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Utah parents long for answers in missing son's case

Published: Sunday, Aug. 5 2012 9:18 p.m. MDT

Roy and Kathleen Sneddon sit in their Providence home on Aug. 5, 2012, talking about the disappearance of their son, David, eight years ago in China.

Mike Radice, Deseret News

PROVIDENCE,  Cache County  — Eight years may have dragged by without their son, and without answers to his whereabouts, but Roy and Kathleen Sneddon remain resolute against despair and earnest in their faith he remains alive.

David Sneddon was studying China in August of 2004 when he was last "officially" seen, disappearing without a wisp of an accident or some other public tragedy that may have befallen him.

For years the Sneddons have pushed for answers and held out hope that some new information would be revealed, that something, that anything, would shed light on the mystery.

In May, they received a breakthrough. A fall trip they had taken to Japan proved to be well worth the effort. While there, they'd met with family members of individuals kidnapped and held captive in North Korea. In that meeting, there were high ranking members of the Japan government and academic scholars who study the plight of North Korean captives.

Roy Sneddon said when a delegation from that meeting came to the United States in May, they brought a report generated out China. An informant spoke of man matching their son's description who was detained by the national police on suspicion of moving North Korean nationals through China and out through Laos.

"That was our assumption going in," said Roy Sneddon, "that they somehow (mistakenly) connected David to the underground railroad...and they made a mistake."

The informant said the national police turned David Sneddon over to five agents from the North Korean government.

Over the years, the Sneddons have made phone call after phone call and tried to jump start a more thorough inquiry into their son's fate. With this latest information, they have enlisted the help of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and say they are emboldened by his passion to help them.

"The more I've learned about this case, the more I have become convinced that there's a possibility that we could find him,  and as long as that possibility remains, I want to keep investigating," Lee said.

Roy Sneddon said he believes his son has been sequestered away for use like some prized poker chip in a future game of wheeling and dealing involving North Korea, China and the United States.

The answers haven't been forthcoming, he added, because of a sort of naivete that exists out there.

"The roadblock from our perspective is that people in our government in essence do not want to believe that sort of thing can  happen. It is inconsistent with their belief system both relative to North Korea and China," he said. "And because their belief system controls their policies, it is better to ignore than investigate."

But the Sneddons believe this latest information, coupled with a bit of applied, but subtle political pressure, will lead to the right people asking the right sources for information on their son's whereabouts.

And they are hopeful, too, that the more the public becomes aware of the situation, the louder the chorus for answers will become.

"I like to say that David is the Elizabeth Smart of Asia," she said. "There are so many people who think we are crazy to think he is alive....It was not someone official who found Elizabeth Smart, it was the family who kept working at it."

For now, they continue to wait, and continue to hope. Their prayers, of course, have never stopped.

"You live your life as normal as possible and don't let this constant albatross around your neck get you down," she said. "You don't listen to the naysayers who say he is not really out there. You listen to the spirit and do your best to move forward."

Contributing: Sandra Yi

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