Search for Brian Laundrie focuses on rugged Florida reserve locals call a death trap

Search for Brian Laundrie focuses on rugged Florida reserve locals call a death trap
·5 min read

The rugged Florida swamp where authorities are hunting Brian Laundrie might be the perfect place to hide — if it weren't for man-eating alligators, poisonous snakes, bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and unrelenting elements, locals said.

Authorities believe Laundrie, a person of interest in the disappearance and death of Gabby Petito is somewhere inside the 24,565-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, on the Gulf Coast near the couple's home in North Port.

"I can't imagine one night out there and I camp," Francine Smetts, who has lived in the area for 15 years and runs a farm near the reserve, told the New York Post.

The area boasts 80 miles of hiking and biking trails but is largely covered by thick foliage, mangroves, and marshy terrain that not only complicates the search for Laundrie but also could put his life in danger.

On Wednesday, a team of "highly trained underwater specialists" arrived at the reserve to "search for evidence of crimes and victims of drowning, water accidents, and foul play," the Sarasota Sheriff's Office wrote on its website.


Search teams fanout at Carlton Reserve park near North Port, Flaa Florida wilderness park to search for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after they she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited parks in the West. Her body was discovered Sunday at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. (North Port Police Department via AP) AP

Although Laundrie has been described as an experienced camper, Smetts noted the reserve is replete with alligators, poisonous snakes, and, perhaps worst of all, merciless mosquitoes.

"If you're in the sun, they won't bother you, but if you step into the shade, the mosquitoes will just start after you, and so I'm just surprised anybody would be out there hiding," she said, adding that she'd be "terrified" to traverse the terrain alone.

Matthew Hall, a survivalist who works at Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure, said depending on Laundrie's skill level, he might actually do OK.

"The Florida habitat makes it a little bit easier to hide depending on what kind of habitat you're hiding in," Hall told Fox13.

Most people are able to survive for several days out there if they have the bare essentials, such as food, water, and shelter, added Hall.

"Having a tarp or the ability to make a shelter with a rope, having a knife is really helpful. If they are in an area where there's adequate water sources and they can forage for food to supplement what they already have, someone can stay out there for a longer period of time," he said.

But Hall warned that the unforgiving sun, near-constant rain, and even the sharp vegetation can be dangerous.

"A lot of the wildlife and a lot of the plants ... kind of fight back," he said.

Hall estimated that a skilled hiker can travel 20-30 miles a day.

This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. The couple was pulled over while they were having an emotional fight. Petito was reported missing by her family a month later. (The Moab Police Department via AP) AP

Those estimates do not include having an army of authorities and volunteers on one's trail.

On Friday, Laundrie allegedly told his parents he was going for a hike and never returned.

Steven Bertolino, the attorney representing the Laundries, said the "family is definitely concerned, but we don't want to speculate as to anything more."

Those comments led to a rebuke from Petito's uncle Steve, who said, "We don't require nor want your empathy. ... By you trying to show compassion here at this moment is beyond disgusting."


Police have been trying to piece together what happened with the young couple while on a cross-country road trip to national parks.

Laundrie returned from the trip to his family's home on Sept. 1 in Petito's white van, though she was not with him.

This combo of photos provided by FBI Denver via @FBIDenver shows missing person Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito. Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country trip in a converted camper van with her boyfriend. Authorities say a body discovered Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Wyoming, is believed to be Petito. (Courtesy of FBI Denver via AP) AP

Petito and Laundrie left for their monthslong trip on July 22 from New York and made stops in Colorado and Utah. Petito was last seen on Aug. 24, when she and Laundrie checked out of a hotel in Salt Lake City.

Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, said she last heard from her daughter on Aug. 25, when Petito told her they were headed to Wyoming.

Schmidt said her daughter seemed "excited" about their next adventure but that she began to worry when Petito stopped communicating.


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

On Tuesday, the FBI confirmed that the remains of a person found in Wyoming over the weekend were Petito.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results, the FBI added.

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Tags: News, Crime, Missing Person, Florida, New York, Utah, Wyoming, National Parks, FBI

Original Author: Barnini Chakraborty

Original Location: Search for Brian Laundrie focuses on rugged Florida reserve locals call a death trap

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