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POLICE SEEK TO IDENTIFY HOW WOMAN FOUND IN ATTIC DIED

For her family, the question of Donna J. Gainer's whereabouts finally was answered Friday with the recovery of her body from the attic of a vacant East Side house.

But police still need more answers.

Ms. Gainer, 43, of Rickert Avenue, was reported missing last Sept. 25 by her daughter. She was last seen two nights earlier, when she left her boyfriend's Northland Avenue home to go to the store.

An autopsy Friday morning by the Erie County medical examiner's office failed to pinpoint a cause of death, said Capt. Joseph Riga, Homicide Bureau chief.

"We don't know what caused her death," Riga said. Nor could it be determined when she died because the body was badly decomposed. But, he added, police are considering the circumstances under which she was found to be suspicious.

Police are hoping toxicology test results will answer some questions. Test results usually take at least several weeks.

Following her disappearance, Ms. Gainer's family launched a search for her, and even offered a reward for information on her whereabouts. It was a call about a foul odor at 154 French St. that led police to Ms. Gainer's body early Friday morning. It was found in the attic of the vacant home.

Riga credited the forensic skills of Detective Sgt. Henry Smardz with the quick identification of the body. Despite the condition of the remains, Smardz was able to obtain a fingerprint, which confirmed the identity.

Otherwise, dental records or DNA samples could have been used -- and taken weeks to confirm.

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