Gabby Petito’s Boyfriend Wanted at Florida Wildlife Sanctuary
NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) — Authorities on Tuesday renewed their search for a swampy reservation area near the home of the boyfriend wanted for questioning in the death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, whose body was discovered in a Wyoming National Park months after the couple embarked on a road trip across the country.
Police in North Port, Fla., said Tuesday morning investigators had returned to the Carlton Reservation to search for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie.
Investigators searched the 24,000-acre (9,700-hectare) Florida nature preserve over the weekend without success. They focused on the area after Laundrie’s parents told police he may have been there.
Authorities are using helicopters, drones, dogs and officers in all-terrain vehicles in their search for Laundrie. About 75% of the search area is underwater.
On Monday, the FBI went to Laundrie’s parents’ home in North Port and removed several boxes and towed away a car that neighbors said Laundrie’s mother typically uses.
Laundrie and Petito lived with her parents at the North Port home before the road trip during which she died.
The young couple had left in July in a converted van to visit the national parks of the West. They argued along the way and Laundrie was alone when he returned in the van to his parents’ home on September 1, police said.
In Wyoming, the FBI announced on Sunday that agents had discovered a body on the edge of Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited. No details on the cause of death have been released. An autopsy has been set for Tuesday.
“Full forensic identification has not been completed to 100% confirm that we have found Gabby, but her family has been notified,” FBI Agent Charles Jones said.
Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case, but his whereabouts have not been known for the past few days.
Petito’s father, Joseph, posted an image of a broken heart on social media above a photo of his daughter, with the message: “She touched the world.”
In an interview aired Monday on “Dr. Phil” television, Joseph Petito said that Laundrie and his daughter had been dating for 2½ years, and that Laundrie was “always respectful.” During the interview, which was was recorded before her daughter’s body was discovered, Petito said the couple had already taken a road trip to California in their car and there were no problems.
Joseph Petito said the family became concerned after several days of not hearing from their daughter.
“We called Brian, we called mom, we called dad, we called sister, we called every number we could find,” Joseph Petito said. “No phone calls were taken, no texts were returned.”
Joseph Petito said he wants Laundrie to be held accountable for the role he played in his daughter’s disappearance, as well as his family for their protection.
“Hopefully they get what’s coming, and that includes his parents,” Joseph Petito said. “Because I’ll tell you, right now, they’re just as complicit, in my book.”
The FBI said investigators are seeking information from anyone who may have seen the couple around Grand Teton.
Gabby Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts who met while growing up on Long Island in New York. His parents then moved to North Port, about 55 kilometers south of Sarasota.
A man who saw Petito and Laundrie fight in Moab, Utah on Aug. 12 called 911 to report an incident of domestic violence, according to a recording of the call obtained from the County Sheriff’s Office. Big. The man said he saw Laundrie slap Petito as he drove through town and began punching her before the two got into their van and drove off.
Video released by Moab police showed an officer stopping the couple’s van the same day after it was seen speeding and hitting a sidewalk near Arches National Park. Body camera footage showed an upset Petito.
Laundrie said on the video that the couple argued after getting into the van with dirty feet. He said he didn’t want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, whom officers decided was the attacker.
Moab police separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito staying with the van.
In the footage, Gabby Petito cried as she told the officer that she and Laundrie had an argument over her excessive cleaning of the van. She told the officer she had OCD, an obsessive compulsive disorder.
On “Dr. Phil,” her dad said that wasn’t literally true. She just likes to keep her living space tidy and used slang, he said.