BROOKFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Authorities are waiting to learn how a fire started in Brookfield late Thursday afternoon, leading them to find the body of a prominent Valley businesswoman.
Brookfield Fire Chief Keith Barrett confirmed that Flora Cafaro, who was pulled from a fire at a Cafaro-owned home on Stewart Sharon Road, has died.
The Mahoning County Coroner listed her cause of death as smoke inhalation. There were no injuries on the 58 year old’s body, and toxicology results are pending.
Barrett said firefighters were called to Cafaro’s home around 4 p.m. after they were notified by an alarm company that the smoke detector had gone off. He said crews had to break open the gate to the home and kick in the front door to get inside. It appears the fire started in a bedroom next to a bathroom where the 58-year-old woman was found.
She was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
“It appears to be an accidental fire, but the State Fire Marshal and our investigators are still looking at it,” Barrett said.
Flora Cafaro is the sister of J.J. and Anthony Cafaro, Sr.
The Cafaro Company owns several properties in the Valley and around the country, including the Eastwood Mall Complex in Niles.
Over the years, Flora Cafaro’s name was connected with a number of political corruption cases. Federal prosecutors say she loaned thousands to then-Mahoning County Judge Maureen Cronin, but the money was never reported. Then, she found herself caught up in the Oakhill Renaissance corruption case, accused of giving prosecutor’s candidate Marty Yavorcik money for his campaign.
Yavorcik was ultimately convicted of money laundering and bribery.
Those who knew her at the family’s development company say Flora Cafaro had not been involved in operations for many years.
“She at one time was an assistant treasurer for the company. Afterward, she was involved in an automobile accident, and she had some declining health issues,” said Cafaro Company spokesman Joe Bell.
Others remember Flora Cafaro for her philanthropy.
“She was involved in any number of charity endeavors. She was a trustee of the Cafaro Foundation. She was involved with angels for Easter Seals. She was a benefactor for Hospice of the Valley. She had done a number of roles,” Bell said.
“Without a doubt, they’re on of the stalwart philanthropists of the Mahoning Valley and beyond,” said Pat Palombo, of the Diocese of Youngstown.
A statement from the Cafaro Company quotes Anthony Cafaro, Sr. as saying, “She was a wonderful mother, a businesswoman and a philanthropist. Our family is just devastated by this tragedy.”
Brother John J. Cafaro added, “Our family is deeply saddened. Flora was loved by everyone inside and outside our family.”
Flora Cafaro is survived by her two adult sons, William Cafaro-Ferraro and Jon Cafaro-Ferraro; brothers Anthony Cafaro, Sr., John J. Cafaro; and numerous nieces and nephews. Funeral arrangements are still pending.
Flora Cafaro’s house sustained extensive fire and smoke damage. The damage estimate is set at about $100,000.