The boyfriend identified as a “person of interest” after last month’s disappearance of his longtime girlfriend during a cross-country road trip for two has now bizarrely gone missing as well, Florida authorities said Saturday.
The search for Brian Laundrie, 23, focused on the 25,565-acre Carlton Reserve, a sprawling wildlife preserve in Sarasota Court, Florida, with roughly 50 law enforcers involved, said the North Port Police Department. Authorities were using drones and and all-terrain vehicles in their search, with investigators taking some of Laundries’ clothing to use with scent-sniffing dogs on the case.
His parents, in a Friday call to the FBI, said they last saw Laundrie before he left this past Tuesday. But the unconvinced family of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito took a dim view of the tale, noting the disappeared boyfriend’s steadfast refusal to cooperate with investigators since they filed a Sept. 11 missing person report on their daughter.
“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding,” said a statement from Petito family lawyer Richard Stafford. “Gabby is missing.”
The latest development in the search for the missing young woman came with another twist: The Laundrie family told police that their son drove to the reserve with just his backpack — but Brian’s car was found at their home, said police spokesman Josh Taylor.
“We’re going by their word,” Taylor stated at a news conference. “We believe the vehicle made its way from here back to their house. Certainly, we’re looking at corroborating all the information that we’ve received ... we prepare for all different possibilities, but you know, our goal is to locate him and bring him back to North Port.”
Laundrie has declined to sit down with investigators since he returned home earlier this month without Petito, who lived with him and his parents.
“We understand the community’s frustration,” the North Port Police said in a statement. “We are frustrated too.”
No explanation was given for the Laundries’ delay in contacting federal agents after Brian left home.
“It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime,” the North Port police said. “We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working multiple missing person investigations.”
According to police, the Friday call marked the first time that the Laundrie family has “spoken with investigators in detail” since their son returned home alone on Sept. 1.
The Petito family finally filed a missing person report with police in Suffolk County, L.l., 10 days later, and pleaded for Laundrie to tell police whatever he knew about Gabby’s disappearance. The Petitos last heard from their daughter in late August.
Petito, originally from Long Island, was traveling with Laundrie inside her converted van when she vanished at some point after the couple fought while driving through Utah on Aug. 12. Laundrie returned home by himself behind the wheel of his missing girlfriend’s vehicle.