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July 31st, 2009
08:38 AM ET

'Major break' expected in missing student case






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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/28/art.michael.harrie.jpg caption="A global search is being conducted for Michael Harrie, 29, a veterinary student at Auburn University."]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

The family of an Auburn University student who went missing in Asia told CNN they expect a "major break" in the search Friday.

Paul Harrie, father of 29-year-old Michael Griffin Harrie, gave no details on what the news may be. But he said Friday morning that the break was "imminent."

Thai police said Harrie, a veterinary student who was on an overseas program, crossed the border from Thailand into Malaysia on Wednesday.

Harrie was at the Padang Besa checkpoint, Thai tourist police said. Harrie's family said investigators have found that Harrie apparently left the country on his own free will. But the family is mystified over his sudden, unexplained movements.

"The thing that is really gnawing us now is what's happening here," Paul Harrie told CNN in an interview on Thursday. "It's just so out of character for him. We can't figure it out."

Michael Griffin Harrie was enrolled in a study abroad program at a school in Japan over the summer. He informed one of his professors that he was leaving on July 7 for a one-week vacation with friends in Bangkok.

He was expected back on July 14. But Harrie never returned from his trip. And on July 16th, his parents reported him missing.

Paul Harrie now believes his son went to Thailand by himself. He calls his son's story about going with friends a "ruse." But why would he lie? Paul Harrie is baffled, telling CNN, "We don't know what the story is… We can't fathom the behavior. It is so atypical of him."

Paul Harrie said a private investigator told him the police speculate that his son may be running from something. But he considers it unlikely his son would have a connection to narcotics or other illegal activity.

"He's never been one to do drugs," Paul Harrie insisted. "I can't imagine he would have the mindset to smuggle or drug deal or anything like that. I suspect he needs a break, or something is profoundly disturbing him."

Michael Griffin Harrie has not contacted his family, school, or friends since disappearance, and may be in need of money. His last known use of an ATM was on July 13. And while he has been described as an experienced traveler, his decision to fly to Thailand abruptly and slip across the border without telling anyone is deeply distressing to his loved ones.

"We were happy and thankful that he hasn't been injured," his father said. "But we were also wondering what the heck is going on."

Michael Griffin Harrie is from the San Francisco, California, area. He has brown hair and blue eyes and wears eye-glasses. He is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds.

The Auburn University Department of Public Safety and Security is asking for anyone with any information on his whereabouts to call at 334-844-8888.

CNN's Kocha Olarn in Bangkok contributed to this report.

For more crime coverage go to cnn.com/crime.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. rovella

    This isn't right people! Reality is that either this was a huge hoax to get attention or this guy is a pedophile who got carried away and didn't want to leave before fulfilling all of his sick fantasies about little boys and girls.it is expensive to go there and he decided to take full advantage of the opportunity while he had it.give the sick wierd looking perv a lie detector test and after that fine him and charge him with a crime for waisting the american peoples time.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  2. SuzeC

    Controlling parents?????? They had arrangements to meet him in Tokyo; for him to make the choice to not show, without letting them know, is the height of irresponsibility. They trekked all the way from California to Japan and he didn't have the respect for them to at least call them and say he wasn't going to be there. And, he wasn't a "couple of days" overdue – it was 2 weeks before this story broke wide open. I'd hope to hell that if I ever disappeared while traveling, and had been missing for 2 weeks, that MY family would be using every avenue to find me. He's 29 – time to grow up and show some responsibility. (I hope he doesn't plan to go into private practice if he finishes vet school; I'd never trust someone like that with my pets – something is just not quite right about this whole story.)

    July 31, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Mark

    @James:

    "Gee, hmm, why would a 29 year old guy go to Thailand by himself on a trip shrouded in lies?"

    You do realize that many, MANY Americans go to Thailand to study Buddhism and meditation, don't you? Or are you too ignorant to realize that?

    @JT

    "Thailand is a cesspool of crime and bizarre activities…."

    As are New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, and pretty much every major American city.

    "Children for sex is common..."

    No, it is WELL PUBLICIZED, but not common.

    I lived in Thailand for 4 years, and I can tell you that Thai citizens are REVOLTED by the idea of people (Thai or foreigner) have sex with children.

    And while the economic disparity of the Thai population probably results in it being more widespread than here in the USA, it would be ignorant to say that it is "common."

    It is so funny that we in the West have this warped image of Thailand, since when you talk with Thai people who have never been to the US, they are almost as ignorant of us as we are of them. So many Thai people asked me, "Why are American men and women so into 'Free Sex?'"

    I asked them what they mean, and they said that it seems like American men and women would "sleep with anybody," and they thought that American women roamed the streets bra-less and in micro-mini skirts.

    And where did they get this image of the US as a sexual free-for-all?

    From the media. Every time there is some sort of unusual sexual behavior in the US, it gets blown out of proportion in the Thai media, much the same way the US media works.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  4. HS

    He contacted the embassy when he came back!

    July 31, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  5. Chris

    @Dave

    People are merely speculating. There's nothing wrong with that. This is the media, CNN at that. It's the way things go. I for one, can tell you it's making the story a lot more interesting. I just hope he makes it home okay and it's all sorted out if indeed, he wants to be found...

    July 31, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  6. Dex

    Didn't the last story say that he was scheduled to meet up with his parents back in Japan, just a few days after his scheduled return from Thailand? And days later, he is spotted crossing the border in Malaysia?

    July 31, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  7. Bill

    To all the people who say don't say stuff that might upset the parents, if they really want to find him and know what happened then they have to think of all the possibilities. The guy is a healthy, prime life man in an area rich in the sex trade.

    It just seems very likely that he went over to sample some of the girls since he will not have the opportunity again, I know I would! Nothing wrong with that, in fact it's common sense and natural. Get your head out of the sand and focus on what is most likely.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  8. Auburn Grad

    Oh my! I can't believe a 29 year old man can slip out of an airport for WHATEVER reason and make CNN News!!! Whether it be drugs, an imaginative libido, or the rigors of Vet School....He's a grown man. I'd like to knock a knot on his parents' head for acting as if their son's brief (so far) disappearance is so blasted important!!!

    July 31, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  9. Katrina

    HE HAS BEEN FOUND ALREADY! Alive and well.... read CNN.blogs

    July 31, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  10. Jeff

    Where is the news in this story?

    A. 29 year old student lies to parents.
    B. Single guy heads to Thailand for a couple weeks of fun.
    C. Tourist crosses the border from Thailand to Malaysia.
    D. Parents are friends without someone influential to make this news.
    E. NONE OF THE ABOVE!

    July 31, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  11. Tina

    Can his parents really be all that controlling when he's that far away? It's not like he's living at home and disappeared. He obviously wanted to get away from it all (from something or to something, who knows). I, too, bet he'll be freaked out to find that he picked the wrong slow news cycle to do this in!

    July 31, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  12. SM

    I think John from DC's scenario seems to make a ton of sense and fit all the details we know at this point: guy gets involved in drug smuggling to make a quick (and big!) buck as so many westeners do over there, gets to the airport, sees something he doesn't like and has a "Locked up Abroad" moment and panicks that he's gonna end up in prison or sentenced to death for smuggling, bolts from the airport, but now it's the drug dealers he's gotta worry about not the cops, so he dissapears and tries to covertly cross the border by himself all while basically "in hiding".

    Makes perfect sense to me. Regardless, glad it's pointing to him being alive at this point. Now let's move on.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  13. TA

    First off, I agree that it's not right to just assume this guy was doing something wrong. I'm not saying he didn't, but you have to look at all scenarios.

    With that said, if you do go under the assumption that he is running from someone or something, why would he try to contact his family to tell them he's okay. He would have to assume by now that his family has reported him missing (even if he hasn't seen it on TV). Therefore, if he is running to protect himself, notifying his family and/or friends would put him and those he loves in danger. Just a thought.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  14. Sam

    Why is it people need to be so cynical and hateful? Why don't you all turn your negative energy into something positive and help find this young man.

    I am sick and tired of parents and people in general not supporting the parents when something happens where the parents need the support of their community. In this day and age it is very difficult being a parent without the support or their community.

    This guy is a veterinary student and a very respectable young man.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  15. TVDi

    This is not a "child". He is 29! I can understand the inital concern (from his parents) of not hearing from him and what not, but good grief. Let the guy out of the craddle already. Do you think you could possilby embarrass him any further? Or did you intend to get a bit of help from the posters here that would comment on him being a drug using, dope smuggling. prostitute chasing pedophile? Holy hell!

    July 31, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  16. StephanieKaye

    This does sound like a scenario from the TV show "Locked up Abroad". Vet. school is very expensive and earning thousands of dollars for running drugs is a very lucrative offer for someone struggling to pay for their education (assuming this man is not well to do). If this is the case, he is probably locked up in some jail in Thailand or Malaysia and hasn't been given the chance to phone the U.S. Embassy or his loved ones. Hopefully, this man is alive and well.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  17. Sandy McIntyre

    Spoken like a "true" father. Not my son!!

    July 31, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  18. Jennifer

    I would sure hate to have my child missing in a foreign country and have to rely on some of the most outlandish posters here for their thoughts. Oh, and to the posters that don't think parents of 29-year-olds should give a hoot about them just because they are "grown up": I'm sorry your parents don't care enough about you to come looking if you go missing, but most of the parents in the world actually do care. Thank goodness.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
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