Family says Riverton man who went to Venezuela to marry now wrongly imprisoned

Posted at 7:41 PM, Jul 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-03 23:59:50-04

RIVERTON - The family of a Riverton man says he's being held in a Venezualen jail and is accused of being a U.S. spy.

"An American spy? To do what?" asks Laurie Holt, the mother of Josh Holt.

Her son is allegedly being held in a jail in Venezuela. Holt said she heard the allegations from her son's mother-in-law, who lives in Venezuela.

"She sent me a facebook message, and in it there was a link to an article written in Venezuela," Holt added.

The article comes from a publication written in Spanish, claiming that 24-year-old Josh Holt had been arrested by local authorities after they discovered multiple assault rifles and a hand grenade inside the apartment he shares with his wife.

"Josh would never have anything like that," Holt added.

She said her son had recently finished a Spanish-speaking mission in Washington. Shortly after, he began an online relationship with a woman from Venezuela. She said her son flew down to the Dominican Republic last month to propose to her, despite having known each other through online communication for less than six months.

After that, he made plans to go to Venezuela and marry her, just weeks later.

"Everybody said he can't go there, it's dangerous," Holt said. "His wife even said that it's very dangerous for Americans to be there, but he said, 'I'll be OK.' He was in love. They don't listen when they are in love."

Holt said her son's wife had two kids from a previous relationship. She said the plan was for them to get married, and the four of them would then eventually move back to the United States, with Josh making the transition back up first, likely sometime next month.

"The last time I spoke with him was last Monday," Holt said. "I don't know if he's even alive right now. That's the heart-wrenching part."

Holt said she's reached out to local authorities in Venezuela, but she hasn't had any confirmation that her son and his wife have been detained, and, if so, what charges they face. However, a local LDS Bishop and her son's mother-in-law say the two are being treated fairly in jail.

They also say a judge plans to hear the evidence against her son on Monday, and may determine whether to dismiss the case, or whether to prosecute in the next 45 days.

"I hope and pray that I get a phone call from him tomorrow saying he's coming home," Holt adds.

Yet, she's remaining grounded. She says they've already reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela for help. They say officials there suggested they seek legal representation, which in Venezuela could be a costly prospect.

The family has posted a GoFundMe account to help with the legal costs.