Kenny Deland Jr: a New York student missing in France, according to his family


A prosecutor in France has opened an investigation into the disappearance of an American student who, according to his family, has not been heard from for more than two weeks.

Classmates of Kenny DeLand Jr. reported him missing on Nov. 29, prompting the investigation, according to a statement from the prosecutor released Monday and obtained by CNN.

Deland is a senior from St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York, who studied at the University of Grenoble Alpes, according to his family.

“The young man allegedly told several people that he had arrived in France ill-prepared and that he was having trouble making friends,” Grenoble prosecutor Eric Vaillant said in a statement.

The school is approximately 75 miles southeast of Lyon in eastern France.

DeLand’s parents say they haven’t heard from him since Nov. 27. “We don’t understand why he doesn’t contact us if he contacts us daily or every other day like he was, it’s just not characteristic of Kenny.”

DeLand “appears to have left Grenoble voluntarily,” Vaillant said, adding that the student was seen at a Decathlon store in the town of Montelimar, about 87 miles from Grenoble, on December 3.

“He also mentioned that he wanted to go to Marseille before leaving for the United States,” Vaillant said.

DeLand was scheduled to leave France on December 15, according to the prosecutor’s statement.

The family says a missing person report has been filed and bank records show DeLand made a last purchase at a store on Dec. 3. There has been no record of his whereabouts since then, according to his family.

The last time they spoke to each other “was like any normal conversation we had,” her mother, Carol Laws, told CNN’s Victor Blackwell on Monday afternoon. “He couldn’t wait to get home for Christmas and start putting the plans in place.”

His father, DeLand, Sr., said he didn’t know his son wasn’t able to make friends easily. He was traveling with friends from the study abroad program, he said.

His parents told CNN it was difficult to get information from US and foreign authorities.

“I feel like I’m not getting any information, it’s been very difficult,” Laws said. “You know, really someone else was stuck in the middle to speak for us.”

Not only is the language barrier difficult, but DeLand’s father cited a French privacy law that prevented certain information from being released.

He contacted embassy officials and authorities in France, but says he hasn’t had much luck.

“There is no exchange of information. This privacy law prevents disclosure of information, you can give them information but they can’t give you information,” DeLand, Sr. told CNN. “I called the local police services and the same is in force in the French police services which are local to the area where he was last seen. So it’s very limited.

The US State Department is “aware of reports of a missing US citizen in France,” a department spokesperson told CNN on Monday. They did not provide further details.

“When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they conduct their search, and we share information with families as we can,” they said.

To help find him, Deland’s family has launched a website where people can post tips and information.

Tips came in, DeLand, Sr. told CNN Monday, and he passed them on to the FBI and the embassy, ​​but he didn’t hear if any of them had checked.

“I hope Interpol got involved, and we’ve been interviewed by several news outlets and hopefully we can, with your help and the help of others, we can get the word out.”

New York State Senator Pam Helming said Deland Jr. was a former intern of hers and his disappearance was “disturbing”. During his internship as an intern from 2019 to 2020, he “brought positive energy with him every day. I pray that he is found safe and returns home soon to be with his family,” Helming said in a statement.

St. John Fisher University “will continue to do everything in its power to assist in the investigation to locate Kenneth DeLand,” the school said in a statement.

“University officials have remained in close contact with the American Institute of Foreign Studies (AIFS) who are working with local law enforcement on the search, as well as Kenneth’s family to offer them a support during this time. Our university community remains hopeful that Kenneth will be found safe and return home.

AIFS said Monday it was working with local authorities and was in contact with the DeLand family.

“We hope for his speedy and safe return,” the institute said in a statement.


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