Otto Warmbier did something in 2015 that changed his life and the lives of his family forever. The 22-year-old University of Virginia sophomore honor student went on a five-day trip to North Korea as a healthy man. He returned 17 months later in a coma on June 13, 2017. He died six days later on June 19, according to CNN.

Warmbier had been accused of stealing a political propaganda poster from the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang where he had been staying with his Young Pioneer Tours group, a Chinese company that advertised budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from. The company announced last Tuesday that it would no longer take Americans to North Korea.

To the North Koreans, the theft of the poster was a crime of hostility against the state. The UVA student was arrested at the airport when he was about to board a plane to return home. For this act, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016.

Warmbier had not been seen after he pleaded for his life during a one-hour trial. Even the Swedish embassy who acted as his behalf was not allowed to see him. It was reported that the young man had been in a coma for an entire year since April 2016 which was a month after his sentencing. The North Korean said the coma resulted from botulism after Warmbier took a sleeping pill.

Back on American soil

Otto Warmbier was back on American soil on June 13 quite different from the way he was when he left in 2015. He was admitted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where the doctors believed he suffered extensive irreversible brain damage.

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They questioned the botulism theory as the cause of the coma.

The parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, confirmed the death by saying their son had completed his journey home and was at peace when he died. They said when Otto returned to Cincinnati he was unable to speak, see or react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable. Within a day, his countenance of anguish had changed because he was at peace being back at home. The parents thanked the hospital staff for being attentive to their son and people around the world who had prayed for their family during their terrible ordeal.

Political reactions

President Donald Trump said Otto Warmbier was the victim of a brutal regime. Former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is an expert on North Korea and has helped free other Americans. He said in an interview on Monday that he had met with North Korean diplomats 20 times during Warmbier's imprisonment, and no one voiced anything about his ill health. He is calling on North Korea to release the other three Americans and a Canadian who are still being held. Additionally, Richardson wants to know what happened to Warmbier.