A college student from the United States who was reported missing more than two weeks ago in France has told his family that he is safe in Spain, his family said on Friday. This solves at least part of the mystery that led to a search in many countries.
Kenny DeLand Jr. called his family early on Friday, according to a statement posted online by his family. The 21-year-old told them he had “seen himself in the news.”
The statement says, “We are so happy to tell you that Kenny is safe.” “Kenny is in Spain, and his mom Carol is in France getting ready to go see Kenny and hopefully bring him home for Christmas.”
The family hasn’t said exactly what DeLand Jr. has told them or where he has been for the past two weeks.
His father, Ken DeLand Sr., was on the phone with CNN earlier Friday when he suddenly hung up. He then sent CNN a message to say he had just talked to his son. CNN was also told by the French prosecutor Eric Vaillant Friday that DeLand Jr. called his family from Spain.
On Friday night, Ken DeLand Sr. told CNN’s Pamela Brown, “I couldn’t believe he was calling. “It made me feel a lot.”
“This whole thing seems like a dream,” the father said. “And now, finally, it’s the end of the story.”
DeLand Sr. said his son didn’t say much about what he’s been doing for the past few weeks, but he said he was in Spain and asked his father to stop talking to the news.
“But Ken, this is what parents do,” I told him. “We’re worried about you,” said DeLand Sr.
Parents Had Last Heard From Him In November
His family says that DeLand was a senior at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York. He had been studying at the University of Grenoble Alpes. His parents recently said they hadn’t heard from him since November 27.
On November 29, his classmates told Vaillant that he was missing, which led him to start an investigation, the Grenoble prosecutor said.
Before DeLand was found, the woman who had hosted him in France told CNN that she thought he might have left alone. This was similar to a theory Vaillant put forward this week.
But the young man’s parents didn’t think that was the case, and as recently as Wednesday, the young man’s father criticized what he called a slow response from the police.
Interpol put out a Yellow Notice for DeLand on Thursday, saying that he hasn’t been seen since November 27. Interpol says that these notices are sent to help find missing people, often children, or to help identify people who can’t identify themselves.
Before DeLand was found, his father said the student was supposed to return to the US this Saturday. He also noted that DeLand liked to go hiking but would always stay in touch.
“It’s very unlike my son to not reach out and have no communication,” DeLand Sr. told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday. “This makes any parent feel all the worry they could ever feel.”
A spokesperson for the US State Department told CNN on Friday that they have heard that the student is alive and safe, but they won’t say more.
“It’s good to hear that an American who had been missing in Europe was found and could talk to his family. We can’t give any more information because we need to protect people’s privacy,” the spokesperson said.
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He Was Seen At A Store on December 3, A Prosecutor Said
Vaillant said on Monday that he was looking into DeLand Jr.’s disappearance and that it seemed like the student “had left Grenoble on his own.”
“The young man is said to have told a few people that he was not ready for France and was having trouble making friends,” Vaillant said Monday.
Vaillant said that the student was last seen on December 3 in a store in the town of Montélimar, which is about 90 miles southwest of Grenoble.
Vaillant said that Deland had said he wanted to go to Marseille, a city on the Mediterranean about 310 km south of Grenoble, before returning to the US.
The woman who hosted DeLand told CNN this week that he seemed to have the most trouble fitting in out of all the students she had taken in. She asked to remain anonymous because she was worried about her privacy.
When the host mother hadn’t heard from DeLand in a while, she sent him many messages to find out where he was, but she said he didn’t answer. She said that finding out he had been seen on December 3 was reassuring because it confirmed her thoughts that he may have left alone and stopped communicating.
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.