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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announces the release of Otto Warmbier from detention in North Korea. Warmbier died soon after his return home.

Courtesy U.S. Embassy in South Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announces the release of Otto Warmbier from detention in North Korea. Warmbier died soon after his return home.

Ohioan dies after release from North Korea

Otto Warmbier, a Cincinnati native, made headlines this summer as North Korea released him in a semi-conscious state to the United States, 17 months after being arrested and accused of stealing a propaganda poster by North Korean officials.

Warmbier was on the trip with a tour group and staying in the Yanggakdo International Hotel prior to his arrest. Following a night out with friends, Warmbier allegedly tried to take a poster off a wall in a staff-only area of the hotel, although the evidence was not strong.

The day his group was meant to leave the country, Warmbier was detained and arrested at Pyongyang International Airport. His companions were allowed to return to the United States without conflict.

Warmbier was convicted of his crime and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016. Following this news, there were no reports about Warmbier for over a year.

Then in June 2017, amid increasing tensions between the United States and North Korea, Warmbier was released from the Asian nation, but in a nearly comatose condition. He arrived home on June 13 in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness,” similar to a coma.

Warmbier was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treatment of his condition.

Though North Korea claimed he had contracted botulism from a sleeping pill which caused this condition, the evidence suggested he had gone into some sort of cardiac or pulmonary arrest. Over time, this could lead to bodily deterioration and neurological damage.

Warmbier died at the medical center on June 19. His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, requested that an autopsy not be performed. They released a statement expressing their sadness and anger over what happened to their son, a terrible casualty in the conflict with North Korea.  

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