New details have emerged surrounding the mysterious death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student from Ohio who was imprisoned and reportedly abused in North Korea.
A newly released report from the Hamilton County coroner’s office listed the manner of Warmbier’s death as “undetermined,” but noted he endured brain-damaging oxygen deprivation through “an unknown insult more than a year prior to death.”
North Korean authorities accused Warmbier of stealing a poster from a hotel room while he was visiting the isolated country in 2016 and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor. But after just 17 months in captivity, he was suddenly released in a comatose state. He died less than a week after his return to the United States this June.
Warmbier’s parents, who declined to have a full autopsy performed on his body, spoke publicly about his death for the first time this week.
In an interview with “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning, they shared disturbing details from their reunion with their son. Warmbier, who had suffered unexplained brain damage, was both deaf and blind, and made “involuntary, inhuman” noises, they recalled.
“We’re here to tell you North Korea is not a victim,” said Warmbier’s father, Fred. “They’re terrorists. They kidnapped Otto. They tortured him.”
U.S. President Donald Trump, whose feud with Pyongyang has escalated in recent months, praised the Warmbier family’s interview on Twitter and reiterated that Warmbier was indeed “tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
But the coroner’s report, dated Sept. 11, contradicts those claims. As first reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer, the postmortem examination revealed a cluster of small scars on Warmbier’s knees, feet, arms and other parts of his body, but no clear indication of torture.
One such scar is “consistent with a tracheostomy,” which is an incision in the windpipe, the report noted. It also said the young man’s teeth were “natural and in good repair,” in contrast to Fred Warmbier’s observation that “it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”
Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, whose office performed the exam, was surprised when she heard the Warmbiers’ comment about “rearranged” teeth. There were no obvious signs of torture or broken bones, she said.
“They’re grieving parents. I can’t really make comments on their perceptions,” she told reporters on Wednesday, noting a forensic dentist had confirmed that “there was no evidence of trauma to the lower teeth.”
“We don’t have enough information about what happened to Otto at that initial insult to draw any concrete conclusions” about his death, Sammarco said.
“We believe that for somebody who’s been bedridden for more than a year, his body was in excellent condition [and] his skin was in excellent condition,” she added.