Utah mom travels to Washington, works to free son imprisoned in Venezuela

RIVERTON - A Utah mom spent the past week shuffling back and forth between Capitol Hill and the White House.

"It's been a crazy week," Laurie Holt said.

She is the mother of Riverton native Josh Holt, who's spent the last 10 months locked up in a Venezuelan jail.

"It's not what it looks like on TV," Holt said of her visit to the White House. "It's very old, very nice, but very old. I was actually standing about 10 feet from the Oval Office, and I knew he was in there."

Holt spoke to some of the highest ranking politicians in the country, but her biggest and most emotional conversation came with a representative from the Venezuelan Embassy.

"We asked for a meeting with them and didn't expect to get a response," she said. "We did get a response and were able to come into the embassy."

Laurie Holt says the meeting was between just her and a Venezuelan official.

“I felt like I was pleading with Joshua’s captor to let him go," said Laurie Holt. "If you think about your kid being kidnapped, and you’re talking to the kidnapper, that’s what it felt like to me.”

Josh Holt landed in a Venezuelan jail last June after traveling to Venezuela to marry a woman he met online six months before. After the wedding, Venezuelan police entered the couple's home unannounced and arrested them, later claiming they found two assault rifles and a grenade.

"That's ridiculous," Laurie Holt and the Holt family have long since maintained.

The family believes their son is being used as a political pawn. Political tensions have escalated to rioting in the streets of Venezuela between President Nicolas Maduro, and local residents.

Recent turmoil has spilled over into the economic side as Venezuelan government officials overran a General Motors plant last week, a move GM called illegal.

During the meeting with Venezuelan officials this week, Laurie Holt said they told her to be patient and let the judicial side of things play out. However, her son Josh was due to appear in court a handful of times over the past six months and the judge never showed in any of those instances.

"They tell us we have to go through the legal process," Laurie said the official told her. "We bit our tongues, and didn't want to offend."