The family of 22-year-old study abroad student Ken DeLand. Jr., who has been missing in France since Dec. 3, are desperate for information about their son.
DeLand, who is in his last year at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York, is part of a study abroad program run by the University of Grenoble Alpes under the American Institute for Foreign Study group.
His mother Carol Laws said an administrator with the study abroad program contacted her in late November. “She said that she had to file a missing persons report because they had not seen him in 24 hours,” Laws said in a video posted on the “Find Ken DeLand” website launched over the weekend. “I’m not there. I’m here ... thousands of miles away. This can’t be possible. How did he go missing? What happened?”
His father says Ken had been in touch with them back home in New York daily or every other day until Nov. 27 when he boarded a train to Valence, south of where he was living with a host family. “Kenny’s a friendly, outgoing college student, a young man,” his father Kenneth DeLand told ABC Good Morning America in an interview airing on Monday. “He loves to travel. So, this trip has been something that he’s really looked forward to and enjoyed.”
The DeLand family launched a website pleading for information from anyone who might have seen him. He was scheduled to return to New York for Christmas after his classes finish on Dec. 17. His family also says his study visa expires on Jan. 20, 2023. “Apparently, he left his host family’s residence and boarded the train headed for Valence, France,” the family say on his website. “Kenny’s phone was said to of been pinged on Wednesday, 11/30/22. Still, communication has yet to happen from his phone or any social media since Sunday, 11/27/2022.”
The family was able to liaise with his bank to track any purchases, the last of which was for $8.40 on the morning of Dec. 3 at a sporting good store in Montelimar where CCTV footage caught him entering. His phone, however, had not been activated since Nov. 27, the family says French police have told them. Montelimar is the second-largest city in the Valence region in northern Provence in the south of France. DeLand’s family says that while his passport will “ping” if he uses it due to his missing person status, he can easily travel overland in Europe without a passport.
Former FBI agent Brad Garrett told ABC news that French authorities need to be vigilant in looking for contacts. “It would be extremely important to understand who he has talked to, maybe in his age group in France or maybe he’s talked to people back here in the United States on the phone,” Garrett said.
The family, clearly frustrated, posted a plea for information. “We understand Kenny is an adult, and the University, as well as local, national and international police hands, are tied,” they wrote on the search website. “Neither the U.S. nor French administration can share his whereabouts. What we do know is there is a missing person’s report filed.”