SCHENECTADY : Road rally for missing kids set
Local teen may get national exposure
In what could be the widest media exposure yet in the search for Craig Frear, a national road rally for missing children will come to Schenectady this fall.
The Fireball Run has aided in the recovery of 38 children so far, as its teams race to pass out thousands of missing-children posters along an eight-day route.
The road rally is ostensibly about scavenger hunts that explore the history of each city along the route. But the hunts aren’t much of a mystery — and Fireball Run even provides a hotline that drivers can call to get their next location if they can’t fi gure it out.
The real focus is on the missing children. At each stop, drivers hand out posters. The cars are emblazoned with the faces of missing children from the drivers’ hometowns. Wherever they go, they talk about the child they want to fi nd.
Although the teams are coming to Schenectady, they won’t be passing out pictures of Scotia’s Craig Frear unless a local person joins the race. And that’s expensive — it costs $7,500 to participate, and the person must be a business owner, business executive, civil servant or member of the military. The idea is to encourage those who have a leadership role in their community so they can continue their efforts after the race.
But the Schenectady Film Commission, which is sponsoring the visit to Schenectady, plans to use the event to highlight Frear.
“They won’t be handing out posters of him, but we will,” said co-chairman and local historian Don Rittner. “We will call attention to him, because he’s our local missing child.”
He’s hoping someone local will also join the race, giving the Frear search national exposure.
The race is filmed and shown live through Universal Studios.
Rittner volunteered Schenectady partly because he tries to highlight the city’s history whenever possible. The scavenger hunt in Schenectady will focus on the city’s achievements in science, manufacturing and television.
“It’ll be a lot of fi rsts,” Rittner said. “In terms of PR for the city, it’s great.”
But he also has a personal connection to Fireball Run’s mission.
Four decades ago, Rittner’s exwife vanished with their children one day. He arrived to pick them up and found their apartment empty.
“For two weeks, I had no idea what had happened to my kids,” he said. “I know that feeling, that pit in your stomach.”
It turned out she had taken the children to California. They were reunited two weeks later.
“Fortunately, it all turned out,” he said.
But he never forgot what it was like to have no idea where his children were and whether they were safe.
That’s the fear that Frear’s family has been living with since the day he vanished on his way home from an ex-girlfriend’s house.
On June 26, 2004, 17-year-old Frear drove to his ex’s house in Scotia. He’d been having a tough time: months earlier, he had been fired from his job at Price Chopper, and now he and his girlfriend had broken up. From her house, he called his parents to say he was heading home.
Then the day got worse. His mother told him she’d found out that he had been fired. Frear had been hiding that from his parents by pretending to go to work.
Frear said he’d be home in 15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to drive from the ex’s house to his parents’ house.
But instead, he left his car parked at the ex’s and walked into the woods, where a network of well-used paths could lead him home.
Two students told police later they saw Frear walking along the railroad tracks. But he never came home.
His body was never found, despite many searches of the area and the Mohawk River. But state police said his Social Security number has not been used since his disappearance, indicating that if he is alive, he has not held a job or gotten a driver’s license.
He didn’t have his wallet with him when he disappeared, and his license had recently been stolen at school. State police said they believe he did not kill himself. They suspect foul play or an accidental death.