Kansas City police are now investigating the death of a popular sports bar owner whose body was found on a walking trail in Kansas City early Thursday morning.
Police have not released the man’s identity, but family and friends confirm to 41 Action News it was Mike Darby, a co-owner of Coach’s Bar and Grill at 103rd Street and Wornall.
“It’s going to be really different around here without him. He was a force. It’s going to be very lonely,” said Kathy Pickens, a manager at the bar.
Darby’s body was found around 6:30 a.m. by a passing bicyclist on the Indian Creek Trail. At the time, he was walking his two dogs.
“We heard it on the news and raced down here. We always hoped for the best,” said Chris Carle, Darby’s business partner of 36 years.
Carle said Darby walked the trail every morning.
As a father of three children and a member of the metro cycling community, Darby was known for his generosity and kindness.
"A guy that always thought of others first," explained friend Chris Muehlbach. "I never saw Mike treat anybody bad."
Muehlbach told 41 Action News that Darby started the Tour de Hope event in Kansas City, which raised money for an organization helping local families in need.
The event served as just one example of Darby helping others.
"He was always doing fundraising for leukemia and lymphoma," Muehlbach explained. "Year-round he always did some event."
After attending a Royals game with Darby over the weekend, Muehlbach said he received Thursday's tragic news after a text from another friend.
"He said, 'I just got a call that said Mike Darby was killed,'" Muehlbach explained. "I said 'Oh that can't be.'"
Upon hearing the details of Darby's death, Muehlbach said the crime was tough to believe.
"It's just unfathomable that that's the way he went," Darby's friend said.
He was scheduled to accept an award Friday by the Phoenix Family for being “a distinguished community leader.”
In a video produced for the Phoenix Family annual fundraiser, Brian Darby said, "One of the strongest things I've taken away from working with my dad is just to remain positive. Whatever trials or tribulations we have, he's always positive."
“[He was] always very supportive of me when I would have a child or needed to leave for a child. Always made it fun, always just a great boss,” said Pickens.
Police are investigating Darby’s death as a homicide. They have yet to release a cause of death or suspect information.
The portion of the Indian Creek Trail where Thursday’s murder took place is known to law enforcement.
In the fall there were stabbings among the homeless that use the bridge at 103rd and Wornall Road for shelter.
Then in late February someone killed David Lenox in the parking lot of the Willow Creek apartments, which are directly behind Thursday’s crime scene.
At the time of his murder, Lenox was also walking his dogs.
“The circumstances are extremely comparable. It’s just a tragedy for everybody who has to go through something like this,” Mike Lenox, his son, said.
Despite Lenox’s children offering a $12,000 reward for tips, their father’s murder remains unsolved.
Mike Lenox knows there’s a long journey ahead for the Darby family.
“There’s nothing you can do to bring back your dad, but what you can do is try to give your dad some justice and we won’t stop until we get some justice,” he said.
Coach’s will remain closed until Friday as family and friends continue to grieve.
A public visitation will be held on Sunday, May 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Ascension Church. The funeral for Mike Darby will be at the same location at 9:30 a.m. Monday, May 22.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the following organizations:
- Leukemia/Lymphoma Society
- Phoenix Family
- Hope House
- Wayside Waifs
Police are working to track down a description of the suspect(s). Anyone with information is asked to call police or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).