Virginia college student missing in NYC had reportedly attempted suicide in past

  • 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.

A Virginia college student missing for almost two weeks in New York City had previously attempted suicide at least three times, law enforcement sources reportedly said. 

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

Authorities said Wednesday that Burnet, an engineering student and high school valedictorian, had tried to commit suicide in the past -- a claim his family says is not true, WPIX-TV reports. Police sources reportedly said that one of those attempts involved drinking alcohol and taking prescription drug pills.

But the man's father, Mark Burnet, said in an interview with that his son had no history of drug or alcohol abuse.

"This is not something we'd expect from Ian, to just drop off the map," Mark Burnet said by phone Wednesday 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 his Richmond home 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.

On Wednesday, police said Burnet's metrocard shows he entered a northbound No. 1 train at the 145th Street station on the day he disappeared, according to WPIX-TV.

Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said in an email to 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. 

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.'s Cristina Corbin contributed to this report.