Ken DeLand’s disappearance in France sheds light on Europe’s ‘abolished’ borders travel zone

FIRST ON FOX – For the past few weeks, the family of Ken DeLand, an American college student who went missing in France, has been receiving tips from a website about what might have happened to the 22-year-old, including from people pointing to a European zone without travelers’ borders. they do not need to present their passports.

The missing student’s father, Ken DeLand, also said Tuesday that he had received tips from potential sightings and others through his website,, that his son may have already left France undetected. .

“Actually, everyone told us about the Schengen area,” said the elder DeLand. “And what it is, it covers a whole area in the EU where people can travel almost without showing ID, and some people have said that it can even be done very cheaply.”

According to the Schengen visa website, this zone “refers to a zone where 26 European countries have abolished their internal borders for the free and unrestricted movement of people in accordance with common rules for controlling external borders and fighting crime by strengthening a common judicial system and police. cooperation.” It covers most European countries except Ireland.


“Well, he could theoretically move between several different, several EU countries without even having to show his passport or ID,” the elder DeLand said. “I hope not.”

Ken DeLand has seen abroad.

But the father cast doubt on that assumption, noting that his son had already traveled across Europe to Italy and later returned to France during a break from a study abroad program at Grenoble Alpes University.

“I know he took about a week off when he was there when school was out, which is normal for college students,” the elder DeLand said. “He traveled to Italy because he really wanted to see what Italy was like, and he enjoyed it. He traveled alone. He stayed in hostels. He went to several coastal cities, Rome, Naples. Florence. He wrote about it on Facebook. have pictures.

DeLand Sr., his wife, Jennifer DeLand, and the 22-year-old girl’s mother, Carol Laws, launched a media blitz and made several appearances on U.S. cable networks to appeal for information that could help bring the missing student home by Christmas. . His study abroad program expires on December 17th and his visa expires on January 20th.

According to the father, even the US Embassy praised their efforts to secure coverage in the local French media, which was crucial in getting the local word out about DeLand’s disappearance.

“I was on the phone with the embassy again this morning, and the gentleman at the embassy said, ‘I can’t believe how much coverage you’re covering this story.’ He said, “Good of you to surprise me and bring it out there.” He says, “You and your family have done a great job of getting the word out. It really blows my mind,” DeLand said. “And I made sure that the gentleman at the embassy knew about the website and the drop-down menu on the website and any information that we were trying to keep updated on the website. can. when necessary.”


“I keep in touch with the embassy and try to get up early in the morning because they are 6 hours ahead so I can get there by noon,” the father added. “He praised us for our ability to access the news, create a website and get the message out in France and across France. And he confirmed it. [seen] The story appeared in several news outlets, and he said the best thing he could do to spread the word was to take it to the French media. And you did it.”

The elder DeLand also criticized a statement released Monday by Grenoble prosecutor Eric Vaillant.

Vaillant notes that DeLand “came to France unprepared and had difficulty making friends.” He said French investigators believe DeLand “appears to have left Grenoble of his own free will.”

“Anyone who goes to a foreign-speaking country and tries to learn the language, I think if they don’t understand the language very well, they’re going to have a hard time,” the elder DeLand said in defense of his son. “He studied French in high school, and he tried to prepare himself when he thought about going to a foreign country. When you go abroad, you know, they speak the language faster and more. Strongly.”

Young DeLand, a student at St. John Fisher University in Rochester and an Eagle Scout, took five to six years of French courses in middle and high school, but “even I didn’t understand his French,” his father said. “I talked to the teacher,” he said. with help translating and he said, “I’ll tell you the truth, my French, I’m not sure how well I fit into this French dialect.” He said, “I’m better at Quebec French.”

“It was different students from different regions of the world. But it was only in French. So it felt very intense,” the father said of his son’s studies in the program. “And he reached out to some counselors at the college to make sure he could, you know, try to be as successful as possible there.”

The family said they last heard from DeLand on November 27 via WhatsApp.

He attended classes on Nov. 28, where bystanders said he appeared “normal and happy,” according to the family’s website. DeLand was reported missing on Nov. 29 after failing to show up for class or being seen by friends or host family. He reportedly left all his belongings, including his computer, tablet, train ticket and phone charger, at his host family’s home. His phone was last heard on November 30 at Valence train station.

Bank records show she made a purchase of just $8.40 at Decathlon Sporting Goods in Montelimar, France, on Dec. 3. Surveillance video also showed the 6-foot-1, 190-pound DeLand entering the store wearing a red jacket, scarf, gray skirt, blue jeans and sneakers, carrying a black backpack.

The elder DeLand complained that the French prosecutor knew more than his family.

“That’s how the French look at him because of his age. And he’s leaving with a bag of things. I can’t comment on that and I’m not sure where the prosecutor got his information from,” he said. said the father. “Due to the Privacy Act, I could not get the information.”

“Maybe I’m talking to the prosecutor,” added the elder DeLand. “She knows more than us parents.”

“We saw this new story in the story yesterday and we’re scratching our heads to find out where this information came from and how he was able to figure out that they had information,” the father said. “And with the privacy act, how was he able to get the testimony?”

The father also asked if a trip to France would be helpful in the search.

“Logistically, the disruptions I see,” the elder DeLand said. “I don’t speak French. I don’t know the area. I don’t know the cities or the sights. If I went there, I would have a hard time knowing the language and knowing where to start.”

The father said he had no reason to believe his son did not have a good relationship with his host mother in France.

From what DeLand the elder heard, the woman spoke English and had two grown daughters who sometimes helped translate between their mother and DeLand the younger.

The DeLand family knew his number and address, but they had not yet spoken. The father said he appreciates how the French family regularly sits down to eat together with DeLand.

“We’re not sure where Kenny is. I hope he’s safe and he’s coming home,” DeLand said. “We are trying to get the word out as much as we can to find people who want to help and help find Kenny and bring him home safely.”

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