THE PHONE CALL that Vito Maglio Sr.'s family had been dreading finally came on Friday.

Philadelphia police had found a man's bullet-riddled body in the murky waters of the Schuylkill in East Falls.

An investigator wanted a copy of Maglio's dental records. It had been a little more than three months since the 69-year-old Bustleton man had vanished without a trace.

Well, almost.

On Dec. 18, four days after Maglio was last seen by his relatives, the charred remains of his GMC Yukon were found in East Germantown, an area he was never known to frequent.

Crime Scene Unit investigators found a shell casing in the vehicle, and a pool of blood under the driver's seat - but no sign of Maglio.

His family was left with nothing but nightmares and questions in the weeks and months that followed.

They clung to a thin shred of hope that this ordeal could somehow have a happy ending. Police sources told the Daily News yesterday the body that cops found in the Schuylkill, at Kelly Drive near Ferry Road, belonged to Maglio. He had suffered two gunshot wounds to the head, and one to the neck, his family said. He was positively identified by his pacemaker.

"It's terrible. The whole situation is really screwed up," said Tom Thrasher, who is engaged to Maglio's daughter, Lucia.

Homicide detectives officially took over the investigation into Maglio's disappearance and death from Northeast Detectives.

As with any unsolved murder case, a $20,000 reward is available for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

One source said Homicide investigators will spend the week trying to retrace Maglio's final steps, a process that will prove difficult given the amount of time that has already elapsed.

Surveillance recordings that might have by chance captured an aspect of the case - a silhouette of the killer or killers, a glimpse at some letters on a license plate - have probably long since been deleted or recorded over, the source said.

For all intents and purposes, the case is back at square one. Investigators still don't have a clear motive, the source said.

"Some people have suggested he had mob connections, but that's not the case," the source said.

A former mechanic, Maglio owned area gas stations for years, before opening a cafe at Tyson and Castor avenues and more recently a social club, the Napoli Association in Rhawnhurst, his family said.

In November, the family said, he sold the club and retired, and dealt with a variety of health problems, including diabetes and an aortic aneurysm.

He likely would have walked his daughter, Lucia, down the aisle at her wedding in October.

"She's holding up, or trying to, at least," Thrasher said of his fiancee.

Anyone with information on Maglio's murder can contact Homicide detectives at 215-686-3334 or 3335.

On Twitter: @dgambacorta