Updated: Mike Darby, co-owner of Coach’s Bar & Grill in south KC, found slain on trail

Kansas City police are investigating the slaying of a sports bar owner whose body was found Thursday morning on a walking trail between Wornall and Holmes roads in south Kansas City.

Police have not released the victim’s name, but his business partner and employees identified him as Mike Darby, co-owner of Coach’s Bar & Grill at 103rd Street and Wornall Road.

Chris Carle, Darby’s business partner, said she and some Coach’s employees had seen media reports that a man’s body had been found by a cyclist about 6:30 a.m. along the Indian Creek Trail. The man had apparently been slain as he walked his two black dogs.

Carle said she knew that Darby had two black Labs.

“We heard it on the news and raced down here,” she said. “We always hoped for the best.”

She said Darby had been her partner for 36 years.

“His family is devastated as well,” Carle said. She said he has a big family with many grandchildren.

“He’s always thought of other people before himself,” she said, “and he’s a really loud voice in this community for so many different charities and a very selfless man.”

Darby was an avid cyclist and recently participated in the Tour de Hope charity bike ride that raises money for Kansas City-based Hope Center.

Samuel Swearngin, president of Cycling Kansas City, said he has known Darby for more than 25 years. He said Darby was a prominent member of the nonprofit organization.

“We are all stunned,” Swearngin said.

Darby originated the idea for Tour de Hope in 2012. It’s one of the few major organized rides that travels through the urban core, Swearngin said.

“It’s a sad day in the cycling community,” he said.

Jasper Mirabile, owner of Jasper’s Restaurant, described Darby as a family-oriented person who cared deeply about the community.

“He was a great family man, a friend to everyone in the neighborhood, and a great businessman,” Mirabile said. “Every time you saw Mike, he had a smile on his face. He was always concerned about his family, his staff and his customers.”

Mirabile planned to host a meeting Thursday at his restaurant to discuss Darby’s death with other business owners in the area.

“A local businessman just walking the trail with his dogs minding his own business and to be slain, it’s unbelievable,” Mirabile said. “It’s so tragic. We’re just all in shock right now.”

Cathy Pickens, who worked as a manager at the bar for 28 years, said Darby was more than her boss, he was her friend.

“I don’t know of too many people that have been at one location for 28 years,” Pickens said. “I can truly say that I have worked here so long because of Mike and Chris.

“They’re just great people to work for. They’ve always been supportive of me,” she said.

Pickens said Darby afforded her time away from the job to handle her personal business, including attending to her children.

Darby was always willing to pitch in and help when needed, regardless of the task, she said.

“It was not uncommon, he would always say, ‘What do you need?’ ” Pickens said. “I would say, ‘I need to do the dishes,’ and he would do the dishes.

“Just always made it fun. Always just a great boss, always did everything I asked of him when I needed things,” she said.

The body was found about a half-mile east of the bar. Police are investigating the death as a homicide. The cause of death has not been released.

Indian Creek Trail is one of the longest walking and biking trails in Kansas City. The asphalt and concrete trail stretches 26 miles, connecting Jackson and Johnson counties. It starts just south on Bannister Road in Kansas City and continues to the west to Hampton Park at South Warwick Street in Olathe.

It is the 44th homicide reported this year in Kansas City. It’s second time in three months that a dog-walker was found killed in the south Kansas City neighborhood.

David Lenox, 66, was found fatally shot just a few steps away from his front door at the Willow Creek Apartments near 99th and Walnut streets.

In August, a pedestrian alerted police after discovering the body of John Palmer, 54, of Kansas City.

Anyone with information should call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).

Glenn E. Rice: 816-234-4341, @GRicekcstar

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg