Unique dental feature helped identify missing body - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Unique dental feature helped identify missing body

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A national missing persons database, as well as a unique dental feature, ultimately solved the disappearance of business owner James Donofrio.

The 64-year-old owner of the Avalon Gardens bar and restaurant has been missing since September 2011, when his abandoned Landrover was found near the Mahoning River under the Market Street bridge.

Detectives searched extensively in and around the river, however, they just learned that Donofrio's remains were found more than one year ago on March 25th, 2012.

The remains were found on the shoreline of the Ohio River near the West Virginia-Ohio border.

West Virginia State Patrol has jurisdiction over the waterway and was handling the case of an unidentified man.

Donofrio's sister-in-law, Nancy Donofrio, and his daughter Carli tell 21 News they were shocked to learn their loved one's body has been lying unidentified in a West Virginia morgue for this long.

"We're on all the national databases. Jim's DNA, and his dental records and what not, have been (on the databases) for over a year now. So certainly the information was there," Nancy Donofrio says. "So yes, we are very unclear as to why it took this amount of time."

Just two weeks ago, West Virginia authorities entered information into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System known as "NamUs."

By Monday, April 8th there was a match, according to Director of Communications for NamUs, Todd Matthews.

"It was one of our own staffers, Richard Scanlon who saw a unique dental feature, related to a root canal, and looked into it further," Matthews says. "Each state has it's own system that doesn't always connect with each other. So NamUs is the connection. It's the bridge between the states."

Matthews says that this case was a pure "dental hit," and they found the information fairly quickly without any DNA. 

Authorities with NamUs plan to talk to Donofrio's family as soon as possible and explain to them in detail how his identification was made.

They say it's possible that West Virginia officials tried their state database, and another national database first, before submitting information to NamUs.

Donofrio's information has been on the missing persons website for more than a year, submitted initially by Donofrio's daughter Carli, as well as Youngstown police detectives.

An autopsy report could be completed by the end of the week.

Sources say the autopsy was actually performed on Donofrio the day his body was found, and homicide has been ruled out because there were no signs of foul play.

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