An American college student detained for two months in North Korea gave an emotional press conference Monday. 

June 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student detained and imprisoned in North Korea is carried off of an airplane at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati. Warmbier has reportedly been in a coma for the past 15 months. Mandatory credit: Sam Greene/The Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK  *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field **
An American college student detained for two months in North Korea gave an emotional press conference Monday. June 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student detained and imprisoned in North Korea is carried off of an airplane at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati. Warmbier has reportedly been in a coma for the past 15 months. Mandatory credit: Sam Greene/The Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field **
PHOTO: DPRK/ Sam Greene/The Enquirer/USA TODAY
Now playing
02:56
Questions surround Warmbier's injuries
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:33
Dr. Gupta discusses transmissibility of new Covid-19 variants
Alabama Tornado Damage 0126
Alabama Tornado Damage 0126
PHOTO: WBMA
Now playing
02:00
Tornado rips through north Birmingham, Alabama area
PHOTO: Senate TV
Now playing
06:32
House delivers Trump impeachment article to Senate
Biden US China tech war Wang pkg intl hnk vpx_00010025.png
Biden US China tech war Wang pkg intl hnk vpx_00010025.png
Now playing
02:37
US-China tech rivalry will likely continue under Biden presidency. Here's why
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks before signing an Executive Order in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks before signing an Executive Order in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:50
Biden thinks US can get to 1.5 million vaccine doses daily
diegal
diegal
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:58
Former Republican: We've got a bankrupt party
Virgina Mason advanced registered nurse practitioner Erin Forsythe loads a syringing with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a partnership with the hospital network and Amazon to increase the efficiency of vaccinations, at the Amazon Meeting Center in downtown Seattle, Washington on January 24, 2021. - Amazon is partnering with Virginia Mason for a one-day pop-up clinic on January 24. 2021 that aims to vaccinate 2,000 people at the companys Meeting Center near downtown Seattle. Virginia Mason is handling vaccine administration, while Amazon is providing the location and help with logistics. (Photo by Grant HINDSLEY / AFP) (Photo by GRANT HINDSLEY/AFP via Getty Images)
Virgina Mason advanced registered nurse practitioner Erin Forsythe loads a syringing with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a partnership with the hospital network and Amazon to increase the efficiency of vaccinations, at the Amazon Meeting Center in downtown Seattle, Washington on January 24, 2021. - Amazon is partnering with Virginia Mason for a one-day pop-up clinic on January 24. 2021 that aims to vaccinate 2,000 people at the companys Meeting Center near downtown Seattle. Virginia Mason is handling vaccine administration, while Amazon is providing the location and help with logistics. (Photo by Grant HINDSLEY / AFP) (Photo by GRANT HINDSLEY/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:20
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations plateau across US
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10:  The Trump International Hotel is shown on August 10, 2017 in Washington, DC.  The hotel, located blocks from the White House, has become both a tourist attraction in the nation
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: The Trump International Hotel is shown on August 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. The hotel, located blocks from the White House, has become both a tourist attraction in the nation's capital and also a symbol of President Trump's intermingling of business and politics. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Now playing
01:56
Why SCOTUS is dismissing emolument cases against Trump
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29:  U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) waves during the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC, which is scheduled to conclude August 30.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) waves during the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC, which is scheduled to conclude August 30. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Now playing
02:16
GOP senator explains why he won't seek reelection
Now playing
02:26
See Biden sign executive order lifting transgender military ban
PHOTO: WTHR
Now playing
00:40
Officials: Pregnant woman among 5 killed in 'mass murder'
PHOTO: CBS
Now playing
01:46
Dr. Birx: Trump presented graphs that I never made
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:25
Biden's HHS secretary pick: If we do this, we will get the pandemic under control
Unit photography of CNN 35 year anniversary documentary photographed on Monday, April 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, CA. Subjects were former CNN anchors Larry King and Jim Moret.

Photo by John Nowak/CNN
Unit photography of CNN 35 year anniversary documentary photographed on Monday, April 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, CA. Subjects were former CNN anchors Larry King and Jim Moret. Photo by John Nowak/CNN
PHOTO: John Nowak/CNN
Now playing
02:38
Larry King's CNN legacy
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attends a press conference with Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) about their new bill called the EV Freedom Act on Capitol Hill on February 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. The EV Freedom Act is a plan to create a nation wide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attends a press conference with Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) about their new bill called the EV Freedom Act on Capitol Hill on February 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. The EV Freedom Act is a plan to create a nation wide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Now playing
03:35
Rioter charged with threatening to 'assassinate' Ocasio-Cortez, officer
Now playing
07:26
'What research did you do?': Brown presses GOP lawmaker on election fraud claims

Story highlights

Otto Warmbier died on Monday after 17 months detention in North Korea

Doctors said he suffered significant tissue loss in his brain

(CNN) —  

After 17 months of detention in North Korea, the conditions of which are still unclear, Otto Warmbier returned to his home state of Ohio last week.

On Monday, his family announced his death.

“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person,” his family said in a statement.

The young man who landed in Cincinnati wasn’t the same person who left a year and a half ago on a trip to explore the secretive country.

Before his death, Warmbier did not talk, move in any purposeful way or respond to verbal communication. In a news conference, doctors called his condition “unresponsive wakefulness,” and revealed he had suffered significant brain damage during his imprisonment.

The North Korean government said botulism is to blame for Warmbier’s condition, but doctors said they didn’t find any evidence of the illness in the now 22-year-old.

Before his detention made global headlines, Otto Warmbier was just an adventurous college student.

Bright future

Otto was born to Cindy and Fred Warmbier in Cincinnati – the same city in which he’s now hospitalized.

He excelled in academics, graduating from Wyoming High School in 2013 as his class salutatorian and getting a scholarship to the University of Virginia. There, he studied commerce and economics and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.

By all accounts, Warmbier was a planner. Someone who would always prioritize family and schoolwork over socializing.

“If Otto had anything schoolwork-related, job-related, family-related that he needed to do,” Otto’s friend Ned Ende told the Washington Post, “there was absolutely nothing you could say to him to convince him to do stuff with you.”

But instead of graduating in May with the rest of his class, Warmbier was still in North Korea.

It wasn’t a part of the plan.

Eye for adventure

In the spring of 2016, Warmbier signed up for a trip to North Korea with the Young Pioneer Tours travel group, a company that takes participants to places they wouldn’t normally go.

“Otto was just a really great lad,” Danny Gratton, Otto’s roomate on the trip, told the Washington Post.

“I got to know Otto really, really well. He was such a mature lad for his age.”

In pictures and videos from his time in North Korea, Warmbier can be seen smiling and enjoying himself.

One image taken during the trip shows Warmbier throwing a snowball and laughing.

Otto Warmbier, fourth from the right in a blue jacket, throws a snowball in this photo from his trip to North Korea.
Otto Warmbier, fourth from the right in a blue jacket, throws a snowball in this photo from his trip to North Korea.
PHOTO: WCPO

“This is the Otto I know and love,” Warmbier’s brother Austin told CNN affiliate WCPO. “This is my brother.”

In total, the trip was supposed to last five days. Warmbier had plans to visit Beijing, China, after he left North Korea.

But as he tried to depart from Pyongyang’s airport, he was stopped in security.

According to the North Korean government, Warmbier was detained because he had sneaked onto a restricted floor of his hotel and had stolen a political poster.

The next time the world saw Warmbier he was distraught, breaking down in front of Korean journalists in a video released by North Korea in February of 2016. He admitted to the crime and begged for forgiveness and for his release. It’s not known whether his confession was voluntary.

For his alleged crime, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. In the end, he spent 17 months in North Korea before being released. He was taken by a medical aircraft to the US.

After his arrival, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said his condition was severe, and that he suffered extensive loss of tissue in all regions of his brain.

The circumstances under which he came to be in that state remain a mystery.

In the statement announcing his death, Warmbier’s family said he had completed his journey home and was finally at peace.

“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”