CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Missing foreign exchange student’s parents received pictures and ransom demand, police say

Dec 29, 2023, 6:42 AM | Updated: Jan 3, 2024, 11:56 am

riverdale police...

A Riverdale police vehicle is parked at the scene of a fatal shooting in Riverdale on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

RIVERDALE, Utah —  Riverdale police are continuing their search for a 17-year-old missing foreign exchange student. 

A missing person advisory was released early Friday morning for Kai Zhuang. 

According to the Utah Endangered Missing Advisory, “officers have reason to believe [Zhuang] has been forcefully taken from his home and is being held against his will.” Additionally, police said that his parents have received a ransom demand. 

Police said that Zhuang was last seen by his host family around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday.

During a press conference on Friday, Riverdale Police Chief Casey Warren said that Zhuang’s parents, who live in China, contacted his high school on Thursday. They reported that they had received photos of their son that “would indicate he was abducted.” Additionally, the parents said they received a ransom demand. 

When police went to Zhuang’s host family to investigate, his host parents said they didn’t know he was missing.

According to Warren, police do not believe Zhuang was forcibly taken from his host family’s home. The statement contradicted the information shared on the initial missing person advisory.

Searching authorities

Police said they didn’t know what clothes the 17-year-old was wearing when he went missing. However, they mentioned he often wears a green jacket.

The advisory didn’t mention a suspect. Warren said that because they have no suspect, authorities aren’t able to issue an Amber Alert for the 17-year-old.

The chief said the Riverdale Police Department is working with the FBI, the U.S. embassy in China, and Chinese officials to find Zhuang.

Please contact the Riverdale Police Department at 801-394-6616 or Weber County Dispatch at 801-395-8221 with any information. 

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Missing foreign exchange student’s parents received pictures and ransom demand, police say