A New York couple says they’re desperate for help after their 22-year-old son mysteriously vanished while studying abroad in southeastern France.
Ken DeLand Jr., a senior at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York, was studying at Grenoble Alpes University in Grenoble. His parents say they lost all contact with him on Nov. 27.
“He would reach out to me almost daily, sometimes every other day,” Ken DeLand Sr. told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday. “It’s not characteristic of Kenny to not reach out to us and let us know what’s going on.”
DeLand Sr. said they last heard from their son on the app WhatsApp that Sunday, after he left his host family’s home and headed to board a train to the town of Valence, about 55 miles southwest of Grenoble.
Around that same time, a college liaison reached out to the family to say they hadn’t seen DeLand in 24 hours, and that they’d filed a missing person report. Carol Laws, DeLand’s mother, told ABC News this was unlike her son.
On Nov. 30, DeLand’s phone gave off its last ping. On Dec. 3, six days after his parents say they last heard from him, DeLand was seen on surveillance video entering a sporting store in Montelimar, about 30 miles southwest of Valence. Bank records show that he made an $8.40 purchase at the store, his family said.
The footage shows DeLand wearing a red jacket, a scarf, a gray beanie, blue pants, a black backpack and sneakers.
Grenoble’s public prosecutor told NBC News there were reports that the college student had been struggling socially during his time overseas and that he planned to travel.
“The young man reportedly told several people that he had arrived in France insufficiently prepared and that he had difficulty making friends,” the prosecutor said in a statement.
DeLand “appears to have left Grenoble voluntarily,” the prosecutor said, and “he also mentioned that he wanted to go to Marseille before returning to the United States.”
Local authorities have opened a missing person investigation, but because of DeLand’s age, the family said French privacy laws prohibit authorities from releasing information about him without his consent.
DeLand’s classes in Grenoble finish on Saturday and his visa will expire in late January, according to a website set up by his family.
“We fear the worst and want him to be located,” the site reads.