An American student who hasn't been seen since North Korea convicted him of crimes against the country is reportedly on his way back home, but he's believed to be in troubling condition.
Otto Warmbier made international headlines in 2016 after North Korea claimed he attempted to steal a propaganda poster led to a sentence of 15 years hard labor. The 22-year-old hasn't been seen by American representatives in Pyongyang since.
But on Tuesday, the already strange tale took some even stranger turns when it was reported that the Cincinnati native is on his way back to Ohio in a coma, one his parents have been told Warmbier has been in for nearly his entire incarceration.
Pyongyang officials have reportedly claimed Warmbier contracted botulism shortly after the conclusion of the hour-long trial in which he was found guilty of "hostile acts against the state."
The Warmbiers are told he was subsequently "given a sleeping pill, from which he never woke up," they told The Washington Post.
Swedish diplomats who represent American interests in the Hermit Kingdom, with which the U.S. has no ties, say they haven't been given access to Warmbier since the trial and there is no way to know whether North Korea's account is true.
Warmbier is being transported back via Japan, where State Department officials were slated to meet him for the journey back to Ohio.
In what an official has called a "bizarre coincidence," that journey is happening the same day that retired NBA star Dennis Rodman began his fifth high-profile visit to Pyongyang.
Weirder still, The Washington Post reports that the official believes the Basketball Hall of Famer may be visiting as part of an attempt by Pyongyang to distract from Warmbier's condition.
Either way, more will likely be known about Warmbier's physical state once he's back on American soil Tuesday evening.
In a statement confirming the news, Ohio Senator Rob Portman denounced Warmbier's imprisonment in the first place.
"North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior," Portman said in a statement. "Otto should have been released from the start. For North Korea to imprison Otto with no notification or consular access for more than a year is the utmost example of its complete failure to recognize fundamental human rights and dignity."