A year later, few answers in the disappearance and death of Joey LaBute

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — This weekend marks one year since Joey LaBute, Jr., was last seen at a bar in the Short North, and his family is still searching for answers about what happened to him.

LaBute, 26, was out with friends and family members at Union Cafe the weekend of the Arnold Sports Festival. His body was found a few weeks later in the Scioto River, but autopsy and toxicology reports didn’t give much information about what might have happened.

As of March 3, 2017, Columbus police told NBC4 the case is still open as a death investigation and that they’re not prepared to call it a homicide. Sgt. Rich Weiner said people are still encouraged to call in with tips.

With the Arnold this weekend, LaBute’s family wants to remind people the investigation is still open. Two of his aunts said they hope someone who was in town last year for the Arnold is back this year and has an answer or remembers something from that weekend.

“They may have forgotten about it, but we haven’t and we want to refresh people’s memories that may have seen him,” Wendy Rider, LaBute’s aunt, said.

Rider said everyone’s emotions were high as the anniversary of his disappearance approached.

“Not having any answers just kind of brings everything right back the way that it was,” Rider said.

Another of LaBute’s aunts, Julie Holly, said she didn’t believe what happened to her nephew was an accident.

“I think there were people involved. I think that maybe it didn’t start out to be anything bad, but something went wrong,” Holly said.

While knowing what happened wouldn’t bring their nephew back, both women said they felt knowing what happened would bring closure.

Family and friends are planning a balloon release Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Goodale Park Gazebo in LaBute’s memory.

Police said LaBute’s cause will remain open until they know the cause of death. Anyone with information is encouraged to call police at (614) 645-4730.

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