Virginia college student never returned from New York holiday

Ian Hunter Burnet left Richmond, Virginia, on a bus bound for New York on December 26, according to his father, Mark Burnet.

Story highlights

  • Ian Hunter Burnet, 22, left Virginia to celebrate New Year's Eve in New York
  • He stayed with friends in Harlem, who last heard from him December 30
  • His parents have set up a Facebook page asking for information
  • Ian Burnet is 5 feet, 10 inches and weighs 160 pounds; he has brown hair, green eyes
Police in New York and Virginia are searching for a 22-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student who went missing days after arriving in New York City to celebrate New Year's Eve, according to authorities.
Ian Hunter Burnet left Richmond, Virginia, on a bus bound for New York on December 26, according to his father, Mark Burnet. He planned to stay with a fellow VCU student and her friend in an apartment on 139th Street near Riverside Drive in Harlem, his father said.
"He went up just to have a post-Christmas tourist visit to New York City and celebrate New Year's Eve. He was intending to have a short time there and then return back to Virginia," Burnet said.
According to his father, his son and a friend had made plans to hang out together back in Virginia on January 2, but Ian Burnet never made it back. The last communication he had with his son was December 28.
"I received a routine type of text talking about touring in New York," he said.
Some other news outlets have reported that Burnet told friends he was not having a good time in New York, but his father told CNN that was something he had not heard.
"I wish I knew more," he said, "If I did, I might be able to understand what happened."
What investigators do know is that the friends with whom Burnet was staying say they last heard from him on December 30.
"Ian was communicating via text with them and the last bit of information that we had was that he was just stepping out to go out for the evening. And we don't have any information other than that," said Burnet's father.
"It's very frustrating," said New Kent County Sheriff Farrar W. Howard Jr., whose Virginia office is leading the investigation in conjunction with Virginia State Police and the New York City Police Department. "Nobody has seen him since the 30th."
The NYPD is directing all media inquiries to the New Kent County Sheriff's Office.
Mark Burnet said that Ian, who graduated as valedictorian from New Kent County High School and was on a full scholarship to study engineering, was looking forward to classes starting back at VCU on January 17.
He said Ian had lived on his own for years, was independent and would have no reason to simply run away.
According to Mark Burnet, his son's roommate from school told him that she and Burnet had planned their courses for next semester together and that he was excited to finish his degree.
Authorities retrieved Burnet's phone at the apartment where he was staying, but for Burnet to be without his phone is not uncommon, according to his father.
"He didn't really like talking on the phone. He would send texts and surf the Web, but he didn't like to carry a lot of valuables on his person," Mark Burnet said.
Authorities say Burnett did take his driver's license and credit cards with him the last time he left the Harlem apartment.
"Who knows what's going through a 22-year-old's head?" said Burnet's father, "but he would not want us to worry; if he was out there, he would get in touch with us."
Friends, family and supporters held a candlelight vigil in Virginia on Tuesday night for the missing Eagle Scout. Ian's ex-girlfriend, Meaghan King, attended.
"He has always had a good head on his shoulders, [he is] probably one of the sweetest people I have ever come in contact with," she said.
Burnet's parents set up a Facebook page, which is drawing in tips for police, as well as volunteers.
"There's a lot of people out there trying to look on the streets and see what's happened, but the fact is we just don't know, and we're really trying to find someone who might know," said his father.
"I'm hoping that those people who know how to investigate these matters can do that; that's my hope."
Burnet's parents plan to travel with friends to New York on Thursday to be with family in New Jersey, and help in the search for their son.
Police describe Burnet as a white male, who is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. He has brown hair and green eyes and was last seen wearing a gray "Wikipedia" sweatshirt.