Police are searching for Brian Laundrie, the fiancé of Gabby Petito, who remains missing. The couple left in July for a cross-country road-trip, but only Laundrie returned to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1, police say.
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Police named Laundrie a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance, but he has refused to speak with police. No charges have been filed, and the case continues to be a missing persons case, police said.
Laundrie’s family told officers Friday that they haven’t seen him since Tuesday, according to a statement from North Port, Florida police. Police said Friday was the first time officers had spoken with the Laundries in detail about the case and that the family requested the meeting.
Laundrie’s family filed a missing person report around 5 p.M. Friday, North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, part of the USA TODAY Network.
North Port police, FBI and other agencies are searching for Laundrie in the vast Carlton Reserve, a nearly 25,000-acre preserve with about 80 miles of trails in Sarasota County, where his family says they believe he went earlier this week. Police said the search concluded after dark with “nothing found.” The search was scheduled to resume Sunday morning.
Authorities earlier Saturday dismissed what they called “completely fake” rumors spreading on social media that a body had been found in the area.
Attorneys for the Petito family released a statement saying that Laundrie was not “missing.”.
Blissful video, troubled travel:Police bodycam footage is latest twist in Gabby Petito mystery.
“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing,” the statement from the law office of Richard B. Stafford said.
Laundrie’s attorney released a statement of his own: “Be advised that the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie are currently unknown,” Steven Bertolino said. “The FBI is currently at the Laundrie residence removing property to assist in locating Brian. As of now, the FBI is now looking for both Gabby and Brian.”.
Police say Laundrie returned to North Port without Petito in her van on Sept. 1 – 10 days before family reported her missing.
Petito, 22, was last seen in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming Aug. 30.
As police interviewed Laundrie’s family in their home, protesters gathered outside, crowding the lawn and yelling “Where’s Gabby?”.
In a Friday statement, North Port Police Department said it is not currently working on a crime investigation and instead, the case is now being treated as a multiple missing person investigation.
The agency added that they and the FBI had been pleading with the family to speak with investigators for nearly a week before the meeting Friday night.
“We understand the community’s frustration, we are frustrated too,” the statement said.
Here’s what we know:.
What we knew Friday:Gabby Petito’s family is ‘being tortured’ by lack of info.
Laundrie, family accused of withholding information
Investigators have accused Laundrie and those around him of withholding critical information.
When authorities seized the van at their home in North Port, Laundrie refused to speak with authorities and instead hired a lawyer.
“It tears you apart,” North Port Police Department spokesperson Josh Taylor said of Petito’s family at a Friday news conference. “They’re being tortured right now by the potential of somebody having information and not relaying it.”.
“I believe Brian has the information,” Todd Garrison, chief of North Port Police Department in Florida, said at a Thursday news conference.
Police said Laundrie is invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to speak.
Laundrie’s attorney said he advised Laundrie not to talk.
“Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence,” Bertolino said in a statement. “In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter.”.
Who is Gabby Petito?
Petito is an aspiring blogger and YouTuber with thousands of fans. An idyllic viral video titled “Beginning Our Van Life Journey” on her YouTube channel called Nomadic Statik has been shared around the world, showcasing the couple’s cross-country trek.
Petito is described as a white female, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads “Let it be.”.
Who is Brian Laundrie?
Childhood sweethearts Laundrie, 23, and Peitio are engaged to be married. They moved from Blue Point, New York, in 2019 to live with his parents in North Port.
Laundrie is a white male, five feet, eight inches tall, weighing 160 pounds, with brown eyes, short brown hair and trimmed facial hair.
Police investigated couple’s argument in Utah
After a witness reported a potential domestic violence situation, police investigated an argument between the couple in August.
Body camera footage released Thursday shows Petito in tears while an officer in Moab, Utah, responded on the side of a highway near Arches National Park.
Laundrie told an officer that Petito slapped him after friction had been building between them for several days. The officer wrote that the two had been traveling together for several months, and the closeness created an “emotional strain” leading to more arguments.
Laundrie told an officer that he and Petito both suffered from the same mental health problem. The police report redacted specific information on the condition.
Officers in the video told the couple to sleep in separate places for the night so they could “reset their mental states without interference from one another.”.
“I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis,” the officer concluded in the report.
Police receive flood of tips
Taylor said Friday the department has received an “enormous amount of tips,” estimating that more than 1,000 have come in.
“The vast majority of them aren’t helpful, but it’s those little nuggets, those little pieces in there,” he said.
Gabby Petito’s father, Joe, on Thursday pleaded for information that could help find his daughter.
“I’m asking for help from everyone at home,” he said at a news conference. “I’m asking for help from the parents of Brian, and I’m asking for the help of the family members and friends of the Laundrie family.”.
Anyone with information can reach out through a national hotline to receive tips at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).
Contributing: Patricia McKnight, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Mike James, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.