YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Since his brother Dean disappeared, Mark Donnadio is missing his shadow.
They are native East Siders from Atkinson Avenue, roofers for over 20 years, and they played in the same rock band — Dean on guitar because “he couldn’t handle the bass” and Mark on bass.
There was never a holiday or birthday that went by without a phone call from Dean.
“He would call you on St. Patrick’s Day, and we aren’t even Irish,” Mark said.
Dean’s wife, Kim, said it has been 15 years since she has seen her husband, but whenever she sees a crew working on a roof, she immediately starts scanning for him.
“I still stop to this day if I see a guy on the roof with his shirt around his head, like Dean did,” she said. “I stop my car and walk up to him to see who it is.”
Donnadio has been missing since September of 2005 but was not reported missing until January of 2006. He was 40 when he was last seen.
Kim said she did not report her husband missing right away because it was not uncommon for him to be gone months at a time. She said Dean lived a “double life” because of substance abuse issues and that even though she loved him, she said she was glad that part of his life was closed to her.
Detective Sgt. Dave Sweeney is the lead investigator on the case and has been spearheading the department’s recent emphasis on missing person cases. He said it would have been better if the original investigators had known earlier that Dean was missing, but he said he has to make do with what he has now.
“As with any investigation, delays impede progress,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said he has entered Dean’s DNA and other records into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NAMUS, a nationwide database that is often used by investigators.
According to the NAMUS website, there are at least 11 cases Youngstown police have submitted to the database.
Sweeney said there are rumors about the fate of Dean, some more credible or believable than others. He checked them all out, however, and none of them turned out to be true.
Mark, 59, was honest about his brother, saying “he had his demons,” which was chiefly alcohol, yet he was quick to add his brother was a hard worker who enjoyed family and had a good heart.
“He was a good man,” Mark said. “He had his demons. He could drink all day after work. But when it was time to work, he worked.”
“He was a family man. There wasn’t a birthday or a holiday that I did not get a call from him. That’s how I knew something was missing because he would not go without talking to his family for that long.”
Along with another brother on drums, they had their own band — The Three D’s — and they would play rock or soft rock tunes from bands like the Eagles that they grew up with in the ’70s.
They belong to a musical family. An older brother played guitar as well as their father. Dean is also the father of two girls who have grown into adulthood.
Dean took the deaths of his parents and a brother hard, his drinking getting worse when his mother passed away in 1989.
Kim, who was Dean’s second wife after his first wife died, said she met Dean through her sister. The native West Sider and Chaney grad said Dean never got help for his substance abuse problem because he never thought he needed it.
She would not say what she thinks happened to her husband, but she did say she is afraid of meeting the same fate she thinks he met.
The last time she spoke to her husband was September of 2005 when he came back to her home after he was released from jail on a burglary charge. She said she told him to leave because he was clearly under the influence of something and she did not want to put up with it anymore.
Several days later, Sept. 25, 2005 — she said she remembers the date and the details because it was close to their anniversary and her birthday — she was on her way home from work to make a quintessential West Side dinner of stuffed cabbage when she saw her husband walking through the entrance of a Mahoning Avenue drive-through.
Kim has been on disability after a fall on the ice gave her a broken back in 2008. She said there has been no one else since Dean.
Sweeney said he is looking to hear from anyone who may have heard even the slightest of details about what happened to Dean. He said often, it can be a small detail that helps investigators crack open a case.
“Even if it’s small, it could help the case,” Sweeney said. “Sometimes those little things matter.”
Mark, with a gravelly yet friendly voice, now works three jobs because roofing is not the profession for a 59-year-old man. He sold his bass but said he doesn’t hurt for work because of all the contacts he made working off-season jobs as a roofer, such as painting or installing carpet.
“Anything with your hand, I can do. And Dean could, too.”
The uncertainty of not knowing what happened to his brother takes a toll on him, Mark said.
“It’s part of you…” he said pausing as he tried to gather himself over the phone through tears. “That leaves. It’s like a shadow. You always have your shadow there. It’s just an ache. It’s a difficult feeling.
“I don’t know what kind of pain he went through.”
Anyone with information on the case can call the Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911; CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE; or Guy Burney at the Community Initiative To Reduce Violence at 330-742-8779.