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From a Venezuelan prison to the White House: Josh Holt’s journey home

UTAH – The story of Josh Holt has captivated the nation, and we’re taking a look back at the events leading up to his release on May 26, 2018.

For the first time in nearly two years, Josh and Thamy Holt have stepped out of their jail cells and onto a plane with newfound freedom.

“This is a great day for us, this is a reason to smile,” said Utah Rep. Mia Love while getting ready to catch a flight to D.C. to meet Josh and his family.

The couple has been held at a Venezuelan prison since June of 2016.

June 2016: Married & arrested in Venezuela

In June of 2016, Josh went to the country to marry Thamy, a woman he sparked an online relationship with just six months prior.

A few days after the wedding, the couple’s apartment was stormed and they were arrested.

Venezuelan authorities claimed they found assault weapons. A claim he, his wife, his family and politicians have denied.

Referred to as a political pawn, Josh sat in jail while a revolution took place outside prison walls.

“Obviously there have been quite a bit of issues with the country, the regime has been horrible to their people and the prisoners there,” Love said.

US officials raised Josh’s case to the highest levels of Venezuelan government.

Despite the government’s, his attorney’s and his family’s best efforts, the first year was riddled with false hope for Josh’s release.

June 2017: One year in prison

Come the one-year anniversary of their incarceration, hope was all but lost for a safe return.

“If they don’t do something to get him home soon, I don’t think we’ll ever see him home alive,” said Josh’s mom, Laurie Holt at the time of the anniversary.

"The protracted delays in providing him even a preliminary hearing and filing formal charges casts serious doubts on the merit of and the lawfulness of his detention," the State Department said of Holt's plight around the same time.

December 2017: Health starts to decline

Josh said he went more than 18 months without a shower, and his health started to decline.

“I’m very dizzy and I can't think and my stomach hurts... super bad, I don’t know what to do,” Josh said in an audio message to his family.

“Guys I don’t feel very good, I’ve been throwing up all night and diarrhea all night,” he said.

Love said the government took extra measures during his incarceration to make sure he was in good health and out of harms way.

According to a press release from Senator Hatch, "Hatch called on the Madura regime to allow Josh to receive court-ordered medical attention."

December 2017: Trial announced

That same month Josh found out he would be given a trial.

“As we keep Josh and his family in our prayers, I've called on the President, Vice President, State Department, and our UN Delegation to redouble our efforts to bring Josh home, and I've had my staff working to explore new avenues to work with the Venezuelan government and their neighbors to secure Josh's release on humanitarian grounds. We will not give up,” Senator Hatch said.

“Joshua never really had a fair trial,” said Love.

February 2018: Thamy’s daughter in Utah

Thamy had two daughters from a previous marriage. As a gesture of goodwill, the Venezuelan government let one of the girls get a humanitarian visa to come and live with Josh’s parents in Utah.

“For me it was like a piece of him coming home,” said Laurie Holt in an interview days after the girl arrived.

May 2018: Josh posts video for help

Josh’s cries for help were heard around the nation in mid-May after he posted a video on Facebook amid political uprising.

“The people have taken the entire prison, they’re outside. They’re trying to break in. They’re saying that they want to kill me,” Josh said in the video.

The next day he posted again, he said he was okay but needed help.

“I just want to ask and plea once again, to my government, to my people, to my senators, to everyone in the United States to please not leave me alone here,” Josh said.

May 26, 2018: Released from prison

Around 6 a.m., President Trump sent out a tweet announcing Josh and Thamy’s release.

“I have to say this is an emotional, but great day for Utah, a great day for all of us. We get to bring Joshua home,” Love said.

Josh and Thamy arrived in D.C and were reunited with Josh’s family.

They were then taken to the White House to be greeted by President Trump, government leaders (who helped to make his release possible) and his family. Holt and his family later joined the president and several Utah politicians to discuss his release.

Laurie Holt said Josh will need medical attention.