NEW YORK (PIX11) – Kenneth DeLand, Jr., the upstate New York college student who was studying abroad in France and went missing two days after Thanksgiving, has turned up alive in Spain, according to his father.
The student’s father texted PIX11’s Mary Murphy Thursday afternoon and wrote, “Super happy to hear from him!!!!!” — using five exclamation points. But the family has not provided additional details yet on where Kenny DeLand, Jr. was staying in Spain.
The family posted an update Friday morning on a website they created to help find the college student.
“Kenny has been found,” the website states. “We will update with more information as we get it! Thank you to everyone for helping us bring Kenny home.”
The student’s father, Kenneth DeLand Sr., told Nexstar’s WROC that his son was located in Spain. The father told CNN he spoke to DeLand, Jr. on the phone.
The student’s disappearance garnered international attention after he didn’t show up for classes at the University of Grenoble in eastern France on Nov. 29. His phone then pinged in a different city a day later, and a surveillance image showed him inside a store in Montelimar on Dec. 3.
DeLand, Jr. had told some classmates that he wanted to visit Marseille at the tip of France before he returned to the United States. He was supposed to return to New York this weekend.
Earlier this week, DeLand’s family, who lives near Rochester, held candlelight vigils and prayer services hoping for his safe return.
There have been several reports that Kenny DeLand, Jr. was feeling a bit down about not making enough friends during his semester abroad, and one report referenced a TikTok account where the student purportedly made a video, with a Christmas list hoping to make new pals.
DeLand’s father disputed that his son wasn’t making friends, telling reporters Kenny had “travel buddies” during a trip to Italy.
The father said Kenny’s mother, Carol, had already flown to France and was hoping to connect with their son, so she can bring him home for Christmas.
Kenny DeLand Sr. had been upset in recent weeks by his difficulty getting answers from European authorities.
But a former NYPD Detective, Michael Alcazar, said it’s tough to get investigations launched anywhere, when the missing person is legal age.
“Typically, if you’re 18 or over, we don’t really prioritize, because now you’re an adult and you don’t really have to go home,” Alcazar observed.
“For us to really look for them, it’s got to be a special category: meaning, they’re under 13 or they’re suffering from mental or physical conditions.”
Alcazar added that he understood the parents’ concerns, “because I’m a parent,” but added that sometimes, “Kids just want to check out. It sounds like he wanted to cut off everything social media-wise. He just wanted to unplug.”