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Laurie Holt's hand shook as she brought a tissue to her face, wiping away a tear as it rolled down her cheek. Her mascara had washed off from a day of crying, seen in the black smudges on her light pink fingernail polish.
She's been crying every day since June 30 the day her son Josh Holt, a 24-year-old Utah man, was arrested and jailed in Venezuela on suspicion of weapons charges.
"I'm begging, I'm on my knees begging you to help us," the woman told a crowd of about 70 people at a rally on Saturday afternoon at the state Capitol.
Family, friends and neighbors came to support Laurie Holt's efforts to free her son from jail. One man stood on the Capitol steps holding a neon green sign Josh Holt's favorite color that read "Libertad para Josh." A blond-haired woman walked around waving a small American flag. And the whole group chanted in unison: "Bring Josh home."
Josh Holt, a former LDS missionary, traveled to Venezuela to marry Thamara Caleno, a Mormon woman he met online in January 2016 to practice Spanish. The two texted and video-chatted "every hour of the day," said Josh Holt's younger sister, Katie Holt.
Josh Holt visited Caleno once in the Dominican Republic in May, where he proposed. He flew to Venezuela one month later for their wedding. They planned to return to Salt Lake City once Caleno obtained a visa.
"He wasn't going to quit until he brought her home, the love of his life," said Josh Holt's uncle, Mike Moon.
After a honeymoon in Ecuador, the two were arrested on accusations that Josh Holt was a spy and had stockpiled weapons in Caleno's apartment which Laurie Holt denies. Both of the newlyweds remain in jail.
Laurie Holt, who talked to her son about two weeks ago with court permission, says his condition is declining and he has no access to medical care. He's coughing blood and can't breathe, she added, fearing pneumonia or bronchitis. He also has lost weight since his arrest.
Laurie Holt has spoken with Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, and Rep. Mia Love, to negotiate her son's release. So far, she said, it's been a "slow process." About two weeks after his arrest, Josh Holt met with U.S. officials, who reported no mistreatment.
Josh Holt's father said the issue goes beyond "political lines."
"This is about bringing a Riverton man, a Utah man, a United States man home," Jason Holt said.
Josh Holt's three siblings Katie, Jenna and Derek set up a table at the rally with pictures of their brother and his new wife. Katie Holt said their house hasn't been the same without him. The sound of his laughing was replaced with silence.
"It's been especially hard on our family," she said. "We're sitting here eating dinner and he's starving in a cell."
Katie Holt said she was especially close to her brother, who loves "Lord of the Rings" and the San Diego Chargers football team.
The two "look like twins," she said, reminiscing about a time when she dressed in her brother's sweatshirt and jeans at a derby as a joke and fooled some of his friends.
Other family members and friends spoke about Josh Holt's smile and outgoing personality. And they all expressed grief over what feels like a helpless situation.
"We are his voice," Laurie Holt said. "We have to fight for him."