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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Gricar's 2005 disappearance only one of many mysteries in PSU scandal

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Former Centre County, Pa., prosecutor Ray Gricar went missing in April 2005. ('Patriot-News')  
Former Centre County, Pa., prosecutor Ray Gricar went missing in April 2005. ('Patriot-News')    

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The secret is in that river. Maybe. Nobody knows, and it's looking like nobody ever will know. But it's possible that more than a man died in the Susquehanna River in 2005. It's possible the answer to a horrifying question died there as well:

Why didn't someone stop alleged pedophile Jerry Sandusky years ago?

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One possible answer died with Ray Gricar, though even that phrase -- died with Ray Gricar -- makes an assumption. Is Ray Gricar dead? Officially he is, yes. He was declared dead in July of this year, but his body wasn't found, not in April 2005 when the Centre County (Pa.) district attorney disappeared after driving away from his home near State College. And not now. Not ever.

Ray Gricar, the man who declined to prosecute Sandusky in 1998 -- after setting up a sting that resulted in Sandusky making something close to a confession -- hasn't been seen since vanishing in 2005. Dead or alive. He's just ... gone.

With him went the answer to the question the world wants to know:

Why didn't someone stop alleged pedophile Jerry Sandusky years ago?

That was 1998, remember. Four years before Penn State grad assistant Mike McQueary told a grand jury he had seen Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a football shower in 2002. And it was two years before a less-publicized allegation from 2000, also made by an eye-witness -- a Penn State janitor who told co-workers he had heard, and then seen, Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the shower.

Today that janitor has dementia and apparently won't be able to testify against Sandusky. That's a disappointment.

What happened in 1998? That's a mystery.

And it's a mystery that gets more mysterious the deeper you look. This whole story, this Jerry Sandusky saga, reads like a James Patterson novel: sickening details, frail witnesses, some of the most powerful men in the state practically covering up the story. And a dead prosecutor. Maybe. Nobody knows if Ray Gricar is alive or dead. Just another mystery.

But we know Gricar's brother is dead. Yes we do. Why does that matter? Well, I'll tell you:

Because he also disappeared. When his abandoned car was found.

Next to a river.

That was 1996, and eventually, the body turned up as well. Roy Gricar -- Ray's brother -- was found a few days later in the Great Miami River outside of Dayton, Ohio. Joggers found his body about a mile downstream from where his abandoned car had turned up. The coroner ruled it a suicide, a lonely and tragic end for a man who had been diagnosed as bipolar.

Two years later, Ray Gricar -- Roy's brother -- was investigating Jerry Sandusky. An 11-year-old boy had told his mother, and then police, that Sandusky had showered naked with him. In 1998 Sandusky was a legend around State College, not just the longtime defensive coordinator at Penn State, and not just the likely replacement for head coach Joe Paterno. Sandusky was founder of The Second Mile, a non-profit foundation established to help at-risk youth. It was one of those youth who told his mom, and then police, about the naked shower.

Ray Gricar set up a sting for Sandusky at the 11-year-old's house, hiding officers in another room to eavesdrop as the boy's mom confronted Sandusky. According to court files, Sandusky asked the mother for forgiveness, saying: "I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness from you. I know I won't get it from you. I wish I were dead."

Police eventually interviewed Sandusky, who admitted to hugging the boy while naked in the shower.

Ray Gricar didn't press charges. He didn't explain why, because in 1998 the media didn't know about that investigation. He's gone, but he left behind a pair of clues in and around the Susquehanna River, which I photographed here.

They're mysterious, these clues, as everything about this story seems to be. When Gricar left his home that day in April 2005, he told his family he was driving to Lewisburg, Pa., a place about an hour away where he liked to shop for antiques. And indeed it looks like he made it there, because it was in a parking lot in Lewisburg that police found his red-and-white 2004 Mini Cooper. They found no sign of a struggle inside the car, but they did find traces of cigarette ashes.

Ray Gricar didn't smoke, and didn't let people smoke in his car. So who left those ashes, and when? It's a mystery.

The other clue is even more mind-bending. Gricar's computer was found in pieces, the first piece in July 2005, three months after his disappearance. Fishermen spotted his laptop under a bridge, damaged by water and missing its hard drive. Two months later a woman walking on the riverbank found the hard drive, about a half-mile from where the Mini Cooper had been abandoned. The hard drive was so water-damaged, investigators couldn't get any information from it.

But in 2009, investigators announced what they had found on the home computer at Ray Gricar's house. In the weeks before he vanished, someone had used that computer to research ways of destroying a computer hard drive.

What does that mean? It's a mystery. One guess -- my guess -- is that Ray Gricar had used his laptop in 2005 to visit websites that disturbed him, disturbed him so much that he wanted to kill any sign he had been there ... before killing himself in the same way his brother had killed himself in 1996.

That's a guess, but at this moment that's all we have. All we can do is speculate on the connection between Ray Gricar, his brother Roy and Jerry Sandusky -- three men in various states of being, all of them presumably doomed. One way or another.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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