Otto Warmbier, the American student arrested in North Korea about a year and a half ago for stealing a poster with propaganda slogans, was released from captivity. A week before his release, his parents learned that their son had been in a coma since March 2016.

Warmbier's arrest in North Korea

Warmbier’s arrest in North Korea Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News

American student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested in North Korea for attempting to steal a sign with a political message hanging in the hotel where he was staying, was released after more than 17 months in captivity. Upon his release, Warmbier‘s parents were stunned to discover that their son had been in a coma for more than a year. Apparently, Warmbier fell ill with botulism and lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill at some point after his trial in March 2016.

Warmbier’s parents said in a statement that “we have been told that he has been in that condition since March of 2016. We learned of this only one week ago.” Warmbier’s parents only heard from their son once during his incarceration, in a letter on March 2, 2016.

An emotional Warmbier during 2016 press conference

An emotional Warmbier during 2016 press conference Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has confirmed that Warmbier is on his way to the United States and that the State Department is still negotiating the release of three other Americans detained by North Korea.

Otto Warmbier, a Cincinatti, Ohio native, was a student at the University of Virginia when he joined a tour group for a trip to North Korea. While there, Warmbier allegedly tried to steal a poster with a political message and was arrested in January 2016 by North Korean authorities at the Pyongyang airport before boarding a flight home. During a televised trial, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.