After suffering for 17 months in North Korea and more than a year in a coma, University of Virginia honor student Otto F. Warmbier died on Monday at the Cincinnati hospital. President Donald Trump slammed the "brutality" of the North Korean regime and expressed his condolences to Warmbier's family.
Fred Warmbier, Otto's father, said in a statement that his 22-year-old son was "unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands" when he returned to Cincinnati on June 13. He added that his son was very uncomfortable and anguished. On Monday at 2:20 P.M, Mr. Warmbier said his son died and "has completed his journey home."
At a public event last week, President Trump described North Korea as a "brutal regime." But he assured that his administration "we'll be able to handle it." He praised Secretary of State Rex Tillerson efforts, which hastened Warmbier's rescue mission, to bring back the 22-year-old student on U.S. soil.
Secretary Tillerson said the United States holds North Korea "accountable" for the unjust treatment of its prisoners. According to North Korea officials, Warmbier fell into a coma after getting botulism and taking sleeping pills in March 2016. However, investigators found no evidence of botulism and sleeping pills after examining Warmbier's body.
"Let us state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong Un regime," US Sen. John McCain said in a statement.
Warmbier was detained at Pyongyang's airport early January 2016 after authorities found a propaganda poster in his baggage. Two months after his arrest, he appeared on state television admitting to the crime and begging for forgiveness. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the country.
Since their son's arrest, Mr. and Mrs.Warmbier who live in the tiny city of Wyoming, Ohio, had not heard anything from their child. They described Otto as a "fighter," adding that they believe he fought to stay alive from his perpetrators.
"Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day, the countenance of his face changed - he was at peace. He was home, and we believe he could sense that" Fred Warmbier said in a statement.
In recent years, North Korea has held several American citizens. The regime persecutes foreigners for spying, illegal entry, and Christian beliefs. In fact, one American was arrested and accused in the country for leaving a Bible in his hotel.