A high school foreign exchange student was declared missing in Utah on Friday as his parents in China received a ransom note alongside a photo of the boy, police said.
Kai Zhuang, 17, who resides in Riverdale, Utah, located 34 miles north of Salt Lake City, while he attends school was last seen Thursday morning.
“The parents reported to school officials they received a photograph of their child that would indicate he was abducted and they requested a ransom,” Riverdale Police Chief Casey Warren said at a press conference.
The school contacted the police department regarding a possible kidnapping at around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Zhuang’s host parents told police they were unaware of the student’s disappearance, claiming that they saw him the day before and heard him in the house around 3:30 a.m.
After Zhuang did not reemerge on Friday morning, an Endangered Missing Person Advisory was issued for the teen, describing him as a 5’9″- 5’10” Asian male, approximately 150 pounds, with black/brown eyes and brown/black hair.
Police officials initially suspected Zhuang had been “forcefully taken from his home and held against his will,” according to KUTV.
Warren, however, later clarified that there was “no evidence to suggest he was forcefully taken from the home in Riverdale.”
An Amber alert was never sent out for Zhuang’s disappearance as police do not have any identities on who may have kidnapped the teen, the motive, or if the kidnappers knew him, his family or host family.
Police provided few details, but did add they were working with the FBI, the US Embassy in China and China officials to help locate the missing juvenile, as “several investigative efforts” are already in place.
“At this point the information we have is very limited, detectives and officers in other jurisdictions have been helping us out,” Warren added. “We’ve been working vigorously around the clock to try to locate him and make sure he’s safe.”
In 2022, 2,600 of 5,800 reported missing Asian males were between the ages of 0-17, according to the FBI.