CINCINNATI, OHIO (CNN) – Otto Warmbier, the American college student who spent 17 months in detention in North Korea, died Monday afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio, his family said in a statement.
When Warmbier was returned to his family June 13, he was unable to speak, see, or react to verbal commands, a statement from Warmbier’s family released Monday read.
“He looked very uncomfortable- almost anguished,” the statement read. “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.”
Warmbier was treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after returning to the U.S. Last week, doctors caring for Warmbier said that he suffered from a condition they described as “unresponsive wakefulness” or persistent vegetative state. The syndrome’s symptoms included no voluntary movement or awareness of surroundings. Warmbier was able to open his eyes and blink spontaneously but showed no signs of understanding language or responding to verbal commands.
Warmbier was a student at the University of Virginia when he was detained at the Pyongyang airport on his way home from a tour of North Korea in Jan. 2016.
North Korean authorities claimed they had security footage of him trying to steal a banner containing a political slogan that was hanging from a wall of his Pyongyang hotel.
That was used as evidence in his hourlong trial. He was found guilty of committing a “hostile act” against the country and sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor. It was the last time he was seen publicly before this week.