Mystery surrounds disappearance of Virginia college student on trip to New York City

  • This photo, provided by family members, shows 22-year-old Ian Burnet, right.

    This photo, provided by family members, shows 22-year-old Ian Burnet, right.

The father of a missing Virginia college student is asking for the public's help in finding his son, who disappeared almost two weeks ago while on a trip to New York City.

Ian Burnet, a 22-year-old student on full scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University, was last heard from on Dec. 30 while touring Manhattan.    

"This is not something we'd expect from Ian, to just drop off the map," his father, Mark Burnet, told by phone from his home in Richmond, Va. "We’re mystified."

Burnet said he last heard from his son when he received a text message from him on Dec. 28. His son left by bus for New York City on Dec. 26 and was staying with friends in a subletted apartment on 139th St. and Riverside Drive. 

He said his son also sent a text message to his female college roommate on Dec. 30 at around 4 p.m., mentioning sites he had visited in the city -- including Central Park -- and discussing plans upon his return to school. That was the last known communication from Ian, his father said.

There has been no activity on Burnet's credit card or bank accounts since his disappearance, according to his father. His cellphone was left at the apartment -- which his father noted was typical of Ian, an Eagle Scout, who he said enjoys running and walking through parks. 

Burnet also said his son, an engineering student who was valedictorian of his high school class, had no history of drug or alcohol abuse. 

Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said Wednesday that the New York City Police Department is working with authorities in Virginia to locate Burnet.

"Friends said he stayed with them in an apartment on 139th St in Manhattan where they said they last saw him Dec 30, and where he left behind his personal belongings, including his cell phone," Browne said in an email.  

Burnet's father said hundreds of volunteers from New York and New Jersey have so far assisted in the search, distributing fliers with his son's photograph. The young man's family has established a website,, devoted to the search for him. A Facebook page for him has also been created with more than 1,700 members. 

Ian Burnet is described as 5-foot-8 and weighing 131 pounds. He has green eyes and curly dark brown hair. Anyone with information on his disappearance is being urged to call the New York City Police Department at 212-690-8811.


Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.