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. Carol C.

    Yes, he has some explaining to do...

    July 31, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
  2. Jeff

    I can't wait to hear all about this, over and over and over and over again on Nancy Grace.

    ( "Out to you no-name clinical psychologist, why would a grown man of 29 not call to his parents every day to report his whereabouts? If my twins treat me the same way I can tell you that I'm gonna kick some serious butt! Don't answer! Let's take a moment, while I transition into my artificially somber voice now as we remember a fallen hero....)

    July 31, 2009 at 5:31 pm |
  3. Tammy, Houma, LA

    A nice ending... and for the record, when traveling, especially overseas, one should always have a point of contact in the States to share itineraries, changes to that, and hotel, contact info (cell numbers or emails or friends in the foreign country), passport, travel insurance, and credit card info in case something happens. I'm single and travel alone oftentimes for business and vacation. I always tell my parents and/or best friend my info. It protects me.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  4. leigh

    glad to see that this story has a happy ending. i am the same age as Michael, and a female, and i travel overseas by myself pretty frequently. i do my best to keep in contact with my parents and friends via email and blog, and would hope that my parents would do the same thing if i missed an established contact time.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  5. Westerner in Saudi

    This guy didn't want to see his parents. Obviously.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  6. P

    He was supposed to meet his parents from California in Tokyo and did not show up. That is cause for concern. It is not like they drove down the street. They flew across an ocean to see him on an appointed day and he was no where to be found. I think they were allowed to worry and report him missing.

    He should have informed them of a change of plans (common respect). He is grown but he created the worry by not informing people his plans had changed.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  7. Nancy

    Doesn't matter how old he is. If you are regularly talking to a relative and then that relative all of a sudden dropped off the face of the planet for an unusual amount of time (and you knew they were overseas) then alarm bells would ring in anybody's head. Maybe the son should've told his parent's that he won't be able to communicate with them for a period of time. Maybe the family was the one PAYING for the son's vacation. Ever think about that?

    Above all, he is safe and that's what matters the most.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  8. Cindy

    Granted, he's an adult of 29 and should be able to do as he pleases. My nephew did the same thing while he was in Australia. He took off on his own without telling anyone. However, this young man had arrangements to meet with his parents in Tokyo on a certain day and should not have been irresponsible and selfish as to not let them know where he was or his changed travel plans. Very immature.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  9. Jojo

    He's 29- his travel plans should be his own, etc. etc. etc. Did ya'll MISS the part in the story where he was to have met up with his parents in Tokyo on July 16? I don't know about anyone else, but if I hadn't heard from someone (regardless of age or relation) who was supposed to have traveled internationally with me and they didn't show up, and no one else could reach them either, I'd pretty much go into panic mode. His parents did the right thing- give 'em a freaking break.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  10. Carla

    I believe the original story stated that he had told his Professors, he was going on a trip with friends, and that he'd be back on a certain date. When he didn't show up again, and there are "special interest groups" that would, given the opportunity, might kidnap an American and hold them for some type of ransom, be it cash or some type of demand, there might be reason to worry.

    When you are travelling abroad, it's ALWAYS a good idea to inform someone of your plans. Heck that's a smart idea here in the US too. People have had accidents, gotten lost, or worse, and if they hadn't informed someone of their plans and when they expected to be back, no one would have looked for them until it might have been too late.

    So for those that are voicing their opinions, on what type of parents this man has, I hope you have never overreacted when you couldn't reach a loved one, when you "thought," they should have been at a certain place, at a certain time; even if that means at home. Because if you have, guess what that makes you????? A person who cares about someone.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  11. J.

    Right on Tracy!

    July 31, 2009 at 5:06 pm |
  12. Bob

    Did you people read the article? His parents flew Tokyo for a PLANNED meeting with him, and he didn't show up. That hardly indicates that the parents are over-protective. If I flew to another country for a planned meeting with someone and they were no where to be found, I'd be very concerned – as would anyone.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm |
  13. Really?

    He may be a grown man, but if my child was supposed to MEET me in a foreign country that I paid good money (which is in short supply for a lot of people nowadays) and my child did not show up for a pre-arranged meeting, then yeah, I'd be reporting him / her missing too. Just because the child is an adult doesn't mean the parents should be concerned. Adults go missing every day in countries all over the world and the outcomes are not usually this benign. Glad the guy is okay and his parents are relieved, but I personally would be ripping said son a new hole for not showing up for the meeting in Hong Kong. Very inconsiderate!

    July 31, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  14. Kiare

    Tracy, if you were supposed to meet a family member and they didn't show up after traveling abroad and you discovered that they'd never returned from their trip- wouldn't you at least be concerned, regardless of the age of the family member?

    Some families are just tight knit, and people dropping from contact isn't normal. My family is close- I'm 29 (and married) and always let me parents know when I'm traveling. Not all my plans, but at least where I'm going. And let them know when I get there. Not due to them micromanaging my life, but because they're still my parents and they're human and worry.

    I'm glad that this all turned out to be a misunderstanding and that he's alright.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  15. Ron

    Not meeting his parents who flew all the way to Tokyo was the stupid part. That is what started the whole "missing persons" thing. He was probably having the time of his life which is all well and good, but I would hope someone would look for me if I failed to make a meeting with people who flew half way around the world for. The other inuendos are from people who have never been there. Thailand is much more than just sex and drugs. Europeans have been taking family vacations there for years. Even going alone I wouldn't jump to conclusions.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  16. Sue

    I'll bet Tracy and Gwenn don't have children yet! Any parent in this situation would worry, regardless of the age of their child. Glad he turned up OK!

    July 31, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  17. jane

    The point is that it sounds like his parents flew to Japan to meet up with him and he blew them off. That actually sounds sort of strange, or at the very least, extremely rude.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  18. Elizabeth

    Yes, he is an adult who is capable of making his own travel plans and yes he is an adult who can do as he pleases. However, when he is scheduled to meet his parents at the airport and doesn't show up, it seems to me that they have every right to be concerned. I am also 29, but I know that my parents love me and worry about me, so I try to ease their minds by checking in with them when I'm traveling. Doesn't seem like such an abnormal thing to me. Ultimately, as I read the story, it appears that there was a miscommunication and everyone is safe and happy. And for those who automatically assume he was indulging his demons...maybe he simply wanted to take advantage of a once in a lifetime experience and see as much of the world as he can while he's there. Most people don't have an opportunity to travel the world, and I prefer to assume that he was simply making the most of his time in Asia.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  19. Chris

    I am glad that this situation all turned out well for that family. but if MY parents were making a PLANNED trip to fly from the U.S. to Tokyo, Japan to visit with me I sure as heck wouldn't selfishly decide to "send a message" to my parents that I'm blowing off the fact they spent hundreds to fly around the globe so I can spend a few extra days in Thailand. I sure hope he's paying for his own education. That's just selfish and irresponsible. I'll bet when the relief that their son is safe and alive has passed they're going to be pretty angry!

    July 31, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  20. Jodie

    If you read the article it says he missed a plan meeting with his parents in Tokyo! I doubt that they just happened to be in Tokyo and were just going to have a casual visit. I think any parent would worry when they fly to another country and their son doesn't meet up with them when it's planned. That was thoughtless and stupid and the parents had every right to worry at that point.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  21. Gigi

    "On July 16, he failed to show up for a planned meeting with his parents in Tokyo."

    Part of me wants to say his parents are idiots for causing a commotion after just two days of missing their 29-year-old "child," but they did fly to Japan to meet him. They have these things called phones that usually also have calendars. In my opinion, just because you're 29 doesn't mean you can disrespect your family and not show up to a pre-arranged meeting. There is probably more to this story than is being told.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  22. Lucy

    Tracy, I can only imagine that the reason he was communicating his travel plans to his parents was because he was meeting up with them in Japan! When he didn't show up in Japan, that's when they reported him missing. It's only natural that he'd keep them posted regarding his plans given that they were planning a meet-up...

    July 31, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  23. Cathy

    I think the reason his parents were so worried was because he was due to meet them on July 16 in Tokyo and never showed. Generally if you have scheduled a mtg. with a friend or family member in a foreign country and can't make it you contact them, right? Since the parents never heard from him they were understandably worried. That said, it does seem rather selfish of him to blow off his mtg. plans w/his parents knowing how worried that would make them. But I also wonder why, if his parents were so worried, they headed back to the States just 2 days later rather than staying put in the hopes he had just been dleayed through travel snafus. All very bizarre.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  24. Melissa

    Seriously Gwenn and Tracy...did you not read the article??? They were all scheduled to meet in Tokyo....The parents came from LA to meet him there!!!!!! Hello....can you not understand why they would be worried if he didn't show up? Also, anytime my husband and I go somewhere for an extended amount of time...we always let both of our parents know so 'someone' knows when to expect us back. There's nothing wrong with a 29 year old letting his parents know where he's headed – he just needs to be honest about it.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  25. Melissa

    I understand everyone else's views, but I know my mom would be freaking out if she couldn't get in touch with me, and I'm older than this guy is! But she is a little crazy.

    However, I think the main issue here was not the parents' fault, really. He was supposed to meet his parents on a confirmed date and location, and he failed to show. Can you blame his parents for being concerned considering the circumstances? Yes, he's a grown adult, but you never stop being parents.

    I'm glad it turned out okay, but there's definitely something that the son is hiding. I'd kick his butt if I were the parent.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  26. ann

    The fact that he had planned to meet his parents in Japan on July 16th does give the parents a legitimate reason to worry.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  27. Alaskan

    are they serious? Come on parents.
    he's TWENTY NINE.
    if you say he's an experienced traveler, do you have to worry about where he is and what he's doing?
    That's his business for crying out loud.
    what a waste of a journalism's time, as well as other's!

    July 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  28. Tina

    Come on people, if you flew to Tokyo and your loved one didn't show, what would you do? Say, "oh well, they're an adult" and go about your trip alone? Some of you might, but the looks of your sensitivity. Of course the parents are going to raise an alarm. I'm sure there's more to the story and I'm sure he's mortified. But, hopefully we don't hear more about it!

    July 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  29. Heather

    He is a grown man, but from the story, it sounds like his parents flew to Tokyo to see him, and he wasn't there when he was supposed to be. I sure hope my parents would call the police if I just wasn't around after I had planned to host them in Japan!!

    July 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  30. Josephine H. B

    I dont think it was a question of whether he needs to report to his folks. The article states that there was an arranged meeting to take place between parents and son. When son was a no show obviously the parents are going to be concerned and think the worst, especially if they contact the son. This seems to be an honest mistake. Previous article stated there was video footage of son starting to board flight but for some reason turned around and didnt board. Now what do we make of that??? I think the son's actions are suspect.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  31. deb

    To those people wondering why parents were so worried about a 29 y.o. Well, that 29 y.o. was supposed to meet his parents in Tokyo on July 16! You don't spend thousands of dollars to travel all the way to Japan, get stood up by your intended party, and say, "oh well, he's not here, let's go home".

    July 31, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  32. Harper

    His parents came to Tokyo to meet up with him and he didn’t show. I don’t believe it’s in anyway overprotective to be concerned about someone’s welfare when you’ve flown to another country to meet up with them and they don’t show up or even contact you. It would be strait stupid not to be concerned. Perhaps there is more to this story, but the student comes off as a self centered jerk. His parent’s fly to Tokyo to meet him and he can’t even be bothered to show? Shame on him.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  33. Kim

    There was a planned meeting in Tokyo that he did not show up to. I don't think it is a matter of having to know his where-abouts at all time, he was supposed to meet them and didn't show after they traveled all the way to Japan. Of course they were concerned.
    "On July 16, he failed to show up for a planned meeting with his parents in Tokyo. They soon reported him missing."

    July 31, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  34. suzannah

    My goodness, folks. His parents love him and were worried. It did seem like something had happened to him from all indications and what he said his initial plans were. You are never too old for your parents and loved ones to be concerned and panicked when one doesn't show up for a planned meeting in a foreign country, especially when that person is traveling alone in a foreign country known for a dark side. Things happen!!! Read the news.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  35. Leah

    The story doesn't say that his parents expect to be informed of his every move . The story DOES say that he agreed to meet his parents in Tokyo on July 16th and never showed up. If one of your family or friends failed to meet you as planned in another country and then could not be found for over 2 weeks you would be worried too.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  36. joey

    Who cares! He was gone for two days and a grown man does not report to his obvious controlling parents and it becomes huge news – give me a break- I mean this space could have been used to report more on Michael Jackson.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  37. Pam

    This is in response to Taylor your comment makes no sense. Did you mean to leave this for another article?

    July 31, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  38. Anne T.

    If he was expected back in Japan for on July 14, and did not show up for his study abroad program, then I can understand the cause for worry. No matter what age you are – if you are expected back to work or school and do not show up – it can be cause for alarm.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  39. detsea

    i think that the parents of this guy need to let go. he's 29... that's a bit old for them to be worrying about where he is for 2 days and then starting an international search for him. i commend Michael Harrie for his desire to travel the world on a whim. i recommend that his parents try it some time...

    if there was any tax money and time spent on the 'search' for him, it should be the responsibility of the parents to pay back the parties who helped in the 'search' effort.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  40. junior

    Glad for a good story for a change.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  41. Erica

    Great!!! I'm so happy to see this thing end the way that it did!

    July 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  42. Julia

    This sounds strange. His parents flew all the way to Thailand to see him and he doesn't show? It is now two weeks after their scheduled meeting date. I can't believe this is a simple lack of communication. Just very strange...

    July 31, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  43. Siobhan

    I'm glad the guy is OK, but there is still something fishy about this. So his parents were flying to Tokyo to meet him on the 16th. He was scheduled back on the 14th but decided to extend his stay? With his parents coming across the Pacific to visit him? Nope, there is more to this story.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  44. donna burns

    Finally, a story with a happy ending.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  45. Reader Mom

    Thank God for a happy ending!!

    July 31, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  46. Maria

    Even adult children should let there parents know a bit about where they are going. Isn't that how Chandra Levy turned up missing? How about Natalie Holloway...people get a clue!

    July 31, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  47. Lisa

    Controlling father????

    July 31, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  48. Michael

    I think I understand why someone from LA would go all the way to Auburn to attend vet school. Sounds like his parents need to let their 29yo son be 29.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  49. Tracy

    No offense but we're talking about a 29 year old here. His "travel plans" are his and his alone don't you think? I'm sure considering the situation his father and family were indeed concerned, but one really does wonder why a 29 year old is having to account for his ware abouts to his parents.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  50. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Well at least nothing happened to him. I have two grown sons as well and you never stop worrying about them no matter what. Yes they are grown and can take care of themselves but you don't just stop worrying. It would kill me if anything happened to either one of them.

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 31, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
1 2