Otto Warmbier autopsy shows no signs of torture

Details surrounding Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American student who died in June after being detained in North Korea for 17 months, were released this week by the Hamilton County Coroner’s office in Ohio.

Warmbier died from a lack of blood and oxygen to his brain according to the Ohio coroner, who admitted the exact cause of death was a mystery. Hamilton County Coroner Dr Lakshmi Sammarco said: “We don’t know what happened to him and that is the bottom line.”

Warmbier died in June, six days after returning home to Cincinnati after being held in custody in North Korea for more than a year. Warmbier was with a departing tour group visiting North Korea in early 2016 when he was arrested at the Pyongyang airport and accused of trying to steal a propaganda poster. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. North Korea accused the US of “luring and pushing” Otto Warmbier into breaking the country’s laws, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The parents of Otto Warmbier claimed the 22-year-old was tortured during his captivity in North Korea when he returned home in a coma. North Korean officials have denied charges that he was tortured. Instead, they say that his coma was caused by botulism and a sleeping pill.

Fred Warmbier said they were shocked when they first saw their son upon his return home. “Otto had a shaved head. He had a feeding tube coming out of his nose. He was staring blankly into space, jerking violently. He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth,” Warmbier said. His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, told the Fox News TV program Fox and Friends on Tuesday that their son had been “terrorized and brutalized for 18 months.”

After seeing the show, President Trump tweeted that “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”

But the coroner, in a Cincinnati news conference, said she had consulted with a forensic dentist. “There was no evidence of trauma to the teeth,” said Sammarco. She said she was surprised by Fred Warmbier’s statement about his son’s teeth. Sammarco also added there was no clear evidence of physical torture – including no recently broken bones or signs of recently healed trauma. Her report also described Otto Warmbier’s body as “well-developed, well-nourished” and in excellent condition for someone who had been bedridden for a year, and featuring 10 small scars. Some of the scars were believed to be older; others were clearly related to medical procedures he apparently had received, such as one “consistent with a tracheotomy scar.”

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