Family says Riverton man accused in political assassination in Venezuela was wrongly accused

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 08:48:19-04

RIVERTON, Utah -- Laurie Holt woke up Wednesday to a Facebook message with a link to a Venezuelan press conference.

“It was heart wrenching,” Holt said.

In it, Venezuela’s Interior Minister accuses Laurie’s son Josh of being tied to a political assassination, detailing his experience with weapons and technology and on several occasions refers to him as “the gringo.”

“I spent the majority of the day yesterday just crying because this is what we didn’t want,” Holt said.

A few days before, Laurie spoke to Josh for the first time since his arrest.

“He cried. He has no idea what’s happening and how hard we're trying to get him out,” Holt said.

Josh was arrested on April 30 with his new bride, who he had met online and traveled to Venezuela to marry.

“So he’s basically being punished for falling in love,” Holt said.

A caring, 24-year-old man who had just returned from a two year mission for the LDS Church, Laurie thinks her son was targeted simply because he’s American.

"I’ve been told that they think we are the reason they’re starving,” Holt said.

While the Holts plead with politicians to help their cause, friends, family, and even local celebrities are pitching in to raise money. The Diesel brothers, who host a TV show on the Discovery channel, organized a fundraiser for Josh last week.

These acts of kindness are helping the Holts stay strong as they struggle to protect their son, who is thousands of miles away and stands accused of crimes they say he would never commit.

“I just feel hopeless,” Holt said.

A week from Saturday, on July 30, the Holts will have a rally at the Utah State Capitol at 11 a.m. They are hoping to get the support of Utah politicians and anyone else who can help bring Josh back home.