July 31st, 2009
03:10 PM ET

Missing student safe and well, father says


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/28/art.michael.harrie.jpg caption="Michael Harrie, 29, a veterinary student at Auburn University, was reported missing by his family but is now safe and well in Thailand, according to his father."]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Michael Griffin Harrie, the 29-year-old Auburn University student whose family had reported him missing in Asia, is safe and well in Thailand, his father told CNN Friday. Harrie called his father from the U.S. Embassy in Thailand.

"My God, you can't imagine. It's just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders," Paul Harrie told CNN. "We are so happy. We are just so pleased.

Boy, we were so worried. It's terrific. I've had two nights of no sleep."

The younger Harrie, a veterinary student on a study abroad program, apparently was unaware that his family had reported him missing, his father said. "He went to Malaysia and stayed there for two days. And when he got back (to Thailand), a lady said, 'Listen, you're all over the Internet and the news.'"

He then got in touch with the embassy.

Harrie had sent a message to his family to let them know that he would be staying in Thailand longer than originally planned, and thought the message had gone through, his father said. "He thought everyone know where he was."

Harrie will be returning to the United States and "will probably come back to L.A. to see us," his father said. The family lives in Los Angeles, California.

"I think he will take that time to regroup and deal a little with the questions. We've been through an emotional roller-coaster."

In an interview Thursday, Paul Harrie had raised questions about his son's actions and suggested his son may have lied about his travel plans.

"We don't know what the story is. ... We can't fathom the behavior. It is so atypical of him," Harrie said at the time.

Michael Griffin Harrie was enrolled in a study 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, Thailand. He was expected back on July 14. But Harrie did not return on that date.

On July 16, he failed to show up for a planned meeting with his parents in Tokyo. They soon reported him missing.

His parents flew back to their home in California and worked with Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, to try to track down their son.

Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Paul Harrie said he believed his son went to Thailand by himself, and called the story about going with friends a "ruse."

The family hired a private investigator to help find their son, and was "wondering what the heck is going on," he said.

On Friday, Thai police said Harrie had crossed the border from Thailand into Malaysia on Wednesday, apparently on his own free will.

The family said Harrie is an experienced traveler. Paul Harrie said he considered it unlikely that Michael would have a connection to narcotics or other illegal activity. "He's never been one to do drugs," 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," he said Thursday.

After getting the good news Friday, Harrie described himself as being in "a strange, sleepless, happy state."

"We were just ecstatic because you just worry so much. I had all these terrible scenarios through my mind. And now they just go away. A simple mistake, that's all. Not communicating, and he should have made sure to get through. He said communications in Thailand are pretty difficult."

The relieved father added, "Oh man, it's wonderful."

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

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

Filed under: 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Jwal

    Thank goodness for a happy ending. When love ones are close, that's what you do, communicate...regardless of your age. We are not in this world alone, and we all should be accountable to somebody. This young man is truly blessed to have loving, and caring parents.

    August 2, 2009 at 1:03 am |
  2. Cory

    OMG I am so glad Michael is ok. He is my second cousin. When I found out that he was missing. I was worried sick about him. I haven't slept too well since he went missing. Paul & His wife are great parent's. I agree that some thing's sound kind of fishy about this whole thing, But his parent's will get to the bottom of this. Even though he is 29 & An experienced traveler, Doesn't mean he should not keep in touch with his parent's. Because they are concerned & Love him. & If his parent's are helping him pay for school & This trip he took, They have all the right in the world to know when & Where he is going. Some people were not interested in seeing this story on CNN. & Said some thing more intresting should of been on. Like Mike Jackson. Sorry but give me a break, I am soooooo sick & Tired of Mike Jackson's story, I want to puck.

    August 1, 2009 at 4:22 am |
  3. rick the bass player

    this guys got some 'splanin to do! it is funy how the story ends happily and it somehow vanishes from the headlines.

    July 31, 2009 at 10:42 pm |
  4. foonglp

    For those who think that his parents or specifically his father as controlling, please put yourself in their shoes.
    They were to meet in a foreign country and he didn't show up for a planned meeting with them. They didn't get the alleged message. What were they suppose to think?
    If he's going to bail out on them on foreign soil, call or at least make sure the message got through. That's responsibility.
    There's a difference between act of love and controlling.

    July 31, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  5. DF

    The parents may or may not be controlling. There are a limited number of veterinary schools in the country and attending Auburn can hardly be taken as a definitive reflection on the family dynamic. The article states there was an arranged meeting in Tokyo for which the son failed to show. Assuming arrangements were already made, even though a message was apparently attempted, I think most of us would consider it odd to cancel a meeting with a family or friend flying across the Pacific in such a fashion. And especially without that message being received, I think most of us would raise an alarm if we arrived and our child was not present. There may or may not be more to the story, but to call the parents controlling or interfering without knowing more seems excessive.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  6. BCD

    Read the article thoroughly before you post. Many things that you have posted are false. If you don't understand things before you post, just re-read the article.

    To clarify:
    The travel plans before he left were to meet his parents in Tokyo on July 16th, after planning to be back in Japan on the 14th. If these were agreed upon plans, then the parents were not forcing him into it. As for his age, he is in a post-secondary degree program, which means he already has a bachelor's degree, and a master's degree. He is attending the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University. This is not an easy program to get into.

    What would you do if you were going to meet a close relative in a foreign country on a agreed upon date and location, and they didn't show up?

    The majority of the negative comments on this article show how rude Americans and people of other nationalities are becoming. If you want world peace, how are we going to achieve it with these negative minded people?

    July 31, 2009 at 8:33 pm |
  7. Susan

    Thank God his parents worried about him being in Thailand and then not showing up for a planned meeting. Do you realize that tourists disappear in Thailand all the time? Some of you are just envious because his family cares!

    July 31, 2009 at 8:33 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    I don't care how old you are. If you miss a planned arranged meeting with your folks in a foreign country someone should be concerned. He could have been the victim of criminals and the only thing that would tip people off to his precarious situation would be someone to report him missing. I would expect my family to look for me and I'm older than 29. I don't see his parents as controlling – just concerned as well they should be. And I'm very glad he turned up all right!!

    July 31, 2009 at 8:30 pm |
  9. C.Frazer

    Even if he is 29 years old international travel can be dangerous for anyone. He is very lucky he has parents that care about him. Google the dangers of international travel and then say his father is controlling.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:24 pm |
  10. Catherine

    I just spend 3 months all over Thailand and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the communication networks there. I was both in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and all over the country side. My cell phone cost me $30.00.
    This is a very poor excuse. We are not talking about the heartlands of Africa. I think the entire family should reflect on this story. Freud's voice is pretty loud in this scenario. And the whole world got to witness it. On another note, thank God he's okay. A bit disrespectful to his family, afraid to confront them (hence the text he thought he sent ;)), but at least in one piece.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:22 pm |
  11. Annabelle

    I'm guessing the people who think this guys parents are "controlling" don't have parents who give a crap about them.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:12 pm |
  12. Diane

    So glad he's been found safe and sound.

    To those who had all the bad things to say this afternoon about the parents and this young man on another thread maybe now you see the parents were not controling just loved their son and were worried sick. Pity more parents were not that way these days. I feel for those 29 year olds who's parents don't care as much as these do.

    As others have said the parents had every right to be worried if he did not show up to meet them in Japan. it was not as if he missed lunch at McDonalds with them. They flew half way around the world to meet him and he does not show up. Any halfway decent parent would have been worried. I know I would have been.

    I also feel bad for those parents who have adult children who don't respect their own parents enough to see this as an issue. I commend the parents of this young man. This could have had a very tragic ending. Think people before you put down parents for loving their kids no matter what age they are!

    July 31, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  13. Jeff

    War Eagle!

    July 31, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  14. butt

    Something is definitely not adding up with this story. Why did he not show up for the arranged meeting with his parents in Japan? No one asked him?! Why doesn't it say? What kind of half-assed reporting is this?! Nothing whatsoever is mentioned about his response as to what he was doing after being found!

    Weird! First thing I would ask is, "Why did you decide to go to Malaysia instead of to Japan for your meeting as planned?"

    These people are shady, and these reporters are sloppy.

    A shady, sloppy mess all the way around!

    July 31, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  15. Ken

    I have to question some parents and how they raise their childern. I mean this young man felt it was alright to lie to his parents and multiple other folks about what he was doing and dates. He broke his promises to his folks by not showing up in Tokoyo on a certain date (and imagine the expense they went through to meet him there). And he lacks the foresight to call anyone while he jaunts around having a grand old time with his parents money. The guy is a loser, all due to his poor upbringing.

    Just yesterday in our offices some stuck up VP was talking about his daughter and how she was supposed to be at college under some summer studies program due to poor grades. And out of the blue he and his 2nd wife get a call from her from Hawaii, where she flew off to using the card daddy gave her, as she needed a break from the studies. And the card shut down in Hawaii as it was flagged for large charges and she needed it restored so she could back to the States.

    This is the quality of people many parents are raising today. So sad indeed.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  16. Ganker

    From the story: "Harrie had sent a message to his family to let them know that he would be staying in Thailand longer than originally planned"

    If my parents were so technologically incompetent that they had to be told and retold how to check their email or retrieve their voice messages, and they hired private detectives to track me down if they failed to do it, I'd want to disappear to Malaysia for awhile too.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  17. Conner

    This was never a story to begin with. Some student wants to get away from his controlling parents and his parents alert everybody and are talking about how he has never been one to behave this way. They need to let their kid be a bloody adult. Seriously.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  18. lynne

    I disagree with all who posted "controlling father" and "the guy is twenty-nine" and the like. He was SUPPOSED to meet his parents in Japan on a specific date. Not to do so is very strange. Very strange. Which leads me to wonder if this young man has had some kind of mental break–and I mean a serious psychological breakdown. When family flies over a thousand miles to meet someone for a planned trip, for that family member not to show up is–well, it's incomprehensible that there is not a serious concern. Something like an accident, death or mental breakdown–and mental break is what I suspect (fifteen years experience working in a psychiatric setting as a social worker). This is out of character for him apparently, and it's crazy behavior.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  19. John Lifer

    Not to worry, Mom, Dad, I'll show when I want to!
    Maybe he was giving them a message, leave me the H&ll alone!
    It is strange, but we don't know all details and won't. But it shouldn't have been reported as BIG news. We need more about Beer garden retreat.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  20. jds

    So glad to read that he was found safe–too many cases out there with a different ending. For those criticizing the parents for being "too controlling", if you were to travel abroad to visit a friend and two days after arriving, you still hadn't heard from your friend, wouldn't you try to get in touch with your friend's family? And if they hadn't heard from him/her either, wouldn't the next normal thing to do be to contact the authorities? If this man hadn't been found safe, and the parents hadn't contacted authorities, I'm sure those criticizing them for being "controlling" would be the first to point the finger at them for not caring enough.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:34 pm |
  21. crystalinWI

    This is fishy. They go to Japan to meet him, on a certain date, and he doesn't show. Look at the guy. There is something odd here.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  22. Boo

    Communications in Thailand are NOT difficult- there are internet cafes about every two feet even in the Boonies.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  23. Luna

    Maria, how dumb can you get? Chandra Levy was abducted while she was running and Natalee Holoway's parents did know where she was – on a class trip- it was the people who she was with and who were supposed to be chaperoning her group who were unaware. As an adult, I sure as heck am not going to call my mommy every time I go somewhere while I'm traveling.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  24. Jerry

    His parents were concerned because it's their son you idiots! Yes, he is a grown man but a parent has the right to be concerned. Some of you who made those comments probably didn't get along with their own folks.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  25. Jason

    I don't consider the father overly controlling or worrysome here. His son was out in the middle of South East Asia. Having him suddenly go off the radar is cause for a little concern.

    It's not like the dad is worried because his 29 year old son stayed at the mall too long.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  26. seattle privacy

    Oh one other thing, he is 29, why on earth would he need to tell his entire family where he was, hat he was doing, and who he was doing it with?

    July 31, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  27. K.M.

    To those of you who feel his parents should butt-out, you must not have children. And, more importantly, no one said his parents told him he couldn't go. If your spouse or girlfriend or whatever went to a foreign country (or anywhere in the U.S., for that matter) and disappeared, you'd be concerned, also.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  28. Sandra

    I have a 37 year old son. He is very responsible and if he tells me he is going to do something he does it , or he lets me know why he cant.. You would think that a 29 year old man would be more responsible and have more respect for his parents. Are they paying for that education? Bet they are. They deserve better treatment from their son.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  29. Carolyn

    Seriously, to the people who are saying the father needs to back off....get a grip! If I'm flying to Asia to meet anyone (son or not) and they do not show up. I'm going to report/investigate it and I'm going to be terribly concerned.

    BTW, Now that I have my own children, I'm much more understanding of my Mom's continued interest in my own life!

    July 31, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  30. Teresa, OH

    ^5 to the parents for responding so quickly when they thought their son was missing. I would have done exactly the same thing you did, right down to the PI. Time waited is time wasted in a missing case. If youre a parent, youre a parent for life.

    Great job to the police, PI, and the parents. Nice ending : )

    July 31, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  31. Donna

    Glad this turned out well for everyone. It is nice to hear some good news these days.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  32. E

    I can't believe he was being irresponsible. He thought his message went through? Unless you get confirmation back for plans, you assume that the message doesn't go through. When someone flies across the Pacific you don't decide that you'll stay a few extra days away, you come back and see them as well. Something must have been wrong if he disappeared like that.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  33. Maryam

    The only reason why this is on the news is because he is white and from the south! Imagine how much money it must cost to fly to asia and back and hire private investigators..can you say spoiled???

    July 31, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  34. tydica

    I can understand the parent's concern, especially traveling all the way to Japan for a pre-planned get together and their son doesn't show. What are they supposed to think in a situation like that if not the worse? While at 29 yrs old it's certainly the son's prerogative to change his plans a simple phone call to his parents or the school would have averted all this mess.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  35. Steve

    There are about 2 Veterinary medicine schools in California.
    If you get accepted to Auburn, you go. As to not meeting his parents in Japan, thats a different issue.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  36. Grace

    First, it's "whereabouts" and not "ware abouts."

    Second, age does not give someone the right to be selfish or irresponsible. If I had made plans to meet one of my fifty year old relatives on a particular date in a particular country and they were a "no show" – I'd report them missing too! The son's failure to confirm receipt of communication of such a major change of plans "oh by the way Mom and Dad, don't bother to fly from L.A. to Tokyo because I won't be there" is more than hapless – it's selfish. For the parents, I'm glad he's o.k.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm |
  37. Forrest Gump

    1. Veterinary school is harder to get into than medical school, so this kid is no dummy.
    2. I assume his parents are also not dummies, based on their ability to fly back and forth across the Pacific to see their son, and to meet in Tokyo, which is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

    The problem with being forced to be the perfectly responsible child is that the second you try to live life on your own terms, everyone is going to freak out. Now, the fact that this story got massive media attention means that the parents are connected in some way, and got their story placed in some major media sites, where it snowballed.

    "Rich people, they just ain't like us"

    July 31, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  38. Aparent

    Any parent would be worried. Does anyone watch the news ever? Strange and tragic things happen all the time. He didn't show up to a planned meeting in TOKYO!!!!!!! It's not like he failed to show up at the pizza joint down the street and forgot. Of course they wanted to find out where he was that's their son, any parent would do anything they could and immediately whether their child is 9, 29 or 59. There definately has to be more to this story but at least he's OK.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  39. Lin

    It does not matter whether you are 1 year old or 100 years old. You have to let people know where you are going at all times especially if you are overseas even in the continental USA. That does not mean that person owns you or anything. It just means, so those who love you have peace of mind. As we all know, things happen. There is no feeling than that of "helplessness." Not knowing what happen to your child is one feeling no one should have.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  40. veronica

    Something is missing here... he had to meet his parents in Tokyo and he simply decided not to show up and leave them there!
    I feel like he doesn't have a close relationship with them, maybe they are going through a family problem and he just didn't want to see them.
    Maybe the dad is a little controlling and or the parents planned the trip even if he didn't want to receive them there! Even the dad says that "MAYBE" his son will visit them in LA after returning to the US".

    If I ever go "missing" (on my own free will) and then find out that my family looked for me and that my case is even mentioned in the news, when I got back I would for sure go visit my family, not "MAYBE".

    July 31, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  41. Bill

    I'm with Siobhan...this doesn't read right. Either he is the most inconsiderate son (His parents flew to Japan!) or he's mixed up in something else. I suspect the latter.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  42. Steve

    Man, this is all pretty suspicious. I don't believe either side is telling complete truths. Could be why events unfolded as they did. Sounds like a family in crisis and they need to seek professional help. I suspect this isn't the first of this type of incident that's occurred within the family ranks. It never is. Peel off the layers and the truth comes to light. Perhaps this is a good thing that events had to unfold this way...now they can sit down (hopefully in a professional setting) and confront the real issues that have probably been festering for years. It just too bad the family problems had to turn into an international incident. The family should pay any costs any agencies incurred in the "search."

    July 31, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  43. Jimmy

    Glad to hear he's OK.... WAR EAGLE!!

    July 31, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  44. Jeanne

    This is a matter of total disrespect for his parents, especially after he
    agreed to meet with them for a set date not to mention the very
    long distance his parents travelled to visit with him.
    Sounds like a spooled brat to me, and I bet his parents
    are paying his way all through school!

    Wait until he meets the real world after he graduates.
    Let him try this caper on any future employers
    and he will be crying to come home to mommy and
    daddy after he has been canned!!

    July 31, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  45. olivia

    If he was black, he wouldn't have made the news.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  46. Steve

    I hope CNN or media still follows this!! There is still something very NOT right here. What was he doing there? Why go to the airport and then turn and leave. Why say he's with friends and video shows otherwise?

    May say it's none of our business, but once the WORLD APB is put out, it becomes our business!!

    July 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  47. Val

    Maria, I agree with you, my parents let me know where they are going and they are in the same city, its just in the event something happen and I have to get in touch with them or they have to get in touch with me. My son is 28 years old and I am always asking him where are you going and I tell him he needs to let me know if he go out of town so if anything happen I can say "Well he said he was going to """"".thats is, simple its not about controling it about Loving each other considering the time that you are living in now.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  48. Travis

    Sounds like he may have "helicopter" parents. And the son sounds completely irresponsible. If he did send them a message about extending his trip, then he should have made certain they received it – like in some form of acknowledgement. After all, they had overseas flight plans. It's not as though they were just going to hop in a car and drive across town. It's all pretty lame. Apparently, at 29 y.o, this guy is still a child which is why his parents had to overreact. They probably know, better than anyone else, that their son is prone to these sorts of behaviors and probably have to treat him like a child. Some kids are just like that. And as for the comment about Chandra Levy...that's ridiculous. She only went out for a jog in the local park as she probably did (like many others) on a regular basis. Do you really think it's feasible for her to have told her parents everytime she left her apartment where she was headed and when she'd be back. Get a grip. Let kids grow up and learn from life (and their mistakes).

    July 31, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
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