Photos: Ohio hometown says goodbye to Otto Warmbier - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Photos: Ohio hometown says goodbye to Otto Warmbier

Otto Warmbier (Provided) Otto Warmbier (Provided)
Blue ribbons are tied around the trees of Warmbier's hometown (FOX19 NOW/file) Blue ribbons are tied around the trees of Warmbier's hometown (FOX19 NOW/file)
A long line already forms at Wyoming High School (FOX19 NOW/Jordan Vilines) A long line already forms at Wyoming High School (FOX19 NOW/Jordan Vilines)
WYOMING, OH (FOX19) -

The life of Otto Warmbier, who died earlier this week after being detained for nearly a year and a half in North Korea, was celebrated in his hometown Thursday.

Hundreds lined up outside the public memorial service for the 22-year-old college student in the auditorium of his alma mater, Wyoming High School. 

Warmbier's siblings, Greta and Austin, spoke at the memorial service before the procession to Spring Grove Cemetery.

Mementos of Warmbier's life lined the hallway outside the auditorium. The display included notebooks, Warmbier's passport and the jacket he wore during his public confession in North Korea. 

Crowds began gathering early, and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman addressed reporters outside the school about 8 a.m.

"This process has been an example of evil and love and good," he said. "This community and country have come together who are holding this family up in prayer.

"We have also seen evil. He should've never been detained. The North Koreans need to be held accountable for that," he said.

"They have demonstrated that they have no respect for the rule of law and they showed a lack of respect for basic human dignity and rights. The fact that they didn't tell his parents after he became ill is atrocious. Today is not a day to only focus on that."

Warmbier died Monday at University of Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center, less than a week after returning to Cincinnati in a coma from North Korea last week after spending 15 months in state custody.

He was accused in January 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting the country.

Warmbier's brain suffered severe damage, but there were no signs of physical trauma.

His cause of death remains unknown.

His doctors at UC hospital have rejected North Korea's claim he contracted botulism.

Officials with the Hamilton County Coroner's Office announced Tuesday morning they were investigating Warmbier's death.

But later in the day, they said the family objected to an autopsy being performed on his body, so just an external exam was done.

It is unclear why the family objected to an autopsy, which could answer what happened to Warmbier in the secretive nation.

He is the first American to die after being released from North Korean custody in half a century. 

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