May 20, 2014 -- Investigators are combing through surveillance footage and have subpoenaed credit card records in an attempt to locate a 19-year-old college student who vanished from Chicago's O’Hare International Airport shortly after checking in for a flight, family members said.
Hye Min Choi, who also goes by Joseph, was scheduled to take a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Greensboro, N.C. on Saturday evening. He checked in his luggage for the flight at around 3 p.m., but never boarded the plane and did not re-book another flight, according to a police press release.
“This is completely and totally out of character. He has never done something like this before. He is honestly the epitome of a perfect child,” Choi’s sister Catherine told ABC News today. “He goes to church every Sunday. He doesn’t really even go out to party or anything like that. He likes to read, he was president of the chess club in high school.”
Catherine Choi said her brother was attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a full scholarship and had a very high grade point average. He did not have any known friends in the Chicago area, or gave any indication he was not returning home to North Carolina, his sister said.
“He doesn’t have the character of someone who would decide not to get on the flight and not contact his family,” she said.
Joseph Choi called his father from the airport at around 5 p.m. Saturday and his father reportedly told him to get something to eat. The call was the last contact he had with his family.
Choi was scheduled to fly at 7:40 p.m., and records show his credit card was swiped at an airport McDonalds at approximately 7 p.m., Choi’s sister said. Investigators have subpoenaed Choi’s Wells Fargo credit card records in connection with his disappearance.
There is surveillance video that shows Choi going through airport security, and investigators are checking to see if Choi appears in any additional airport surveillance footage, Choi’s sister said. This video has not been made public.
Choi’s mother picked up her son’s checked luggage in Greensboro. She has flown to Chicago to assist detectives with the investigation. Chicago police have not released any update on the search for Choi since their May 19 release.
Officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been notified of Choi’s disappearance. Earlier school officials checked Choi’s dorm room, but found it empty, according to Catherine Choi.
The missing student is described as about 5-foot-4 with short black hair and glasses. He was likely wearing a gray shirt with a white hoodie and may have been carrying a black book bag. Authorities are urging anyone with information on Choi to call Chicago Police at (312) 744-8200.
Catherine Choi said her family is coping with her brother’s disappearance as best they can.
“We have to try to stay calm, but it’s hard when part of your family is missing,” she said. “Honestly at this point it would be better if he did run away because then we would know that someone didn’t kidnap him or that something bad isn’t happening.”