Coroner: We May Never Know What Happened to Otto Warmbier

She says cause of brain damage can't be determined
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2017 4:24 AM CDT
Coroner: We May Never Know What Happened to Otto Warmbier
Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco speaks during a news conference Wednesday at the Hamilton County Coroner's Office in Cincinnati.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The death of Otto Warmbier is a mystery and it will probably stay that way unless somebody from North Korea comes forward with information, Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco says. At a press conference in Cincinnati Wednesday, the coroner said the American student's death was caused by complications from brain-damaging oxygen deprivation around six months into his imprisonment in North Korea, but the cause of the initial "insult" could not be determined, reports Reuters. "We don't know what happened to him, and that's the bottom line," she said. Warmbier's family declined an autopsy, but Sammarco said a CT scan served as a "virtual autopsy."

Sammarco, whose report stated there were no signs of torture on Warmbier's body, said he had apparently been well cared for during the year or more he was bedridden, the AP reports. Sammarco said she decided to speak to the press after Warmbier's parents told national media he had been tortured and "destroyed," the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. She said a forensic dentist found no damage to the 22-year-old's teeth, which father Fred Warmbier said looked like they had been rearranged with pliers. "They're grieving parents. I can't really make comments on their perceptions," she said. "But we here in his office, we depend on science for our conclusions. If we don't have the science, we don’t conjecture." (Read more Otto Warmbier stories.)

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