REDMOND, OR -- A Central Oregon couple who spent a week detained by Malaysian officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport is headed back to the United States.
18-year-old Samantha Henry's dad, Aaron, says hearing the news his daughter, and her 22-year-old boyfriend Will Lucas, were being extradited back to the United States was overwhelming. "You can't fathom what you feel like as a parent. It's like the best day ever." He says this was the longest week of his life, waiting to hear what was going to happen to Samantha. "It was scary. I guess the scariest part is like, the US Embassy was walking on eggshells with the Malaysian Government. It's a whole different world over there."
Henry and Lucas had been in Asia for much of the summer, on a humanitarian work-away trip, but when they went to catch their return flight, they learned they were missing a passport stamp. The couple was placed in holding cells at the Airport's Immigration Center in what Henry told her father were 'deplorable conditions.' "You just feel so alone, so completely alone, that's the worst part. We're a million miles away."
Henry's dad received help from several places, anywhere he thought might have the connections necessary to get his daughter out of detainment - Interpol, the Redmond Police Department, a Malaysian attorney, and Senator Jeff Merkley. Henry says, when he got the call from Merkley's office, that's when the situation started to change. " 'Hey, Aaron, this is Jeff,' and I'm like, 'yeah, right,' and he's like, 'No, this is Jeff. I understand your situation and I'm going to do everything I can to help you,' and I'm like, 'okay, great,' that's, you know, speechless, of course."
Merkley says he's just glad help. "A lot of times, there aren’t a lot of joyful moments working on American policy. And I was just thrilled they were being released. and so, a terrific, joyous outcome." The couple landed in LA last night, and knowing that he was able to help make it happen, brought a smile to his face, Merkley said. "This is the type of situation that I think all of us can identify with. To have a young son or daughter who is detained in a foreign country under a system where the rules are hard to understand and the consequences are hard to be sure of, just strikes terror into the heart of any parent."