RIVERTON — The Holt family hasn't heard from their son, Josh, since last week when he was likely jailed in Caracas, Venezuela. They believe he is being framed and accused of being a U.S. spy.
"I have this ache in the pit of my stomach, and my heart just feels heavy," said Laurie Holt, Josh Holt's mother.
Her 24-year-old son traveled to the country on June 11 and married his fiancee Thamy Caleño. He met her online in January, just days after he returned home from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She said the two met in the Dominican Republic in May, where he proposed. He flew to Venezuela for the June wedding.
The two planned to wait for her visa before flying to the U.S. — a plan that made family members nervous.
"We were just like, 'Absolutely not, you cannot go there. It's dangerous.' We've seen everything on the news, and he just, he didn't listen," said his mother.
Last week the family received a Facebook message from his wife's mother, stating that her daughter and Josh Holt were in prison. The message had little information about the arrest but included a local news article about the alleged crime. There are pictures of guns, a grenade, cash, Josh Holt's passport, credit cards and IDs allegedly taken from the apartment where the couple had been living.
"Oh, I knew, I knew," Laurie Holt said. "When I saw that, I thought, 'He's been taken, he's been taken.'"
The family contacted the U.S. Embassy with little luck. "They haven't been able to see him. (The jail) wouldn't allow him visitors," she said.
His new wife's family has also been in contact with the Holts, sending updates but also asking for clothing and other items for the man.
"We are being cautious,” his mother said. “We have been told to be prepared; they are going to ask you for money, so we are waiting for that to happen."
The family is having a hard time getting the full story, but officials at the U.S. Embassy are advising them to get a lawyer. A GoFundMe account has been set up under #JusticeforJosh to raise funds for legal fees.
They are also in touch with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, whose office said it is looking into the arrest.