By Joe Gorman
The family of former Avalon Gardens restaurant owner James Donofrio says it welcomes new information into his case, but also added it’s time to move on.
Family members met with Youngstown police and Mahoning County prosecutors for about 90 minutes Tuesday as they went over an autopsy report on the restaurant owner, who was missing for more than a year and whose body was identified in April.
The autopsy by West Virginia officials could not determine a cause of death.
Afterward, one of the family members was meeting with an officer to set up an ad with the department’s Crimestoppers program.
Donofrio’s wife, Rosanne, said while she wonders every day how her husband ended up dead, she also wants to move forward.
“We pretty much, I’d say, we’re right back where we started,” Rosanne Donofrio said. “We’ll never be done wondering. But it’s time to move on.”
Donofrio, 64, the owner of the Belmont Avenue establishment, was reported missing Sept. 26, 2011, after he went there from his Boardman home and never returned.
Police searched the Mahoning River behind the Covelli Centre, where his SUV was found, for several days, but could never find his body.
His body was found in Clarington on the banks of the Ohio River on March 25, 2012, but not identified until April 9 of this year.
After the body was found, it was in the custody of West Virginia authorities because they have jurisdiction over the river.
Ron Donofrio, the brother of James Donofrio, said the family wanted to meet with police because of delays in the case from both states, and try to impress on them the plight of family members of missing people who are awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones.
“We’re not looking to sue or for retribution,” Ron Donofrio said. “All we’re looking for is if someone from your family goes missing, the process becomes better for everyone.”
Rosanne Donofrio said it is particularly galling that her husband’s body was in the custody of West Virginia officials for more than a year before it was identified. She said when she brought up those concerns to them, they told her they were following “procedure” and that was the reason for the delay.
West Virginia authorities could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Police Chief Rod Foley said the case is classified as a missing persons case and is still open because no one can determine how Donofrio died and there is nothing to indicate he met with foul play.
“There’s no evidence to indicate it was [foul play],” Foley said.
Foley said if anyone has evidence to help police find out what happened to Donofrio, he would be willing to listen.
Ron Donofrio said even though it is time to move on, the family is still seeking answers, which is why they are planning the Crime-stoppers spots.
“We’re still looking for anyone who has any information,” Ron Donofrio said.