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Video: Father’s plea for son missing in Germany

  1. Closed captioning of: Father’s plea for son missing in Germany

    >>> we're back at 8:19, and now to the overseas search for 22-year-old american devon hollahan, who disappeared ten days ago in frankfurt , germany. we're going to talk to his father, who's now there, in a moment. but first, nbc's stephanie gosk has the latest on this story. stephanie , good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. the police are searching everywhere, along riverbanks, down alleyways, they're using helicopters, boats, sniffer dogs . they've even asked his friend from prague to come back here and retrace their steps from that night, but still there are no real leads. investigators say they're running out of options. more than a week since his son disappeared, jeff hollahan flew to germany to join the search himself.

    >> it was time for me to be here and see what i can do here in frankfurt to help the cause.

    >> reporter: 22-year-old devon hollahan and his friend josh freeman came to frankfurt for a school break . after a backstage party at this club, the two went looking for their hostel. it was just after 3:00 in the morning. not sure where to go, freeman asked for directions. when he turned around, he says devon was gone.

    >> when he's drinking, sometimes he will just leave and not say good-bye. like, it's happened, you know, when we're all out together.

    >> reporter: this time, the 22-year-old never came back. since then, no one has used his phone or credit cards . hospitals and police stations in this city don't have any leads, either. investigators are officially treating it as a missing person case. his father and aunt aren't ready to give up hope.

    >> they were intending to go to the train station .

    >> reporter: beth hollahan organized this morning's meeting in a small park in frankfurt . friends and supporters got ready for another day posting fliers and searching.

    >> i'm afraid of finding him in a horrible condition, but i'm more afraid of not finding him at all.

    >> reporter: devon had been living in prague and teaching english since july. his father says he was happy.

    >> it's devastating. you know, i have a wife and a daughter that are beside themselves with grief, and when the house is quiet, nobody's around, it's very difficult to keep your thoughts from going to the blackest places.

    >> reporter: for the moment, while the search is on, the darkest places are kept at bay. the family is working closely with authorities here, but both say, both devon 's aunt and his father say there are things they aren't being told, and that's because this case is still ongoing and police are being cautious, matt.

    >> all right, stephanie gosk in frankfurt for us this morning. thank you very much, stephanie . as stephanie mentioned, devon 's father, jeff hollahan, is also in frankfurt , helping authorities search for his son. he joins us now. mr. hollahan, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> i know this is a difficult time for you, and i really appreciate you spending time with us. stephanie just said something that caught my attention, that there are certain things you are not being told by authorities. can you shed some light on that?

    >> well, i guess you never know what you don't know. we had a very detailed briefing with the police yesterday at the police station . i spent probably a total of five hours there. we met with the chief investigators for the frankfurt police department . they were extremely thorough. we went over aerial maps of frankfurt . we had a trace of the last known steps that josh and devon took leaving the hotel, going to the place where josh ultimately asked for directions and where devon disappeared, and then from that point, i had about a three-hour interview with the police as they tried to build, i guess what you would call a psychological profile on devon . i believe my sister is meeting with the police as we speak.

    >> you know, in the last ten days, and certainly on the plane ride over there, i can only imagine that you were going through so many different scenarios in your mind, mr. hollahan. what do you think? what's the most likely explanation? do you suspect foul play ?

    >> at this point, i do. that's really the only logical explanation that i see, because left to his own devices, he would -- we would have some indication that he was around and well. we would have phone calls . he had some cash with him, not enough to survive ten days in frankfurt or anywhere in europe, for that matter. he had means on his credit card , but he's not used that. so, at this point, i can only assume that there has been foul play of some sort, although there's certainly at this point no proof to that effect.

    >> and i just have to ask the question -- he wasn't going through any kind of extremely stressful period in his life, no personal problems, relationship problems, anything like that?

    >> to the best of our knowledge, matt, none of that stuff is the case. we had friends from denver who visited with him the sunday before he disappeared, said he appeared to be in extraordinarily high spirits . they spent the whole afternoon with him, had lunch, said he looked good, sounded good, was excited to be in prague . his mother and i had both talked with him later that week, and we had pretty much the same read on him. we talked to his roommate, kerry, who is probably his closest friend in prague . we asked if in their quiet times together whether he ever confided anything in her, and she said no, it was not the case, that they both liked living there and they both were looking to figure out a way to take their english teaching careers and continue on traveling overseas for several more years.

    >> well, i know your wife and your daughter are home, and this has to just be an awfully difficult time for them. i'm a father, mr. hollahan, and my heart goes out to you. i hope it turns out for the best.

    >> thank you very much and thank you guys for continuing to keep this on the air where people can see his picture and his description. it's the best chance we have.

    >> we will keep it up. and if you have any information, you can leave it on our anonymous tip on our website at todayshow.com.

TODAY contributor
updated 12/1/2009 10:20:41 AM ET 2009-12-01T15:20:41

It started as a boys’ night out for two young Americans in Europe. Devon Hollahan took a break from teaching English in the Czech Republic capital of Prague to hop on a train to Frankfurt, Germany, with pal Josh Friedman to catch a concert by American alternative rock group Portugal the Man.

The evening was going well — Hollahan and Friedman downed a few beers, a shot each of Jagermeister, and wound up backstage with the band. Around 3 a.m., the pair left with the band members from the concert venue on the outskirts of Frankfurt toward the city center.

But unable to pinpoint the exact location of their hostel, Friedman turned to hail passersby for directions.

After Friedman was pointed in the right direction, he turned around, but Hollahan, 22, was gone. And in the 10 days since, not a trace of the outgoing, independent young man has been found.

The young man’s father, Jeff Hollahan, has been in Frankfurt since Sunday, working with local authorities to retrace the steps his son took in the early morning of Nov. 21 and organizing an ad hoc group of searchers who pass out fliers.

Speaking via satellite from Frankfurt Monday, the Scottsdale, Ariz., man gave a grim response when TODAY’s Matt Lauer asked him whether he suspects foul play in the case.

“At this point, I do,” Hollahan told Lauer. “It’s really the only logical explanation that I see, because left to his own devices, we would have [been given] some indication that he was around and well. We would have had phone calls.”

Devon Hollahan could take care of himself, but he wasn’t planning to be away from work so long.

“He had some cash with him, not enough to survive 10 days in Frankfurt or anywhere else in Europe,” his father said. “He had means on his credit card, but he’s not used that. I can only assume that there’s been foul play of some sort, although at this point, there’s certainly no proof to that effect.”

Having a good time
Friedman told NBC News he initially didn’t think anything was amiss when he couldn’t find Devon, even though he had only been standing 20 feet away from him when he stopped to ask locals for directions.

“When he’s drinking, sometimes he will just leave and not say goodbye,” Friedman said. “It’s happened when we’re all out together.”

Josh Friedman, left, was the last person to see Devon Hollahan before he vanished.
Friedman added the pair was tipsy but not inebriated, and Hollahan showed no signs of agitation. “We were drinking at the club for a few hours afterward and just, you know, we were in a foreign country. We were having a good time. We were on vacation.”

Friedman said he eventually went back to the hostel, expecting to find Hollahan there. When he wasn’t, Friedman went to sleep, expecting to find Devon back in the room in the morning. When he didn’t show, Friedman went back to Prague, believing his buddy might have caught a train home. Finally, he contacted Frankfurt police and made the dreaded call to Devon’s parents, a call Jeff Hollahan said is “every parent’s worst nightmare.”

What set off alarms for Jeff and his wife, Lynn, was Devon’s continual, clockwork contact with his parents in Arizona while he was abroad. Every Sunday morning, the family engaged in video chats on the computer. In addition, Jeff and Lynn phoned Devon separately once or twice a week.

Jeff Hollahan has worked with Frankfurt police to work up a psychological profile of his son, but from friends to family, nothing had seemed to be troubling in Devon’s life. The young man, whom his father said has a “wandering soul,” moved to Prague in July, teaching Czechs ranging from young kids to housewives how to speak English. His best friend and roommate, Carrie Miltenberger, could offer no reason that Devon would want to make himself scarce.

“We had friends from Denver who visited with him the Sunday before he disappeared; [they] said he had appeared to be in extraordinary high spirits,” Jeff Hollahan told Lauer. “His mother and I both talked to him later that week, and we had pretty much the same read on him.”

Relatives and friends say nothing seemed wrong with Devon.
Hollahan also quizzed Miltenberger, asking her if Devon had confided anything during their quiet times at home in Prague. “She said, no, that they both liked living there and they both were figuring out a way to take their English-teaching careers and continue traveling overseas for several more years,” Hollahan told Lauer.

Jeff Hollahan was joined by Devin’s aunt, Beth, in Germany as they continue to search for clues, both in concert with the police and on their own. Social networking sites have produced scores of volunteers, and the band Portugal the Man, hailing from Sarah Palin’s home base of Wasilla, Alaska, has pitched in.

The band posted on their Web site: “We met [Devon] and hung out with him. He is a good guy, just like you and I, and his family needs help. We love you and all hope you can help.”

Massive effort
Jeff and Beth Hollahan rallied some 200 volunteers to pass out fliers Monday morning. Meanwhile, police have searched riverbanks and alleyways around the city, with the aid of tracking dogs.

While Hollahan remains focused at the task of locating his son, he admits he sometimes gets a sinking feeling.

Jeff Hollahan speaks to Matt Lauer via satellite.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “I have a wife and a daughter that are beside themselves with grief. And when the house is quiet and nobody is around, it’s very difficult to keep your thoughts from going to the blackest places.”

There has been some indication that German police have not given the family all the information they currently have on the case, although Hollahan told Lauer, “I guess you never know what you don’t know.” Bloomberg News has reported Frankfurt has been the site of several recent kidnappings of family members of prominent businessmen. Jeff Hollahan is a vice president with Morgan Stanley in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But Hollahan told NBC News he has received no ransom notes — and in the 10 days since Devon went missing, their continual monitoring of Devon’s credit cards shows no charges or ATM usage.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints


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