The untold story of Otto Warmbier, American hostage

Halfway up the airplane’s stairs, over the whine of the still-cycling engines, Fred later said, he heard a guttural “inhuman” howling and wondered what it was. But when he stepped into the cabin cluttered with medical equipment, he found its source: Otto, strapped to a stretcher, jerking violently against his restraints and wailing.

Cindy was prepared for her son to be changed, but she had not expected this. Otto’s arms and legs were “totally deformed,” according to his parents. His wavy brown locks had been buzzed off. A feeding tube infiltrated his nostrils. “It looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and re-arranged his bottom teeth,” as Fred would say. According to Cindy, Otto’s sister fled the plane, screaming, and Cindy ran after her.

Fred approached his son and hugged him. Otto’s eyes remained wide open and blank. Fred told Otto that he had missed him and was overjoyed to have him home. But Otto’s alien keening only continued, impossible to comfort.