- Advertisement -
  • Most Commentedmost commented up
  • Most Emailedmost emailed up
  • Popularmost popular up
- Advertisement -

« News Home

Man’s disappearance baffles family, police

Published: Wed, September 28, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.


The Vindicator ( Youngstown)

James Donofrio


Youngstown firefighters search the Mahoning River east, almost to the Center Street bridge, looking for clues Tuesday in the disappearance of restaurant owner James Donofrio of Boardman.

Place:Avalon Gardens

1719 Belmont Ave., Youngstown

YPD chief considers case of missing restaurateur a ‘whodunit’

By Ashley Luthern



James Donofrio left for his Youngstown business Sunday and hasn’t been seen since, leaving police departments in two communities wondering where the 64-year-old is — and in what condition.

“We’re just assuming the worst-case scenario: suicide or murder,” Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley said Tuesday.

Donofrio, known as Jim, drove from his Boardman residence at 9 p.m. Sunday to close his Belmont Avenue bar-restaurant, the Avalon Gardens. Employees say he never arrived.

From midnight to 1:30 a.m. Monday, Donofrio called a half dozen people, sometimes leaving messages.

His wife, Rosanne, woke up at 5:30 a.m. Monday and realized her husband never came home, and two hours later, city police found his SUV — containing his wallet, phone and briefcase — abandoned on the railroad tracks under the Market Street bridge downtown. The vehicle is a white, four-door Land Rover.

The search continued Tuesday, and the Donofrio family and police are offering a reward for information. Youngstown fire and police searched the Mahoning River, and cadaver dogs were brought in from Geauga County.

Youngstown police also used dogs to try to pick up a track between 11 a.m. and noon Monday without success, Foley said.

“It’s very odd for a man in the suburbs to leave a car down here. He must have had some knowledge of the area. We’re treating it as a homicide,” Foley said.

“There’s very little evidence” right now, and detectives are analyzing the car for clues, Foley said.

“It’s a whodunit,” he said.

Donofrio’s last phone call was made at 1:24 a.m. Monday to a longtime friend. The message said: “This is James Donofrio returning your call,” according to records. Police said the man who received the message thought it was strange because he had been friends with Donofrio since high school.

The friend “said none of it sounded like him. Voice-wise, he’s not saying it’s not him, but it’s not the way [Donofrio] talks and it came from nowhere. Why did he call in the middle of the night?” Rosanne said of her husband.

Foley said a missing-person report was taken at 7:30 a.m. Monday when Youngstown police also filed a report about Donofrio’s towed car.

“I wish more was done [Monday], but I don’t know if we had if we would have solved this riddle by now,” Foley said.

Foley said there was some confusion in communicating with the Donofrio family.

Rosanne said she was told to wait 24 hours before filing a missing-person report and to contact Boardman police because that is where the couple resides. Boardman police took a missing-person report about 9:30 p.m. Monday at Donofrio’s township residence, and Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols said his department is assisting Youngstown.

Foley said internal affairs is going to review dispatch audio to check that individuals in the police department acted properly.

Rosanne said family and friends have been searching for her husband since Monday morning.

On Tuesday, James Donofrio’s brother, Ron, led a boat and kayak search of the Mahoning River, before safety officials did their own.

“Four complete strangers, out of the kindness of their heart, they helped us,” said Nancy Donofrio, Ron’s wife, of those who accompanied Ron on kayaks.

“This is not Jim’s normal behavior by any means. People don’t just disappear,” Nancy said.

Rosanne Donofrio said her husband did have some health problems; last year, he fainted and hit his head, which caused bleeding in his brain and then he had a stent procedure.

The couple purchased the Avalon Gardens at the end of January, and it was their first foray into the restaurant business.

“A lot of issues that were supposed to be handled before the sale weren’t,” she said. “... Sometimes you take the stress so long, and then you melt down. He isn’t one to melt down. ... My concern is on the side of maybe he just collapsed somewhere.”

Rosanne said her husband’s disappearance is baffling.

“I don’t think he has an enemy in the world that would do anything to him. If someone were looking for something, they didn’t take anything,” she said.

Rosanne said her husband was in good spirits this weekend, as he and several Youngstown State University students were featured in The Vindicator for a mural on the building adjacent to the restaurant.

“The article probably made him the happiest he’s been in the six months we’ve owned the restaurant,” she said.

At the restaurant Tuesday, patrons were taking “Missing Person” fliers with Donofrio’s face and the Youngstown police number printed on them.

“He was trying to bring this place back. He put money into it. I really don’t know what to say,” said Bob Tarantino, who has frequented the establishment for 40 years. “I was just with him a week ago, and it didn’t seem like he had any problems. He was a gentleman. When I heard about this, I was very surprised,” he said.

Roseanne said her husband was wearing jeans and dark T-shirt when he disappeared.

“None of it makes sense,” she said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Youngstown police at 330-747-7911 or anonymously at 330-746-CLUE.


1lefty83(313 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I HOPE the great people from the northside help in the search.

Suggest removal:

2Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I wish the family the best in their search, it is always a tragedy when these things happen. But for that car to be where it was at, with the wallet and credit cards still there and for him not to be anywhere nearby. There is more to this story than meets the eye.

Suggest removal:

3Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago


"He called the restaurant to have them make him some dinner because he was working all day on the computer, and he was tired," said Ronnie Donofrio. "His wife had been working there in the day. She had the day shift. He was going back at night to close."

Since it wasn't a robbery and the facts don't point to a suicide one must assume that James Donofrio was either forced to that location or his vehicle was dropped off there by his killer . I very much doubt that he is still alive . Recent business dealings including the purchase of Avalon Gardens should be scrutinized .

Suggest removal:

4kensgirl(1067 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I pray that this man is found safe. God bless the family.

Suggest removal:

5harpercm(9 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't understand what happened between 9p.m. and midnight-1:30a.m. What time did he call the Ave for dinner to be made? Certainly it doesn't take 3 hours to get from Boardman to the Northside.
Somebody knows something or has seen something.

Suggest removal:

6snydro0108(61 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

And why calla longtime friend, in the middle of the night and say that it was James Donofrio returning the call. It is all so mysterious! I have only been to Avalon a few times and have seen this man twice and it always seemed like he was in a great mood and had lots of friends. I hope and pray this ends up a happy story, but tuime doesnt seem to be on the good side.

Suggest removal:

7Leana(5 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Again, if anyone knows anything please call the police. We all want our loved family member home.

Suggest removal:

8southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

May God return this man safely to his family.

Suggest removal:

9pam291(4 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I agree with most comments above. He did not go under the bridge on his own Who is to say he was ever there to begin with?? What if taking his vehicle there was a distraction, and he is totlally somewhere else ?? Maybe that it was planned, and the police need to expand their search for him. Was there someone who had "issues" with him, since wallet, etc. was still there in the vehicle. I hope and pray for the best, but I doubt that will be the outcome. If he was OK, he would be with his wife right now.

Suggest removal:

10valleynative19(52 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

There's as many questions as there is inconsistentancies in this whole thing.
They need to check his phone info. for that whole day in my opinion, both calls and texts.
Also if he was working on the computer all day as the story says they need to examine his computer, e-mail, internet usage, etc.
This is strange indeed.
Saying a prayer for both him and his family.

Suggest removal:

11NoBS(2841 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

OK, his wallet, phone, and briefcase were found in his car. Was everything that was supposed to be in them there? Was all his money in the wallet? All his credit cards? Were all the papers and documents that were supposed to be in the briefcase still there?

Are they able to triangulate where he was when those phone calls were made?

Lastly, are they going to search again tomorrow?

If so, where are they starting from?

Suggest removal:

12applebee(2 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

here's my take... could he have been followed, taken captive... then the car was being dumped... got stuck on the log so then an alternate plan of the phone calls were made in hopes of making this all look like a strange missing person case??? Was it him on the voicemails? Is the train conductor full of it? Was the train conductor paid? Who else bid on the restaurant when it was for sale? Have they been questioned?

My heart breaks for this family and there needs to be closure. :(
They are in my every prayers!

Suggest removal:

13busy(12 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

All good suggestions....too bad the YPD doesn't think so...

Suggest removal:


HomeTerms of UsePrivacy StatementAdvertiseStaff DirectoryHelp
© 2016 Vindy.com. All rights reserved. A service of The Vindicator.
107 Vindicator Square. Youngstown, OH 44503

Phone Main: 330.747.1471 • Interactive Advertising: 330.740.2955 • Classified Advertising: 330.746.6565
Sponsored Links: Vindy Wheels | Vindy Jobs | Vindy Homes