The Sanford community rallied around his family during the 45 days his daughter was missing, Kenneth Rear said Thursday, the day after Kerry Rear’s body was found.
Police and game wardens spent hours searching the woods for his daughter. Friends searched alongside officials. Others who knew her shared with her family stories of how she touched their lives.
“There’s such an outpouring of love from this community in Sanford,” Kenneth Rear said in phone interview from Florida on Thursday.
Kerry Rear, who had lived in Sanford for the past few years, was last seen Jan. 22 and was reported missing by her father on Jan. 29. Maine Warden Service Sgt. Tim Spahr found her body Wednesday afternoon in a wooded area off Country Club Road, about 200 yards from the convenience store where she was last seen, disoriented and without shoes.
Kenneth Rear said his 40-year-old daughter was extremely generous and put others first, despite challenges she faced in her life.
“She was the warmest, kindest person that we know,” he said. “She would go to great lengths to do for other people. Her friends expressed nothing but love for her.”
Kerry Rear was 9 when her family moved to New Hampshire from the west coast of Canada. She went on to attend the University of New Hampshire and moved to Maine with her former husband, with whom she had two daughters.
After she was reported missing, Rear’s parents, Kenneth and Sheila Rear of Bradenton, Florida, appeared at a news conference and offered a $10,000 reward for her safe return. They said their daughter had struggled with alcoholism and an unspecified mental illness, but always stayed in touch with her family.
“Despite the challenges she faced, she always thought of other people and of her children constantly,” her father said.
In the days after she was reported missing, Rear’s friends in Sanford held a vigil in a local park. One posted a message online describing how Kerry Rear saved her life, Kenneth Rear said.
On Thursday, Kenneth Rear praised the police officers, game wardens and others who searched “tirelessly” for his daughter.
“The entire Sanford Police Department performed above and beyond the call of duty, specifically Detective Eric Small. He performed more like a friend than a police officer,” he said.
Police say the area where Kerry Rear was found Wednesday had been searched before, but weather and environmental factors made the search challenging.
On Wednesday, Sanford police and the Warden Service returned to the area near Country Club Road as part of their ongoing search for Rear, said Small, who led the investigation. Police also had searched the area on foot on Jan. 31 with help from the fire department and game wardens. On Feb. 6, a Maine State Police K-9 team also searched the area.
Snow, wind and cold temperatures can make it difficult for everyone involved in the searches, including dogs, Small said.
“The searches can be challenging due to weather conditions and other environmental factors,” he said Thursday. “Often, if you don’t come right up on a person, they will go undiscovered, which is the case here.”
Kerry Rear’s body was found in a wooded area behind the Lil’ Mart store, just off the heavily traveled intersection of routes 109 and 4. Small said the undeveloped land includes some swampy areas, but that Rear was found in a wooded section. He said there is “no indication of anything suspicious or out of the ordinary at this point.”
“When someone is missing in the woods, you can walk by them 5 feet away and not see them,” he said.
Kerry Rear, whose family said she had been struggling with mounting issues in her life, was last seen on foot in south Sanford near the Route 4 rotary. She entered the Lil’ Mart, seemingly disoriented, and inquired about making a bank deposit. She left the store for a few minutes before returning to ask the same questions again, police said.
She left the store on foot and headed toward Country Club Road wearing sweatpants, a winter jacket and no shoes.
In the days that followed, there was freezing rain and light snow in the area, according to National Weather Service data. Small said that before Feb. 6 there was some snow on the ground in the woods, but it was limited to shady areas. Heavy snow fell throughout February, obscuring her body from searchers who canvassed the area.
“I do not know if she was covered in snow at the time of the first two searches, but certainly she was snow-covered after Feb. 6 due to the heavy snow in the month of February,” Small said.
Small said everyone involved in the case “worked tirelessly to bring Kerry home to her family.”
“Her being located is a tribute to the hard work of the Maine Warden Service and detectives from my department. Both agencies took a never-quit approach to finding her, that is without question,” he said. “Although it is not the outcome anyone wanted, we are glad she was found and that her family can have closure to a tragic situation.”
Kerry Rear’s body was taken to the state Medical Examiner’s Office to confirm her identity and cause of death.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: