediatrician's body was found in a disused slate mine in the Lake District nearly six months later.
On Thursday an inquest in Barrow-in-Furness heard the doctor had had a two-and-a-half-year affair before he died.
Dr Stevens was last seen by CCTV cameras at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital in Pendlebury where he worked as a consultant paediatrician.


What we found was that he was a much respected doctor who probably became too emotionally involved with his patients. Det Sgt Mike Jackson, Greater Manchester Police


He had arrived at 0710 BST at the hospital, where he had worked for 20 years, parked his car, left his jacket and briefcase in his office and disappeared.
After he vanished, the case attracted massive interest from national media who reported every lead in the search for Dr Stevens.
Officers followed up several unconfirmed sightings of him, including one from a woman who says she gave him a lift in Devon.
A tourist was mistaken for the doctor after he was caught on CCTV at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
The doctors' wife, Eirwen Stevens, said she was convinced the man on the video was her husband.
Police also followed up reports that he had boarded a train from Manchester Piccadilly to London on 22 July.
His body was eventually found by walkers on the Old Man of Coniston, above Coniston Water, on 6 January this year.
The inquest was told Dr Stevens killed himself by injecting a combination of two drugs - Propofol, a hypnotic sedative and Atracurium, which acts as a muscle relaxant.
Drugs, syringes and medicine boxes from the hospital were found at the scene.
South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith heard a woman had contacted police three days after Dr Stevens went missing to tell them she had had an affair with him since January 2001.
Det Sgt Mike Jackson, of Greater Manchester Police, said the family were aware of some sort of relationship but thought "it had not really started".

'Stressful job'
He said it became clear the woman's partner had been putting pressure on her to expose the affair and "bring it out into the open".
He added Dr Stevens' wife, Eirwen, had told police she had had an argument with him the night before his disappearance.
But, Mr Jackson said, the argument had played a "minor" part in his disappearance.
When interviewed, his daughters, Helen and Rebecca, said they had noticed "little things" that suggested their father was distracted.
Dr Stevens' colleagues at the hospital said he had not showed any outward signs of stress in what was an "extremely stressful job" Mr Jackson said.
He added: "What we found was that he was a much respected doctor who probably became too emotionally involved with his patients."
In recording his verdict, Mr Smith said Dr Stevens had taken his own life.

(c) bbc news northwest 04
 

TheQuixote

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Mystery over missing ballet figure

Concern is growing in the Russian ballet world over the fate of leading choreographer Dmitry Bryantsev, a month after his mysterious disappearance.

Police in the Czech Republic have begun a search for Mr Bryantsev, last seen on 28 June on a private visit to Prague, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reports.

Mr Bryantsev, 57, has played a key role in Russian dance as artistic director of Moscow's Stanislavsky Ballet.

He once told BBC News Online his work aimed to reflect his country's mood.

We'll keep waiting for him because fantastic things happen sometimes
Vladimir Urin
Stanislavsky director-general
Colleagues in Moscow have daily been asking the Russian embassy in Prague for updates on the search for Mr Bryantsev.

They first suspected something was wrong when he failed to fly back in Moscow as scheduled on 30 June.

Czech police then discovered his luggage and mobile phone, switched off, in his hotel room in Prague. So far they have only established that he never left the country.

Mr Bryantsev had arrived in Prague on 25 June. The reason for his visit has not been reported but Russia's Novyye Izvestia newspaper says it appears to have been "entirely personal in character".

Ambitious plans

Vladimir Urin, the Stanislavsky's director general, said the whole company was anxiously waiting for news of its senior choreographer.

"Until we get official conclusions, we'll keep waiting for him because fantastic things happen sometimes," he said this week in Moscow.

In December 2001, during his first season with the Stanislavsky in London, Mr Bryantsev told BBC News Online of ambitious plans to rebuild the company's home venue, the Musical Theatre in central Moscow.

He also outlined plans for a clutch of new ballets including an exuberant piece for children, The Circus Is In Town, which has since premiered.

Returning to London in December 2003 with his productions of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, he appeared in excellent spirits, says BBC News Online's Patrick Jackson.

He says the choreographer was brimming with optimism about the future of his company, which dates back to the 1920s and whose best work rivals that of the better-known Bolshoi Theatre, a few streets away in Moscow.

BBCi News 29/07/04
 

FraterLibre

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Sub Rosa

What was his hidden reason for visiting Prague. Find that and you'll have a good idea what happened to him.
 

Diabolik8

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Re: A Tip of the Top

FraterLibre said:
I fall somewhere much closer to the IS No Reason end of the spectrum, myself. I figure you should experience all of life you possibly can because the brackets around it are awfully damned big and dark.
Well said.
 

escargot

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Fears are growing for the safety of an English tourist who has been missing in Australia for over a week.

'Sean Kennedy from Northampton was last seen at a Sydney nightclub eight days ago.

Police say the 22-year old was ejected from the club after being involved in an altercation.

His family has flown to Australia to appeal for public help in the investigation.

"He's a gentle giant who wouldn't want to hurt anyone, he's such a likeable person," Sean's mother Denise Kennedy said.

"We both spoke with him on the Saturday before his disappearance. He was in great form.

"He's been really loving his time in Sydney and had settled into his life in the city.

"Our lives have been turned upside down. We're just devastated by his disappearance."

New South Wales Police said they had "grave concerns" for the welfare of the former Liverpool University student.

Detective inspector Dave Egan-Lee said Mr Kennedy's bank account had not been touched since his disappearance.

Mr Kennedy had been in Australia with girlfriend Catherine Rowden on a working holiday since February.'

I feel for this family as my son is living in Sydney too.
:( Must be hell for them.
 

FraterLibre

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Girlfriend

So what's the girlfriend got to say, was she evicted, too, and did she witness anything, such as thugs jumping him outside the place, etc?

Big deserts in NSW.
 

escargot

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Quarry Searched to Solve Mystery of Mother and Child

'A quarry is to be dug up in an attempt to solve a 27-year-old mystery involving the disappearance of a mother and her young son, police said today.

Renee MacRae, 36, and her three-year-old son Andrew, from Inverness, went missing in November, 1976.

Mrs MacRae’s BMW car was found burning in a lay-by a few hundred yards from Dalmagarry Quarry, south of Inverness on the A9, but the mother and son have never been found.

At a press conference in Inverness today, Northern Constabulary announced they were sending a team of diggers to clear trees in the quarry.

Once this is completed, in around two weeks’ time, a finger-tip search of the area will begin.

The announcement by Northern Constabulary follows a review of the case by the force, which was brought forward by its Chief Constable Ian Latimer.

Mr Latimer said the force had a “specific reason” for searching the quarry, and that he felt he owed it to Renee and her son’s family to find them. '

I am fascinated- wonder what they'll find. :(
You don't know what to hope for.

My son apparently works next door to the club in Sydney where Sean Kennedy went missing from, says there are 'missing' posters everywhere.
 

FraterLibre

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Interesting Cases

Vandal - One wonders how the Trivial Pursuit folks got hold of information not already bandied about in media.

escargot - Why are they acting now? Obviously there is a new tip involved or some new evidence developed. Is the quarry abandoned? Has it been for 27 years? They're hoping for bones, obviously.
 

GNC

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There was an article about the MacRae case in the paper today that said that one of the policemen originally involved had been interviewed for a TV programme, and came up with a new theory about searching the quarry, which he wishes had been done at the time because he thought he smelled rotting human flesh at the site all those years ago. It also said that members of the public had seen someone pulling sheep carcass along the ground near the site her burning car was found, and MacRae had been wearing a sheepskin jacket at the time she disappeared. Creepy stuff.
 

FraterLibre

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Why Wasn't It?

One is forced to wonder, if a policeman says he smells rotting human flesh in a quarry near a car where someone's gone missing, why they would wait 27 years to investigate? Add to this a witness seeing a "sheep carcass" being dragged toward the quarry, with a sheepskin coat having been worn by the missing person, and suddenly one wonders if a cop didn't do it all along. One with authority not to investigate such vibrant clues.
 

GNC

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It does sound like someone's messed up somewhere, doesn't it?
 

TheQuixote

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Missing backpacker's body found

The body of missing British backpacker Sean Kennedy has been found in Sydney, New South Wales police have confirmed.

The body of the 22-year-old former Liverpool student was recovered by Sydney water police from the Cockle Bay region of the city on Tuesday morning.

The body of Sean, from Northampton, was identified by his parents, Donal and Denise Kennedy, who had flown out to aid the search for him.

A police spokesman said there were no suspicious circumstances.

He said: "We can confirm that the body of missing British tourist Sean Kennedy has been recovered by the Sydney Water Police at 0730 Eastern Australian time this morning.

"A post-mortem examination will be held in due course and the investigation is ongoing, but initial enquiries suggest that there are no suspicious circumstances.
[...]

BBCi News 10/08/04
 
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Sri Lanka handball team vanishes

German authorities say they are puzzled by the disappearance of the entire national handball team from Sri Lanka.

German Sports Exchange Programme organiser, Dietmer Doering, said: "We initially thought the team had got lost in nearby woods while jogging."

But he said a note had been found saying the 23-strong team had gone to France. "We now know they crossed into Italy," Mr Doering said.

"They even left their dirty laundry," he added.

Unauthorised trip

Mr Doering told Priyath Liyanage of the BBC Sinhala service the organisers were feeling extremely let down by the incident.

I am not planning to invite any more teams from Sri Lanka
Dietmer Doering
"This will be the last time we will be doing this. I am not planning to invite any more teams from Sri Lanka," he said.

"The entire team of 23 men, including the coach and the manager, has taken off."

The handball team was taking part in a programme in which teams from both countries visited each other for friendly games.

The sports ministry in Sri Lanka said the trip was not authorised.

Handball is a sport very rarely played in Sri Lanka and the formation of a national team was a mystery, according to the ministry spokesman.

The performance of the team had been poor throughout the tournament.

Mr Doering said that until now the exchange programme had been successful.

"Different sports teams from Sri Lanka have been taking part in the project for nearly 15 years," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/3658966.stm

Published: 2004/09/15 14:00:55 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 

FraterLibre

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Hoax?

Sounds almost like a hoax. What a stupid, weird thing.

And what's the rest of the story? Why WOULD a whole team hot-foot it across borders?
 
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From the way it is reported it sounds like they formed the handball team specifically to get to Europe an do a runner (at which point the tabloids will jump up and down saying "I told you so") - I wouldn't be suprised if it turns out they all knew each other before forming the team - if you picked a sport that isn't played in your country you could pretty much pick anyone for the team.

It does seem odd that they would leave all their family behind but perhaps they will plan to send for them. The human rights situation has improved no end in the last couple of years:

http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/lka-summary-eng
http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/lka-summary-eng

So I'd guess it was purely economic.

Of course the suspicious could also suggest it might related to terrorism - the Tamil Tigers are known for their 'abilities' as suicide bombers...........

I've looked around and there aren't any reports which cast much more light on this but see:

Mystery as Sri Lanka's 'handball team' vanishes

17.09.2004



COLOMBO - Sri Lanka is trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of its "national handball team" while on tour in Germany, but it is no easy task - the island does not have one.

The 23-strong "team" duped the German Embassy in Colombo into issuing visas for a month-long tour beginning on September 8, acting German Ambassador Heidi Jung said yesterday.

The group vanished soon after arrival and German and Sri Lankan officials have been unable to trace them. They are legally allowed to stay until October 7.

"There is no handball federation in Sri Lanka ... We don't even have a single club," said Hemasiri Fernando, of Sri Lanka's Olympic Association.

Sri Lanka's Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport said it was unclear whether the group's strategy was political asylum or illegal immigration.


"They presented documents, and the documents looked all right, so there were no reasons to say we can't give you a visa," Jung said.

A German national who helped set up the tour has cancelled plans for a host of similar sporting tours.

- REUTERS
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3592127&thesection=news&thesubsection=world

Sri Lanka team goes missing

14/09/2004 18:06 - (SA)


Wittislingen, Germany - The Sri Lankan women's handball squad has disappeared and is believed to be travelling to France to seek political asylum it was announced by police on Tuesday.

"There are no new developments," said a police spokesman.

The 23 Sri Lankans left a letter in the music hall where they were staying in which they wrote in English that they could not return to their homeland and were going to France.

The players, who were due to stay in Germany for three weeks, evidently left in a hurry as they left shoes and clothes behind them.
http://www.news24.com/News24/Sport/More_Sport/0,,2-9-32_1589185,00.html

Sri Lankans go missing in Germany after sports tour ruse

By Hannah Cleaver in Berlin
(Filed: 16/09/2004)

Twenty-three Sri Lankans have gone missing in Germany after entering the country posing as their national handball team.


The men had spent several days in the town of Wittislingen at the start of what they had said was a three-week tour of southern Germany. Local officials raised the alarm when the honoured visitors disappeared, thinking their guests may have become lost during their daily training run through the woods.

But when police searched their quarters they found a note addressed to the townspeople thanking them for their hospitality and saying the team had moved on to France.

Doubts had already been raised about the credentials of the "team" when it lost to the town's handball side.

"It was fun to play against the guys from Sri Lanka," said a local handball player. "But it was clear they weren't handballers."


An agency in Duisburg that arranged for the Sri Lankans to go to Germany could not be contacted and the Sri Lankan embassy denied all knowledge of the team and the tour.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/mai...16.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/09/16/ixnewstop.html
 

FraterLibre

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Spooky

Almost seems like a hugger-mugger spy novel plot, doesn't it? You're right, the Tamils are a definite danger. If they're being recruited in EU it could spell real trouble.

Germany needs to do a background check on these missing folks in Sri Lanka, ASAP. Otherwise they're liable to be surprised in a very bad way.
 

GNC

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Incidentally, there were no bodies found in the search of that quarry:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3659304.stm

"The bodies of a missing Highland mother and her three-year-old son were not buried in a quarry south of Inverness, according to detectives.
Renee and Andrew MacRae disappeared in 1976 after the mother's burned-out car was discovered in a lay-by on the A9.

Last month Northern Constabulary began a forensic excavation of nearby Dalmagarry quarry but now say no trace of the pair has been found.

However, officers insisted they may be able to make a case they were murdered.

The mystery of what happened 28 years ago has stuck firmly in the minds of people in and around Inverness and a review of the case prompted police to revisit the quarry.

At the time of the original investigation one officer reported smelling decomposing flesh in the area, which was never properly searched.

In August, police drafted in internationally experienced forensic archaeologists and anthropologists to sift 35,000 tonnes of soil from the disused quarry, but no sign of the pair was found.

Detective Superintendent Gordon Urquhart, who is leading the renewed investigation, said: "I think we've done a meticulous job and what we can confirm is that there are no bodies, there is no evidential material within the quarry area."

Former officer John Cathcart, who reported the odour of flesh, said he had hoped for progress.

Mr Cathcart said: "I was quite happy that something to explain the smell would have been found and the fact that nothing has been found frankly leaves me very disappointed."

Renee's sister Morag Govans, who lives in Inverness, said: "My hopes were raised a lot but they've been dashed several times over the last 28 years, so I always knew that they might not be found."

Detectives revisiting the case are following other historical evidence and Det Supt Urquhart said it was still hoped enough of a case could be made to take a killer to court.

Renee MacRae had been having an affair with Bill MacDowell, who was her husband Gordon's accountant.

Mr MacDowell, who now lives in London, is the father of Andrew, who vanished along with his mother. He recently denied any involvement in their disappearance.

She had been said to be going to meet him on the night she vanished but Mr MacDowell said he decided against it. "
 

FraterLibre

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Publicity

With all the publicity leading up to the new search any interested party had plenty of time to go move them. And one doubts the cops had it under surveillance all that time.
 

lopaka

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An odd one that's been on the fringe of the (national) news for a couple of weeks now, a Pennsylvania prosecutor who has vanished:

Posted on Tue, Apr. 26, 2005
.

Police try to dispel Gricar theories

Investigators have few clues to missing man's whereabouts

By Erin L. Nissley

[email protected]

BELLEFONTE -- There are still no answers in the disappearance of Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, but plenty of theories and speculation abound.

The facts surrounding the case are strange: Gricar called his girlfriend and housemate, Patty Fornicola, about 11:30 a.m. April 15 and said he was driving down state Route 192 in the Brush Valley area. It was the last time anyone heard from him. His car was found parked and locked in a dirt parking lot in Lewisburg; his cell phone was inside.

Two Lewisburg business owners said they saw Gricar about noon the next day, but police have been unable to explain where the prosecutor was during that 24-hour period.

Still missing is a county-owned laptop that Gricar used, as well as his wallet, keys and sunglasses. There has been no credit card or bank activity since his disappearance. His medical records, obtained through a search warrant last week, revealed nothing out of the ordinary.

At a news conference on Monday, reporters tossed out questions dealing with some of persistent theories, based on rumor or simply speculation, about the district attorney's disappearance.

Bellefonte Police Chief Duane Dixon said he and other investigators are considering a variety of scenarios to explain Gricar's disappearance, but he poked holes in several theories:

The suicide of a man whom Gricar recently prosecuted is not thought to be related to the district attorney's disappearance, Dixon said Monday. The man was found dead in his vehicle April 17, according to troopers who investigated the death.

"State police ran a timeline for us" between the time of Gricar's disappearance and the time that the man was found dead, Dixon said. "They are 100 percent sure there is no connection there."

Police are still looking at cases Gricar has been involved with in the 25 years he's worked at the district attorney's office. But with the information they have now, Dixon said, it does not seem that Gricar's disappearance is linked to the high-profile arrest earlier this month of nine alleged heroin and cocaine dealers, including 24-year-old Taji "Verbal" Lee.

"The attorney general's office is prosecuting that," Dixon said.

Police are also rejecting theories that Gricar's disappearance has anything to do with the slaying of federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna in December 2003. Luna was found stabbed to death in a Lancaster County creek. He was last seen Dec. 3, 2003, at his office at the federal courthouse in Baltimore, according to newspaper reports. The case has never been solved.

Although investigators have looked into seeming similarities, "There's no connection between the two," Dixon said.

Dixon repeated Monday that police have found no evidence of foul play or suicide in Gricar's disappearance, but haven't ruled either out. Gricar's brother, Roy, committed suicide in May 1996, according to earlier reports.


For now, Dixon said, active searches may soon be suspended until police obtain new leads. Aerial searches of state Routes 45 and 192, as well as over Lewisburg, were performed Monday. On Friday, divers searched the Susquehanna River in Lewisburg but found nothing of note, Dixon said.

"Until the case comes to a resolution, we'll continue the investigation," Dixon said. "When we get more information, I'll ask to have (searches) done again."

Erin L. Nissley can be reached at 231-4616.
http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centreda ... 488973.htm

Posted on Fri, Apr. 29, 2005

Gricar reward up to $15,000

By Mike Joseph

[email protected]

District Attorney Ray Gricar's family and friends will announce today they're offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the return of the missing Centre County prosecutor or to the arrest of anyone criminally responsible for his disappearance, a State College lawyer said Thursday.

And Bellefonte police on Thursday said they're investigating possible sightings of Gricar by two people in a business in the Highland Park Boulevard area of Wilkes-Barre on April 18, three days after he was last heard from while driving toward Lewisburg, and two days after witnesses reported seeing him there.

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.

On Wednesday, seven airborne searchers in two small planes from Penn State and Williamsport Civil Air Patrol squadrons each spent three hours searching for Gricar from about 800 feet above state Route 192 and the Susquehanna River, Dixon and other authorities said.

The $1,000 cost of that search was borne by a U.S. Air Force-related organization in Langley, Va., said Randy Rockey, Centre County emergency management coordinator.

Bellefonte resident Roy Long, mission observer on one of the flights, said that the springtime foliage was still thin enough to see through to the forest bed, but that their search through binoculars found nothing.

Today's reward announcement will bring the monetary incentive for information about Gricar's whereabouts to $15,000. Bellefonte police said last week that someone remaining unidentified has offered $5,000 for similar information.

The new reward, to be announced at a news conference at 3 p.m. today at the Bellefonte Borough Building, has been sponsored by the Centre County Women's Resource Center and is funded by Gricar's family members, friends and associates. The money is being held at Nittany Bank, said H. Amos Goodall Jr., reward committee attorney.

Gricar, 59, Centre County's top criminal prosecutor for the last 20 years, went missing April 15, after he took the day off and called his girlfriend, district attorney office clerk Patty Fornicola, to tell her he was driving east on Route 192. She reported him missing 12 hours later, at 11:30 p.m.

Gricar's car, a 2004 Mini Cooper, was seen that evening parked outside a Lewisburg antiques mall near the Susquehanna River, and police found the car there on Saturday.

At least three people who work in or near the mall told police they saw someone fitting Gricar's description that weekend. Jennifer Snyder, an employee of the Packwood House Museum, 15 N. Water St., said she looked out the window of her shop and saw Gricar standing near his parked Mini Cooper at about noon on April 15.

Snyder said she remembers the moment because the British-made Mini Cooper is a distinctive car, which had been featured in the remake of "The Italian Job."

"It was the car," she said. "That's what made me think of it."

The car was later found one block north on North Water Street, across the street from the Street of Shops antiques mall. Mall owner Craig Bennett told police he's 95 percent sure he saw Gricar at about noon Saturday, standing in front of a mall restaurant as though waiting for someone. The restaurant's owner, Brad Alvey, told police he's certain he saw Gricar, though he wasn't sure if it was Friday or Saturday.

Goodall said Thursday the $10,000 reward notice refers to the "apprehension of the person or persons criminally responsible for his disappearance," not because of anything specific pointing in such a direction but only to include a comprehensive set of possibilities.

Mike Joseph can be reached at 235-3910.
http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centreda ... 518062.htm

(registration required. Also, I'm aware both links make no sense, but that's what the urls are, at least at the moment)
 

lopaka

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Overview of the case of the missing prosecutor, one month in...some serious bafflement going on in Pennsylvania and from afar, a honest-to-goodness, stone-cold, whodunit (or Wh'appened?). The scenario as its played out so far is pretty rare/atypical for missing persons.


MURDER, SUICIDE OR JUST A RUNAWAY?

THE STRANGE CASE OF PROSECUTOR RAY GRICAR


By WILLIAM BUNCH

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BELLEFONTE, Pa. - For the last couple of Friday afternoons at the dark and historic creekside eatery called Gamble Mill Restaurant, bartenders have kept glancing over at Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar's usual spot at the bar.

"They look over at the little spot he used to sit in," with his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, playing their weekly game of Trivial Pursuit as he sipped a Grey Goose martini, said the restaurant manager, Andi Heidt-Nixdorf. "When every Friday comes along, they think they're going to see him."

But no one in this Victorian-tinged, mountainside county seat is known to have seen the 59-year-old Gricar - a button-down, lifelong prosecutor looking to retire at year's end - in the last 28 days.

The 20-year veteran D.A. called out of work on that Friday, April 15, drove to the riverside antique-selling town of Lewisburg, parked his red-and-white Mini Cooper - and then vanished.

No one knows if Gricar has intentionally gone missing, committed suicide, was kidnapped or even murdered. In fact, amateur sleuths - and there seem to be about as many in this north-central Pennsylvania valley as there are Penn State football fans - can find circumstantial evidence for each possibility.

What about the witness who talked with a man who matched Gricar's description and who spoke of the D.A.'s beloved Cleveland Indians, some 120 miles away in Wilkes-Barre, two days after his car was found?

Did Gricar intentionally throw himself in the river and commit suicide, just as his own brother had done nine years earlier?

Or were some members of the big-city drug ring that Gricar had helped bust just two weeks earlier hell-bent on revenge?

And what of the fresh flowers that were found in an orange-juice container near the riverbank where his car was found - a detail so strange that it reminds some locals of the 1967 suicide-mystery "Ode to Billy Joe."


The questions hang in the nippy spring air even as Gricar's trail is growing colder. The cable-TV news trucks and media stars like Fox News Channel's Greta van Susteren have long left the tarnished Civil War statues in front of the picturesque county courthouse. Other big made-for-TV stories - like Georgia's "runaway bride" - already have come, supplanted it, and left.

But the case of the runaway - or possibly dead - D.A. remains in bizarre, unresolved limbo. Said Heidt-Nixdorf: "It seems like everybody's just moved onto the next story."

Gricar's 27-year-old daughter, who lives in the Seattle area, has returned home. Even Fornicola, who lived with Gricar, has returned to her job in the district attorney's office that he once ran, albeit only part-time.

Wearing a mostly black top, a black skirt and wire-rimmed glasses, the slightly built Fornicola nervously fingered a set of keys and spoke of her boyfriend with the same sense of puzzlement that her friends and neighbors share.

"Hopefully, he's out there... looking at old cars," she said during a short interview in the hallway outside of the fourth-floor district attorney's office.

Fornicola is the last confirmed person to have spoken with Gricar, who called her at 11:30 a.m. that Friday to report he was driving east to Lewisburg on state Route 192.

At first, it all made sense. Gri-car was known to like an occasional, impromptu, solitary road trip - once he went to a baseball game in Cleveland without telling a soul - and he also liked shopping for antiques.

But when the D.A. didn't return home by 11:30 that night, Fornicola decided to call the police, who found his car in the parking lot of a Lewisburg antique mall the next day. What detectives uncovered there was a mix of the expected and the odd.

Gricar's cell phone was in the car, as well as a water bottle that later tested positive for Gricar's DNA. But his county laptop was gone. There were cigarette ashes in the car, which friends say doesn't sound like the meticulous prosecutor.

Not much of the known story makes sense. Jim Bryant, a flamboyant former Philadelphia prosecutor who's now a defense lawyer here, said his longtime friend Gricar was quiet and very straight, "like being around a bowl of oatmeal."

An Ohio native and graduate of the University of Dayton, Gricar has been a prosecutor ever since law school, first in his native Cleveland and then in Centre County, when the first of his two wives got a teaching job at nearby Penn State.

In 1985, the Republican was elected district attorney, and his biggest achievement was taking what once had been a part-time job and making it a full-time post. He personally tried every murder case - there is usually one or two a year here - and some high-profile crimes from the Penn State campus, and he earned praise for tackling violence against women.

Last year, he announced that this term, his fifth, would also be his last. He told friends that he was looking forward to traveling with Fornicola and spending some time in New England.

Still, there are now differing opinions on Gricar's state of mind when he disappeared. Bryant, the defense attorney, said he thought Gricar was chronically depressed, and Fornicola told police her boyfriend had been sleeping more than usual lately, also a possible sign of depression. But Gricar'smedical records offered no hint of trouble.

"On the personal side, he was very reserved and kept things to himself," said Scott Conklin, a county commissioner who like a number of employees had dealings with Gricar right before he vanished. "But he showed no signs of unusual behavior in the weeks leading up to this, so it is baffling."


Conklin said that as a politician, he can't walk down Bellefonte's hilly streets without someone asking: "Any news on Ray?"

Indeed, with the popularity of forensic- crime shows like "CSI" on television, this is a case in which almost everybody who follows it seems to have a theory of what happened.

What are the major possibilities?

Suicide: Nine years ago, the D.A.'s brother, Roy J. Gricar, had just retired from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, when he disappeared.

He had told his wife he was going out to buy mulch, and never returned. Two days later, his car was found at a Dayton park near the Great Miami River. His body was later recovered, and Roy Gricar's death was ruled a suicide.

Mental-health experts note that suicide typically runs in families, and some local people - like attorney Bryant - think that with his retirement imminent and with possible symptoms of depression, that Gricar may have met the same fate as his brother.

But others say they Gricar was looking forward to stepping down and was not acting any different from usual right up until the day he vanished. County commissioner Chris Exarchos saw Gricar at a meeting the day before he disappeared and said "there was nothing remarkable about that meeting."

Running away: It's rare but not unheard of for prominent people to simply vanish and start a new life. The case of a Maryland college president who did exactly that became a 1989 best-seller called "Exit the Rainmaker."

In the case of Gricar, a number of personal items have not been recovered - his sunglasses, wallet and car keys, as well as the county-owned laptop. His ATM and credit cards have not been used.

But on April 22, a man in Wilkes-Barre - some two hours east of Bellefonte - called police and said that he had conversed with a man who appeared to be Gricar on April 18, some three days after the D.A. went missing.

After local cops interviewed the man, they found another witness from the same establishment who also ID'd Gricar. Both witnesses said they were 100 percent certain it was the missing D.A.

The thing about the sighting that struck investigators is that the witnesses said the man talked about the Cleveland Indians - and they had been likely unaware when they went to authorities that Gricar indeed was a lifelong Indians fan.

But the Wilkes-Barre witnesses also said the man had been wearing a suit, even though Gricar was wearing jeans when he went missing.

Although Fornicola very much wants to believe that her boyfriend is alive, she said in the interview that "the clothes issue threw me." She said that none of Gricar's suits were missing, adding, "And I do the laundry."

Even before the Wilkes-Barre report, two Lewisburg business owners said they thought they saw Gricar on the day after he vanished - April 16 - in the antique mall. But experts note that reported sightings in such cases are often later debunked, and even if the prosecutor was in Wilkes-Barre, that was 25 days ago now.

Murder: Given the recent rash of violence against judges, the idea that a district attorney could also be the target of an angry convict or suspected criminal has been on some people's minds from Day One.

The police in Bellefonte have said that they're not aware of any specific threats against Gricar. But on March 31, just 15 days before he disappeared, Gricar announced possibly the biggest drug bust of his career - charges against nine suspected heroin dealers doing business in Centre County and also in North Jersey.

Crime writer Bill Keisling, who recently published a book on the apparent murder in Pennsylvania of a federal prosecutor, Jonathan Luna, has been writing articles on a Web site called yardbird.com suggesting a link between the still-unsolved Luna case and the Gricar disappearance.

"There obviously is a question of whether someone may have wanted information presumably contained in the laptop," Keisling wrote. "For example, had Gri-car'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?"

But the murder theory is pure conjecture - as are all the other theories about a pillar of a small valley town in central Pennsylvania who seemingly vanished into thin air one April morning.


Down the hill from the courthouse, at the Gamble Mill Restaurant, Heidt-Nixdorf says she doesn't want to talk about a report that Fornicola had stopped by earlier in April to plan a surprise retirement party for Gricar in the fall.

It's not because the cops have told her not to talk about it, she explained. It's just that she doesn't want to ruin the surprise if and when Gricar suddenly turns up.
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