Missing College Student Kenny DeLand Jr. Is Safe in Spain, His Family Says

CNN Newsource
By CNN Newsource
December 16, 2022France
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Missing College Student Kenny DeLand Jr. Is Safe in Spain, His Family Says
Kenny DeLand Jr. in a file photo. (Interpol)

An American college student who was reported missing more than two weeks ago in France has told relatives he is safe in Spain, his family said Friday, resolving at least part of a mystery that sparked a multinational search.

Kenny DeLand Jr. called his relatives early Friday, the family said in an online statement that added the 21-year-old had “seen himself in the news.”

“We are so happy to announce that Kenny is safe,” the statement reads. “Kenny is in Spain, and Carol (his mom) is in France, preparing to see Kenny and hopefully bring him home for Christmas.”

The family has not said precisely what DeLand Jr. has told them or explained where he has been for the past two weeks.

Earlier Friday, his father, Ken DeLand Sr., was in the middle of a call with CNN when he suddenly hung up—and then later messaged CNN to report he’d just spoken with his son. French prosecutor Eric Vaillant also told CNN DeLand Jr. spoke to his family Friday from Spain.

A senior at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York, DeLand had been studying at the University of Grenoble Alpes, according to his family. His parents in recent days said they had not heard from him since Nov. 27.

His fellow students reported him missing on Nov. 29, prompting Vaillant to launch an investigation, the Grenoble prosecutor had said.

The woman who had hosted DeLand in France thought he may have left voluntarily, she told CNN before he was found—echoing a theory Vaillant put forward this week.

But the young man’s parents didn’t believe that was the case, and his father as recently as Wednesday decried what he called a response from authorities that was not sufficiently urgent.

Interpol on Thursday issued a Yellow Notice for DeLand, saying he went missing on Nov. 27. Such notices are issued to help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify anyone who cannot identify themselves, according to Interpol.

DeLand had been scheduled to return to the United States this coming Saturday, his father said before he was found, adding that although the student liked to go hiking, he would always keep in touch.

“For him to not reach out, with no correspondence, this is very uncharacteristic of my son,” DeLand Sr. told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday. “This is what creates all the worry that any parent could ever feel.”

“As time goes by, it makes you worry even more.”

He Was Seen at a Store on Dec. 3, a Prosecutor Said

When Vaillant announced Monday he was investigating DeLand Jr.’s disappearance, he said the student seemed “to have left Grenoble voluntarily.”

“The young man reportedly told several people that he had arrived in France underprepared and was having difficulty making friends,” Vaillant said Monday.

The student had been seen on Dec. 3 in a store in the town of Montélimar, roughly a 90-mile drive southwest of Grenoble, Vaillant said.

And Deland had mentioned he wanted to go to Marseille, a city along the Mediterranean some 190 miles south of Grenoble, before returning to the United States, Vaillant said.

Of all the students DeLand’s host mother had welcomed, he seemed to have the most trouble fitting in, the woman told CNN this week on the condition of anonymity out of concern for her privacy.

When the host mother hadn’t heard from DeLand, she inundated him with messages trying to figure out where he was, but he did not reply, she said. Learning that he’d been seen Dec. 3 was reassuring, she said, because she felt it confirmed her suspicions he may have left and cut off communications voluntarily.

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