Down the driveway, and poof! Exxon executive vanishes. Police,family baffled.


NEW YORK -- It has been 16 days since Sidney J. Reso, the president of Exxon Corp.'s International Division, bade goodbye to his wife, left his expensive home in a New Jersey suburb for a routine 10-minute trip to his office -- and vanished.

So far, an intensive manhunt by police and the FBI has turned up few clues, and there are fears he may have been kidnapped.

After he failed to arrive at Exxon Co. International in nearby Florham Park, N.J., on the morning of April 29, Mr. Reso's car was found with its motor running at the end of his 250-foot-long driveway in suburban Morris Township, N.J. The door was open on the driver's side with his overcoat inside.

Exxon has received a ransom note from a group calling itself "Rainbow Warriors," but investigators have not been able to determine whether the note is a hoax.

The company has not received any pictures or videotapes indicating whether Mr. Reso, 57, an Exxon corporate veteran, is being held captive.

"It remains a mystery," says an official of the Morris County prosecutor's office, which is deeply involved in the case.

Rainbow Warrior is the name of an environmental protest ship that French security agents sank in New Zealand in 1985. Greenpeace, the international environmental group that owned the vessel, has denied any knowledge about Mr. Reso's disappearance.

"If indeed there is an environmental group, they should know his feelings and concerns about the environment," said Mr. Reso's wife, Patricia, in a televised public plea recently. "If they did, they would not have chosen him."

In a comment to the Newark Star-Ledger, Mrs. Reso also said she was concerned that her husband did not have his medicine with him. She said Mr. Reso had suffered a heart attack several years ago.

Exxon has announced that it will pay a "substantial reward" for Mr. Reso's safe return. The company did not specify the amount.

Exxon says that its decision to offer the reward was made to solicit information and said that special telephone numbers had been set up to receive confidential calls. An Exxon spokesman yesterday declined to comment on whether any significant information had been received.

In her latest television plea Wednesday night, Mrs. Reso described her husband as a courageous man. "He's got a strong faith . . . He's honest and he's good," she said.

Mrs. Reso explained that she discovered the car in the driveway after her husband's secretary telephoned to say that a neighbor had seen the auto.

Immediately after Mr. Reso's disappearance, police, using dogs and helicopters, scoured the area around the executive's home. When that proved fruitless, investigators began the tedious process of scrutinizing all aspects of his business and personal life, including his appointments and his travels on behalf of Exxon.

Investigators stress that they have no concrete proof the top Exxon executive was kidnapped. At a news conference last week at which the existence of the ransom note was revealed, Morris County Prosecutor W. Michael Murphy Jr. stressed "it is the desire of all parties that Mr. Reso be returned unharmed in an expeditious fashion."

Mr. Murphy said the disappearance was still being classified as a missing person case and declined to reveal what progress had been made.

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