Warmbier, Student Freed by North Korea, Dies at 22 | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Warmbier, Student Freed by North Korea, Dies at 22

The family thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treating him

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    American student Otto Warmbier has died at 22, days after his release from North Korea. Warmbier was medically evacuated from North Korea on June 13, and had been in a coma since March 2016. He was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts

    (Published Monday, June 19, 2017)

    Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma last week after almost a year and a half in captivity, died Monday, his family said.

    The 22-year-old "has completed his journey home," relatives said in a statement. They did not cite a specific cause of death.

    "Unfortunately, the awful, torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today," his parents said.

    Doctors had described his condition as a state of "unresponsive wakefulness" and said he suffered a "severe neurological injury" of unknown cause.

    'I'm So Proud of Otto': Father of Student Held by N. Korea

    [NATL] 'I'm So Proud of Otto': Father of Student Released in Coma by North Korea

    Fred Warmbier, the father of the American college student who spent the last TK months as a prisoner in North Korea, Otto Warmbier, spoke to the press on June 14. Otto is in stable condition.

    (Published Thursday, June 15, 2017)

    His father, Fred Warmbier, said last week that he believed Otto had been fighting for months to stay alive to return to his family. Their statement Monday said he looked uncomfortable and anguished after arriving June 13, but his countenance later changed.

    "He was peace. He was home, and we believe he could sense that," they said.

    Warmbier was convicted of subversion for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group. He was put before North Korea officials and journalists for a televised "confession."

    "I have made the worst mistake of my life!" he exclaimed, choking up as he begged to be allowed to reunite with his parents and two younger siblings. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor.

    The University of Virginia student was held for more than 17 months. His family said they were told he had been a coma since soon after his March 2016 sentencing.

    Doctors said he suffered extensive loss of brain tissue and "profound weakness and contraction" of his muscles, arms and legs. His eyes opened and blinked but without any sign that he understood verbal commands or his surroundings.

    Tillerson Confirms North Korea Has Released American Student

    [NATL] Tillerson Confirms North Korea Has Released American Student

    American college student Otto Warmbier has been released from North Korea after being held captive there since January 2016, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed during a Senate hearing on the State Department budget.

    (Published Tuesday, June 13, 2017)

    Unresponsive wakefulness is a new medical term for persistent vegetative state. Patients in this condition who have survived a coma can open their eyes, but they do not respond to commands. People can live in a state of unresponsive wakefulness for many years with the chances of recovery depending on the extent of the brain injury.

    North Korea said Warmbier went into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. Doctors in Cincinnati said they found no active sign of botulism or evidence of beatings.

    His parents told The Associated Press in a statement the day of his release that they wanted "the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime."

    Fred Warmbier praised his son's "performance" and President Donald Trump's administration. He was critical of the approach to his son's situation taken by former President Barack Obama's administration.

    In a White House statement, Trump said, "Lot of bad things happened, but at least we got him home to be with his parents." He called North Korea a "brutal regime."

    The younger Warmbier grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming. He was salutatorian of his 2013 class at a highly rated high school, and was on the soccer team, among other activities.

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    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for North Korea's "financial isolation" at a U.N. Security Council meeting in April 2017. Tillerson also threatened sanctions on countries that continue to trade with North Korea, singling out China.

    (Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017)

    He had had planned to study in China in his third year of college and heard about Chinese travel companies offering trips to North Korea.

    Young Pioneer Tours described itself as providing "budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from." Its travel options also included Iran, Iraq and former Soviet countries.

    On Tuesday, the group said on its Facebook page that it would no longer take U.S. citizens to North Korea. It explained that the risk American tourists face in visiting the country "has become too high."

    Warmbier was in the process of leaving North Korea on Jan. 2, 2016, when he was detained at the airport.

    The State Department warns against travel to North Korea. While nearly all Americans who have been there have left without incident, visitors can be suddenly seized and face lengthy incarceration for what might seem like minor infractions.

    Jeffrey Fowle, also from Ohio, was detained in 2014 when he intentionally left a Bible in a night club. Fowle was freed after six months. He said he was kept isolated most of the time but not physically abused. He and others freed from North Korea have said they were coached and coerced into giving confessions.

    Dennis Rodman Makes Trip Back to North Korea

    [NATL] Dennis Rodman Makes Trip Back to North Korea

    Dennis Rodman, the former NBA bad boy who has palled around with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, flew back to Pyongyang on June 13 for the first time in Donald Trump's presidency. He said he is "just trying to open a door" on a mission that he thinks his former "celebrity apprentice" boss would support.

    Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.

    (Published Tuesday, June 13, 2017)

    Three Americans remain held in North Korea. The U.S. government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

    At the time of Warmbier's release, a White House official said Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy on North Korea, had met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway the previous month. Such direct consultations between the two governments are rare because they do not have formal diplomatic relations.

    Yun learned about Warmbier's condition in a meeting a week before the release from the North Korean ambassador at the U.N. in New York. Yun then was dispatched to North Korea and visited Warmbier June 12 with two doctors and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds.

    His hometown had rallied around his family, wrapping school-color ribbons around trees and utility poles lining Wyoming's main road. People chanted "Otto Strong!" and "We love you!" after his father's news conference last week at the high school.

    Warmbier was "generous, outgoing, sweet, smart as a whip, just an overall good guy," Danica White, his sophomore English teacher, recalled last week. He brought "this brightness" and excitement to the classroom.

    On Monday evening, she said: "Otto will be dearly missed."

    Man Visits Disneyland 2,000 Times In a Row

    [NATL] Man Visits Disneyland 2,000 Times In a Row

    A Huntington Beach man has set a record for most consecutive visits to Disneyland. Jeff Reitz, 44, has visited the park 2,000 times in a row. Reitz started visiting the park every day when he was unemployed and wanted to keep his spirits up. Employed at the VA now, Reitz continues to visit every day after work because it helps him to decompress after a long day. His favorite ride is the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which he first rode with his mom when he was 2 years old. 

    (Published Friday, June 23, 2017)