When Nancy Fruechting’s 15-year-old son Zach went missing Monday, she turned for help to the very website that many parents worry their children spend too much unsupervised time on — Facebook.
Although authorities have not provided any indication that foul play is suspected, the story of her son’s leaving school in Andover, where the family moved from Marion last spring, and not returning home has spread like wildfire.
Requests to be on the lookout for him and reports of his being spotted have ended up on such far-flung websites as the Wichita Eagle’s breaking news page and the Facebook page of the Tea Party of Kansas.
Zach, who until last May lived with his family in Marion, voluntarily left Andover Central High School with another 15-year-old, Alanna Ardanche, on Monday, according to a release from the Andover Police Department, who asked for the public’s help locating them.
The two were last seen around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., Capt. Justin Phillips said in the release. They were believed to be traveling together and in possession of a handgun.
After his mother made an initial posting on Facebook explaining the situation, friends and family shared her post, which ended up being picked up by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the U.S. have shown us support.”
Because of the help, she said, a woman from El Dorado was able to identify Zach and Alanna and notify her that he had been sighted before police reported a later sighting in Kansas City. UPDATE AFTER PRINT DEADLINE: After the sighting Tuesday, police reported locating the two teens Wednesday morning at a Wendy's restaurant in Kansas City.
“One of the things I was most impressed by was how the Andover Police Department took the bull by the horns, working tirelessly,” Nancy Fruechting said.
She said Andover police had been working with Marion, Augusta, El Dorado, and Wichita police departments, as well as the Butler County Sheriff’s Department.
Until 2010, Zach’s father, Mike, was director of technology at the Marion-Florence school district. He now serves as network engineer for the Andover public schools.