U.S. student held in North Korea died of oxygen starved brain, coroner says

Sept 27 (Reuters) - An American student who had been imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain, an Ohio coroner said on Wednesday.

Otto Warmbier's death on June 19 was due to an unknown injury that occurred more than a year before his death, Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said at a news conference.

"We don't know what happened to him and that's the bottom line," Sammarco said.

RELATED: Mourners gather to remember Otto Warmbier

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Mourners gather to remember Otto Warmbier
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Mourners gather to remember Otto Warmbier
Mourners stand out side the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Mourners wait in line outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: The town of Wyoming, Ohio prepares for the funeral of Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, addresses the media outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: Blue and white ribbons are shown at the entrance to Oak Hill Cemetary the day before the funeral of Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Mourners stand outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Mourners wait in line outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Mourners stand out side the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: A man brings balloons into Wyoming High School, site of tomorrow's funeral for Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Mourners stand out side the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: The town of Wyoming, Ohio prepares for the funeral of Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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Warmbier's parents could not be reached for comment on the coroner's report.

The University of Virginia student was held by North Korea from January 2016 until his release on June 15. Warmbier, 22, was returned to the United States in a coma.

The coroner and a Sept. 11 report by her office cited complications of chronic deficiency of oxygen and blood supply to the brain in Warmbier's death. Only an external examination of the body rather than a full autopsy was conducted at the request of Warmbier's family.

North Korea had blamed botulism and the ingestion of a sleeping pill for Otto Warmbier's problems and dismissed torture claims.

Warmbier died days after arriving back in the United States.

The native of Wyoming, Ohio, had been arrested at the airport in Pyongyang as he prepared to leave the reclusive communist country. He had been traveling with a tour group.

RELATED: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment

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Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment
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Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment

January 2016: Warmbier is imprisoned in North Korea, charged with stealing an item that had a state propaganda slogan on it.

March 2016: Warmbier is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea

March 2016 - 2017: The United States advocates for North Korea's allowing Sweden access to Warmbier and three other American citizens, pushing for their release.

January 2017: President Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, signaling a seat change in American foreign diplomacy.

February 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefs President Trump on the situation surrounding Warmbier's imprisonment in North Korea.Trump directs Tillerson to take all appropriate measures in securing the release of U.S. hostages in North Korea.

May 2017:  The U.S. State Department and North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs hold a meeting in Oslo, Norway, during which they agree to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang's access to all four detainees. Sweden is later granted these visitation rights, prompting North Korea to request a meeting with the United States.

June 6, 2017 - State Department Special Representative Joseph Yun meets with North Korean ambassador Pak Gil Yon at the United Nations in New York. Yun learns during this meeting that Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year.

June 6-11, 2017: Secretary of State Tillerson instructs Yun to travel to North Korea with the mission of bringing back Warmbier. They travel with a medical team to Pyongyang.

June 12, 2017: Through Yun, the United States is able for the first time to confirm Warmbier's status. The U.S. demands Warmbier be released on humanitarian conditions. North Korea complies.

June 13, 2017: Warmbier is evacuated from North Korea, travels to Ohio where he will reunite with his family.

June 13, 2017: Otto Warmbier arrives home to Cincinnati, Ohio
June 15, 2017: Otto Warmbier's father, Fred, speaks out during a press conference on his son's return home.
June 15, 2017: Doctors give updates on Warmbier's status during a news conference at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to take from his hotel an item bearing a propaganda slogan, North Korea's state media reported.

Saying his son had been tortured, Fred Warmbier told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday, "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."

"Great interview on @foxandfriends with the parents of Otto Warmbier: 1994 - 2017. Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea," President Donald Trump said on Twitter following the interview's broadcast.

In response to a question at the news conference, the coroner said there was no evidence of trauma to Warmbier's teeth nor was there evidence of broken bones.

The coroner's report said that Warmbier's body had multiple scars varying in size, including a large irregular one measuring 4.3 by 1.6 inches on the right foot. (Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

RELATED: Reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier

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Reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier
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Reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier
.@POTUS and @FLOTUS Offer Their Deepest Condolences, Thoughts and Prayers to the Family and Friends of Otto Warmbie… https://t.co/JEoOCx9El7
Karen & I are so saddened to hear this. We're praying for Otto's family tonight. A tragic example of North Korea's… https://t.co/kvgYAZM2mV
Otto Warmbier should never have been in jail for tearing down a stupid banner. And he most certainly should not have been murdered for it.
Secretary Tillerson: We hold #NorthKorea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment. https://t.co/MwHNCuUjyw
Saddened by death of Otto Warmbier, tortured & murdered by #NorthKorea - US should not tolerate such hostile action https://t.co/91GnTgSh1h
Gov. John Kasich on the passing of Otto Warmbier: More details: https://t.co/O58kfBhR8T https://t.co/X63cBvjiLx
This is incredibly sad. https://t.co/YLdjZRQlT5
Just learned that Otto Warmbier, the young man held captive by savage N Korea has died. Heartbroken for his parents. Prayers for the family.
We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Otto Warmbier, a remarkable young Ohioan: https://t.co/qSGnPcJQra
My thoughts and prayers are with Otto, his parents, and the entire Warmbier family. https://t.co/z1b6EbgDoX
Very sad to learn of the passing of Otto Warmbier. As a parent, I can't imagine what his parents have had to go through.
Otto Warmbier, the US student held prisoner and severely mistreated in North Korea for 17 months has died. #RIP #NeverForget
My heart goes out to the loved ones of Otto Warmbier. Thinking of Otto's family & friends, & wishing them strength during this tragic time.
My full statement on the passing of Otto Warmbier: https://t.co/KT538qw6tb
Ambassador @nikkihaley on the passing of Otto Warmbier: "Our prayers are with this fine young man’s family and comm… https://t.co/pHBSlYiKfU
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