Search resumes for Brian Laundrie in Florida in Gabby Petito case

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Everything we know about the disappearance of Gabby Petito
Everything we know about the disappearance of Gabby Petito

NORTH PORT, Florida -- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has directed all state agencies to assist federal and local law enforcement in the search for Brian Laundrie.

The search for 23-year-old Laundrie is centered around North Port where investigators said he returned to his home on Sept. 1 without his fiancee Gabby Petito, 22, but driving her 2012 Ford Transit. She was found dead in Wyoming.

Laundrie has been named by police as a "person of interest" in Petito's disappearance. He has refused to speak to the police and has not been seen since Tuesday, Sept. 14, according to law enforcement officials.

Investigators searched a 25,000-acre Florida nature preserve over the weekend without success. They focused on the area after Laundrie's parents told police he may have gone there.

The search moved to another part of the reserve on Tuesday. Authorities deployed multiple all-terrain vehicles and drones in their search.

"The terrain is very difficult. Essentially, 75 percent of it is under water. Areas that are dry, we are trying to clear," Commander Joe Fussell, North Port police, said.

North Port police shared this video of the search for Brian Laundrie on Tuesday

Despite rumors on social media late Tuesday, North Port Police say Laundrie is not in custody. They confirmed they received reports of "suspected sightings," however, none have been accurate.

"Good evening, we have received a significant amount of requests tonight regarding a possible capture of Brian Laundrie. These reports are unfortunately false. Please rest assured that when Brian is found, we will be more than happy to let everyone know. That important detail will come in the form of an email, similar to this one, to everyone, at the same time. Thank you," North Port Police said in a statement.

Gabby Petito's coroner report

Gabby Petito died by homicide, a coroner concluded while also confirming that the human remains found recently at a Wyoming national park were those of the 22-year-old woman.

Her body was discovered at a Wyoming national park over the weekend, months after the couple, originally from Long Island, set out on a cross-country road trip.

Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said the cause of her death remains pending final autopsy results.

Man seen on video in Panhandle matching Laundrie's description

An image surfaced on social media that appeared to be a man matching the description of Brian Laundrie was captured on a trail camera walking on a property in the Florida Panhandle area.

The individual was purportedly spotted late Monday night or early Tuesday morning on a trail camera in Baker, which is more than 500 northwest of where authorities have focused their search Laundrie.

"The OCSO did its due diligence in response to this report and is wrapping up an extensive search that took place in this area to include nearby farmlands. No one -- and nothing -- of note was located. The individual referenced in the post below has no known ties to our area," Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon, featuring a blurry image from the trail camera of a man walking with a backpack.

Growing memorial for Gabby Petito's hometown

Neighbors have put up teal ribbons around the Petito family home in Blue Point, New York on Long Island. It's a show of support to remember and pay tribute to Gabby's memory.

In Wyoming, someone set up a makeshift cross with river rocks from the slowly disappearing Spread Creek. The location is where Petito's remains are believed to have been found.

An attorney for the Petito family released a statement promising a statement from the family when "Gabby comes home."

Laundrie family lawyer calls off press conference

A press conference that had been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon by the Laundrie family and their attorney was called off.

Steven Bertolino, the family's lawyer, told ABC News that he canceled the press conference after speaking with the FBI. He did not elaborate on what prompted the cancellation.

FBI, police execute search warrant at Laundrie home

On Monday, the FBI went to Laundrie's parents' home in North Port and removed several boxes and towed away a car neighbors said Laundrie's mother typically used.

Laundrie and Petito had been living with his parents before making the trek.

WATCH | Eyewitness News Special Report on Gabby Petito case

Eyewitness News takes in-depth look at the Gabby Petito case as police continue their search for Brian Laundrie.

Last Text Message from Gabby Petito

According to a separate warrant filed in a Sarasota County, FL Court, Gabby Petito's mother received an "odd text" on August 27th - a message which is described as "the last communication anyone had with" Gabby.

Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, said the last video chat she had with her daughter was August 24 or 25, though they exchanged text messages for a few days following. She said she is unsure if it was her daughter actually sent those text messages.

Florida police obtained the warrant to search a hard drive found in the white van that Petito and Brian Laundrie used at the time of her disappearance.

This warrant, filed by the North Port Police Department, is not associated with the activity at the Laundrie family's home.

RELATED | Witness statement recalls Petito, Laundrie domestic dispute in Utah

The detective wrote that Petito's mother "received an 'odd text' from Gabby. The text message read 'Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.' The reference to 'Stan,' was regarding her grandfather, but per the mother, she never calls him 'Stan.' The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter."

Her family said that the final message was "not normal behavior" for Petito and became more worried about her, according to police.

Petito's parents, who live on Long Island, New York, reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her for two weeks.

RELATED | Gabby Petito disappearance timeline: What we know so far

Gabby Petito was traveling with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, in a cargo van the two had outfitted as a makeshift recreational vehicle for a months-long cross-country road trip when she mysteriously disappeared.

Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts who met while growing up on Long Island. His parents later moved to North Port, about 35 miles south of Sarasota.

The engaged couple had been documenting their trip on YouTube, and they were set to arrive in Portland in October.

They did have one encounter with police in Utah. Video released by the Moab Police department showed that an officer pulled the couple's van over on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park. The body-camera footage showed an upset Petito.

Laundrie said on the video that the couple had gotten into a scuffle after he climbed into the van with dirty feet. He said he did not want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the aggressor.

On Monday, officials released the 911 call that led to that investigation. The caller is heard saying "a gentleman was slapping the girl" before driving off in a white van.

The FBI said investigators are still seeking information from anyone who may have seen the couple around Grand Teton.

ALSO READ: ABC Exclusive: Full interview with Brian Laundrie's sister on Gabby Petito

ABC News interviews Cassie Laundrie, Brian Laundrie's sister about Gabby Petito's disappearance.