After waiting more than 18 months to finally learn her father is dead, Jim Donofrio’s daughter said knowing her father’s body was recovered fails to ease her pain.
“We know one answer, but we don’t have everything,” Carli Donofrio said. “And it’s just one piece of the puzzle. There’s a million more.”
West Virginia officials said on Wednesday said it took more than one year to identify Jim Donofrio’s body as the one pulled from the Ohio River on March 25, 2012 because the state has one medical examiner to perform autopsies.
Donofrio, the former owner of Avalon Gardens restaurant, went missing Sept. 26, 2011. A massive search found Donofrio’s SUV abandoned near the Mahoning River by the Market Street Bridge.
A cause of death has not been determined but Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley has said there were no obvious signs of violence.
The West Virginia State Police investigator handling the case said he has yet to see an autopsy report.
“Once he receives the full medical examiner’s investigation, he will be in touch with the Youngstown Police Department and inform them of what they have and have not found,” said West Virginia State Police supervisor Sgt. C.J. Lantz.
Youngstown police said West Virginia State Medical Examiners matched Donofrio’s dental records after he was found March 25, 2012, near Route 7 in Clarington near the West Virginia-Ohio border, about 128 river miles from where Donofrio’s Land Rover was found.
Because West Virginia has jurisdiction over the waterway, the investigation is being handled by that state’s Medical Examiner’s Office.
Despite Donofrio’s DNA and dental records being available through national missing persons databases, West Virginia authorities said it’s common for some investigations to linger because of the lack of medical examiners across the state.
“Any type of violent deaths, the state medical examiner handles those as well,” Lantz said. “So they do receive a pretty substantial caseload every year.”
West Virginia State troopers said they hope to have a final autopsy report by Friday.
Donofrio’s sister-in-law, Nancy Donofrio, said there are still many unanswered questions.
“I’m going to liken it to a nightmare that you wake up from and now you’ve got a new nightmare,” Nancy Donofrio said.