Update: Ken DeLand Sr. told CNN on Friday that his son is alive. He provided no other details as of Friday morning.
An American college student who went missing while studying abroad in France reportedly left his host family’s home voluntarily.
Kenny DeLand Jr., a senior at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York, was studying abroad at the University of Grenoble Alpes in France when he went missing, CNN reported. The student’s parents said they last heard from him on Nov. 27 via WhatsApp, and his fellow students reported him missing Nov. 29, according to the website “Find Ken DeLand.”
Phone records show that DeLand has not communicated with any of his friends in France since Nov. 28, according to the website. On the morning of Nov. 29, the missing student reportedly packed a sandwich, a change of clothing, his wallet and cell phone before disappearing.
DeLand’s bank was informed of his disappearance and authorized police to track his purchases, the website reported. DeLand was last seen Dec. 3 inside a Decathlon store in the town of Montelimar, which is located about 87 miles from Grenoble, the outlet reported.
Grenoble prosecutor Eric Vaillant told CNN that DeLand appeared to have left Grenoble voluntarily and that he had hoped to visit Marseille before his return to the United States.
WATCH—The town of Clifton Springs, NY has gathered at the United Methodist Church to hold a prayer service for Kenny DeLand Jr. whose been missing for weeks while studying in France. He’s also a student at @FisherNews. (St. John Fisher University) I’ll be LIVE at 6pm on @News_8. pic.twitter.com/jvIzHlYqHE
— Alex Love (@AlexWROCLove) December 11, 2022
DeLand’s host mother told CNN that he struggled to fit in with the family, the outlet reported. She said she has attempted to message him on several occasions since his departure but received no response. (RELATED: Authorities Find Body Of Student Who Went Missing After Lightning Strike Capsizes Boat)
The student’s parents, Kenneth DeLand Sr. and Carol Laws, have challenged the idea that he left voluntarily, since he had indicated that he had made several friends, the outlet reported. Kenneth said his son’s silence is uncharacteristic, as he has always kept in touch, the outlet reported. His family reportedly expects him to return home Dec. 17, when his semester abroad comes to an end.
“For him to not reach out, with no correspondence, this is very uncharacteristic of my son,” he 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.”
His father added that authorities have put in limited effort to locate his son, the outlet reported. The parents both expressed frustration over the difficulty of communicating with U.S. and French officials about the whereabouts of their son.
“There’s no reciprocation of information. That privacy act prevents disclosure of information, you can give them information but they cannot give you information,” the father told CNN Tuesday. “I’ve called the local police departments and the same thing is in effect in the French police departments that are local to that area in which he was last seen. So, it’s very limiting.”
St. John Fisher University said in a statement that it is working with law enforcement to find DeLand, the outlet reported.
“University officials have stayed in close contact with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) who is working with local law enforcement on the search, as well as Kenneth’s family to offer support to them during this time. Our campus community remains hopeful that Kenneth will be found safe and return home,” the school said.