Missing bar owner identified

YOUNGSTOWN – Police still have questions after the body of a man missing since September 2011 was identified late Tuesday morning.

The state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation notified Youngstown police that West Virginia authorities had matched dental records to the body of James Donofrio, 64, who was last seen at his Boardman home on Sept. 25, 2011.

The dental records were matched by the West Virginia State Medical Examiner’s Office to a body that was found near Clarington on the shore of the Ohio River on March 25, 2012.

Clarington is about 115 miles from Youngstown.

Youngstown police Chief Rod Foley said West Virginia has jurisdiction on the river. He said he no clue that Donofrio was found until he was informed Tuesday morning.

A family member of Donofrio’s said in a Facebook message that the family would have a statement later but that they, too, were surprised at the news and had just learned that Donofrio’s body had been found.

Donofrio, the former owner of the Avalon Gardens bar and restaurant on the North Side, was last seen about 9 p.m., Sept. 25, 2011, after telling family members he was going to the bar on Belmont Avenue to pick up dinner.

Police determined he never made it there. His SUV was found beneath the Market Street bridge early the next morning and dive and boat crews scoured the Mahoning River for clues as to where he might have been, but no trace of him was ever found.

A train conductor told police he saw a man on the tracks about 3:30 a.m. Sept. 26, 2011, and the man jumped toward the river, but police never found anything.

Foley said he is waiting to hear from West Virginia authorities why it took so long to identify Donofrio. A call to the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office was not returned.

Chief of Detectives Capt. Mark Milstead said the department was told that it is estimated that Donofrio’s body was in the water for about six months before it was found, which roughly coincides with when he went missing.

The department was also told that injuries on Donofrio’s body were all post mortem but a cause of death has not been released.

Both Foley and Milstead said they are curious as to how Donofrio’s body ended up where it was. They said it was possible that it somehow floated down the Mahoning River and into the Ohio River, but that is one of the things they will continue to investigate, although Foley said that answer may be elusive.

”We may never know,” Foley said.