SHENANGO VALLEY —
As the family of Mark Goodrich Jr. mourns the boy’s death and searches for answers, police in three departments continue to try and piece together what happened before the 12-year-old drowned Thursday afternoon in the Shenango River.
On Monday night, hundreds of people gathered for a vigil in the grassy area by Ravine Place in Sharon, where Mark’s mother Sheila Goodrich lives.
Mourners included several children who were friends with Mark or knew him from C.M. Musser Elementary School, where he’d just completed sixth grade. He also was involved in activities at several churches in the Shenango Valley.
He touched many lives, as evidenced by a chorus of condolences voiced by the mourners.
He was a “cool kid to hang out with” who “had a trademark smile” and was always respectful to adults, the kids said.
People lighted candles that were arranged in a circle around a framed 8-by-10 photo of Mark flanked by stuffed animals and surrounded by children, some with teary-eyed.
Funeral arrangements for Mark remain incomplete, as does the official investigation into what led up to his death.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do any more than what we’re doing,” Brookfield Police Chief Dan Faustino said Monday afternoon.
His department is working with Sharon and Southwest Mercer County Regional police in Pennsylvania.
Sharon police Chief Mike Menster said they believe the boy drowned at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday while swimming in the river with at least two other boys.
Mark was reported missing at 9:18 p.m. Thursday to Sharon police. His family members said they spent the night searching and by Friday afternoon they told police they’d heard Mark may have gone swimming in Masury.
Menster confirmed that Mark’s drowning was not reported in the hours family, friends and police searched for him.
Mark was found at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday in a shallow “spillway” of water beneath a small falls in the river in Farrell on property of NLMK Steel, Southwest detective Capt. Doug Long said.
Long attended the autopsy Sunday in Erie and said there were no signs of foul play on the body.
“No blunt force trauma, no bruising, no strangulation,” Long said.
Mark Goodrich Sr. has said repeatedly that he believes his son was pushed or held under the water by another youth.
Menster said it’s “a natural human reaction” when there’s a tragedy to look for someone to blame.
Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle is holding off on ruling on the manner of Mark Jr.’s death until the police probe is complete.
Their probe uncovered low-quality surveillance camera footage from NLMK Steel that shows boys swimming in the river.
“There were kids there all day long,” Menster said of a spot in the river along U.S. Route 62 near the state line that’s a popular place for kids. “From what we see on the videotape, it’s just some kids swimming. There doesn’t even appear to be any sort of horseplay.”
Mark’s body was in the water for about 42 hours and traveled about a quarter-mile downriver from where he’d been swimming near a rusted railroad trestle where the waterway snakes into Masury.
That stretch of the river ranges from 3 or 4 feet deep to 15 feet in some places with underwater caves and debris along the bottom, Menster said divers told him.
“It’s a very irregular bottom surface and there’s a lot of debris,” he said. “There are places in the river where the current almost swirls.”
There are no indications of an assault on the video, Menster said, and the autopsy didn’t uncover any signs of a struggle before Mark drowned.
Menster said his department has interviewed and re-interviewed “at least 15 people.”
They include other youth who were swimming in the river and people who came in contact with Mark in the hours before his death. Police also talked to kayakers who were boating in the area, Menster said.
The interviews are tough because some involve talking to youth between 9 and 13 years old, Faustino said.
Brookfield enlisted help from a Trumbull County prosecutor’s office investigator with experience dealing with traumatized youth, Faustino said.
It’s too early to say what happened, Menster said.
“We’re not done yet,” Menster said. “We’re trying to do a very thorough, comprehensive investigation.”
Probe continues; friends mourn
SHENANGO VALLEY —
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