The American college student who had been imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year has died after returning to the U.S. in a state of unresponsive wakefulness, according to a statement from his family.
Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 after being accused of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel while visiting the country. The details of his detention and what led to the unresponsive wakefulness are still unknown, but he passed away Monday — just days after U.S. officials secured his release and returned him to his family in Ohio.
Here is the timeline of Warmbier’s ordeal.
Warmbier, then 21, was visiting North Korea as part of a tourist group arranged by Young Pioneer Tours, a tour agency based in Xian, China. He was arrested on Jan. 2 at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on the last day of a five-day tour.
Three weeks later, North Korea announced it was holding Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, for a “hostile act” against the state. In late February, Warmbier appeared in a video released by North Korea’s state news agency.
“I committed my crime,” he said in the video, asking for forgiveness. It is not known if Warmbier had delivered those statements under duress.
The video could not be independently verified.
Warmbier, of Wyoming, Ohio, reportedly said in a tearful statement ahead of the trial in Pyongyang that he tried to steal the poster in exchange for a $10,000 used car.
“I have made the worst mistake of my life,” the student said in a March 16 court hearing.
He also said that the Z Society, a secret club at the University of Virginia, promised him membership if he was successful at stealing the poster, according to The New York Times, citing North Korean state media. A member at the Z society at UVA that the organization had never been in contact with Warmbier.