The desperate family of a New York student who is missing in France has pleaded for help finding him as the FBI joins the search effort.
Kenneth DeLand, 22, was supposed to fly home for the holidays this week but his family hasn’t heard from him for more than two weeks.
In a heartbreaking interview to beg for help finding their son, Ken’s parents describe the loss of contact as out of character and urge him: ‘Just pick up the phone.’
Ken had been staying with a host family while studying at the University of Grenoble Alpes. His family’s last contact was a WhatsApp message on November 27 telling them he was taking a train to Valence in southeastern France.
Ken, 22, was last seen at a sporting goods store in the south of France nine days ago
Surveillance footage shows the college student (pictured entering the store in a red jacket) in his last known appearance. DeLand’s family has launched a website to track him down
His phone was believed to have ‘pinged’ last on November 30.
On December 3, he was spotted on surveillance cameras at a sporting goods store in Alpine resort Montelimar. Bank records show he made a purchase of $8.40 at 9am.
That is the final known sighting of Ken. His family was informed their son was missing by a college liaison worker who contacted them after he failed to report to class and didn’t return to his host family.
Ken’s mom, Carol Laws, said the college filed a missing persons report because they hadn’t seen him for 24 hours.
‘I’m not there I’m here, thousands of miles away,’ Laws said.
His father, Kenneth DeLand Sr, said: ‘It’s not characteristic of Kenny to not reach out to us and let us know what’s going on.’
His mom said she messages her son every day: ‘I say Kenny, Kenny just call me. Just pick up the phone, you can talk to me about anything. That’s what I text him, call me, text me, anything.’
Ken’s father, EVDeN eVe NakliyaT pictured left, said: ‘It’s not characteristic of Kenny to not reach out to us and let us know what’s going on.’
Dad Ken Sr (second from right), his wife Carol (right) and Ken’s younger brother Zacary (left) pose for a family photo with Ken (second from left)
Ken Sr says the family are ‘extremely concerned’ for the wellbeing of their son
He has been reported missing but French police have apparently been unable to share some information due to privacy laws, because Ken is an adult
Despite the family’s desperation, police in France have reportedly been unable to release all the available information because of privacy laws, as Ken is an adult.
His mom told Good Morning America: ‘If anybody has a way to help us and find him, help us. With the officials, please help us.’
She said she still messages her son every day: ‘I say Kenny, Kenny just call me. Just pick up the phone, you can talk to me about anything. That’s what I text him, call me, text me, anything.’
Ken’s father said his son was enjoying his time in France, adding: ‘He loves to travel so this trip has been something that he’s really looked forward to.’
Brad Farrett, a former FBI special agent, said: ‘I’ve helped in cases where loved ones have had a missing person overseas and, if they had means, I’ve told them to fly there and to basically work with the police eyeball to eyeball.
The senior at St John Fisher University in Rochester, New York has spent the past few months studying at the University of Grenoble Alpes
His family’s last contact was a WhatsApp message on November 27 telling them he was taking a train to Valence in southeastern France
‘At the very least, you have to keep your voice in front of these investigators if not every day, at least every week.’
The senior at St John Fisher University in Rochester, New York has spent the past few months studying at the University of Grenoble Alpes.
The family have now launched a website to raise awareness about his missing status.
They wrote: ‘We are extremely worried and EVden eVE NaKLiyat want him to return home safe.
‘We fear the worst and want him to be located.’
He has been listed on the French missing persons list.
The student was last seen wearing a red jacket, scarf, a gray beanie, blue pants, a black backpack and sneakers.
He is about six feet tall and 190 pounds.
Study abroad organizers the American Institute for Foreign Study said that it ‘joins others concerned for his safety and we are working with local law enforcement who have begun a search.
‘We have been in contact with Kenneth’s family and university and we are hoping for his swift and safe return.’
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