KANSAS CITY, Mo — A community of people are grieving the loss of their father, husband, friend, teacher and faith leader.
They said Charlie Criniere was killed in a hit-and-run incident on Saturday while out riding his bike.
“He’s an early-morning riser, so he gets up there, (at the) crack of dawn and spends some time alone," Ken DeBenedictis, a friend of Criniere, said. "(He) prays and bikes around the lake and gets his thoughts together before the day. It’s part of his routine."
DeBenedictis and his wife, Erika, raised their kids together with Criniere and his wife, Megan.
The Crinieres had 10 kids of their own, but DeBenedictis said Charlie, who taught at the Martin City K-8 School, was always like a second dad to the neighborhood children.
“He was always on the front lawn with his kids and our kids, the neighborhood kids playing football, playing volleyball, coming up with relay races," Erika DeBenedictis said. "He was just endless energy. Our firstborn says he was a second dad. It’s like they lost an uncle. He really loved them all very well.”
Criniere dedicated his whole life to serving children.
At home, he was a loving and energetic father. At school, where he taught math, he was a mentor and friend.
“That’s what fueled his life — is just pouring himself into children and adults, adolescents and just being there,” said Ken DeBenedictis.
A GoFundMe page for Criniere’s wife and kids has already raised more than $50,000 of their $100,000 goal.
The comments are a testament to the impact of who he was.
Police are still searching for the person responsible for Criniere’s death.
While the void he leaves behind will never truly be filled, his loved ones are turning to prayer for comfort.
“Our job is to love that person, as crazy as it sounds, to really just pray for that guy that he would feel conviction to turn himself in and do the right thing,” said Ken DeBenedictis.
A spokesperson from Martin City K8 sent KSHB 41 the following statement it also sent to families:
It is with deep regret and sadness that we inform the Martin City K8 community that one of our teachers, Mr. Charles Criniere, passed away tragically this weekend.
On behalf of our entire school community, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and all who knew and loved Mr. Criniere, during this difficult time. Mr. Criniere taught middle school math at Martin City K8. While the family undoubtedly continues to grieve, we share in their profound loss. This heartbreaking tragedy reminds all of us how precious life is.
Loss can be difficult for anyone to deal with and even if your student didn’t know Mr. Criniere, they may have some emotional reactions to hearing about this. It is very important to be able to express our feelings, especially our loss and sadness. We want you to know that we will have counselors available all day to offer support to students. Additional resources are also available through the First Step For Help Line. This is available to our families free of charge and can be reached at 1-888-279-8188. All students and/or guardians can access the Help Line at any time, as it is open 24 hours each day, every day of the year.