HOWLAND - Setting out on the normal route through Howland, local trash collector Joe Giancola hopped on the back of the garbage truck with his partner manning the wheel on what seemed like a routine Monday morning.
"It was really cold overnight, but that's really the only thing that stuck out to me," the 26-year-old Giancola said Wednesday.
Turning left onto King Graves Road from Brittainy Oaks Trail at about 8 a.m., Giancola's seemingly mundane routine quickly turned grim.
"I saw ruts leading into a ditch and I noticed something down there," Giancola said. "I said to the driver that I think we just passed a body."
When the truck came to a stop, Giancola hopped from the back and ran to the area for a closer inspection. His instincts were correct.
"As I approached her, I knew what it was," Giancola said. "I checked her, and she was just ice cold. She even had ice forming on her body. It was pretty obvious she had been outside for a while."
Giancola flagged down a passing motorist for help and then raced across the street to the nearest home, pleading with the resident to call 911.
His certainty of what he had seen came from an earlier traumatic discovery.
In July, Giancola working with a different driver happened upon a fatal accident along state Route 305.
"I'll never forget it," Giancola said. "You see a lot of accidents working as a garbage man. Well, that car was wrapped around a tree and the guy was trapped inside. It wasn't a pretty scene."
Now, all of those awful memories came bubbling back to the surface.
As he knocked on a nearby neighbor's door, Giancola was suddenly frozen with fear.
"I was scared to death, thinking that maybe this was a loved one that I was going to have to tell about the body," Giancola said. "When I asked him if an older woman lived there with him, his face turned to stone."
The neighbor was not related, but he had witnessed a crash off of the road and into the ditch late Sunday night, taking out a road sign in the process.
"He said it was right in that same area," Giancola said. "It made sense that the crash Sunday night would be related to this."
Attempts to reach the neighbor for more details were not successful Wednesday. No one answered the door at the home and a message left was not returned.
Trumbull County 911 records indicate that Howland police were dispatched to the area about 9:52 p.m. Sunday after a report of a maroon Honda CRV went off the road into the ditch along King Graves Road N.E. just east of Howland Wilson Road.
The report notes police found no injuries and an intersection sign was knocked down. The officers did not see the woman's body, however.
A check with the Howland police records department on Wednesday determined no crash report had been filed from the Sunday evening incident. An attempt to reach Howland police Chief Paul Monroe was not successful.
Howland police, dispatched to the area a second time in about 10 hours, arrived at the scene within minutes Monday morning. Investigators later identified the deceased woman as Antoinette M. Ross, 55, of Hunt Club Trail in Howland.
Ohio State Highway Patrol has said that they believe Ross was hit by a vehicle between 9 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Sunday.
Investigators have not officially connected a specific accident to the death. For Giancola, unanswered questions continue to haunt him days later. He said Ross' body was found between 40 to 50 feet away from the destroyed road sign.
"Honestly, at first I was scared to death, but now all that pain and fear has turned to anger," Giancola said. "I'm angry for the family. If that woman was hit Sunday night and laid there all morning after the police had been there, that's just terrible.
"And, I'm not letting this go. I want answers from the police."
Giancola said Ross' family, who declined comment Wednesday evening, have reached out to him.
"They just wanted to see how I was doing after going through that," Giancola said. "For them to think of me after what they've been through, it shows what kind of people they are. I feel so sorry for that family.
"I want to know what really happened, here."