Published On: Sat, Sep 18th, 2021

Brian Laundrie, fiancé and person of interest in disappearance of Gabby Petito, is missing, Florida official says

Authorities said Friday night that they do not know where the man named as a person of interest in the disappearance of Gabby Petito is.

A spokesman for the city of North Port, Florida, where Brian Laundrie lives with his parents told NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa that the family’s attorney had contacted city officials Friday evening, saying they were concerned about his whereabouts.

Laundrie’s family requested to speak to police at the North Port, Florida, home they share with their son, who had been traveling cross-country with his fiancee before she was reported missing earlier this month, police said earlier.

North Port spokesman Josh Taylor would not say when family or authorities were last certain of his Laundrie’s whereabouts.

North Port police this week called Laundrie a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance and have said he’s been uncooperative in the investigation.

Laundrie has not spoken on Petito’s disappearance on the advice of family attorney Steven P. Bertolino, who has said police too often focus on the intimate partner.

Bertolino did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

WFLA reported that police entered the family’s home, where a crowd had gathered outside and shouted questions about Laundrie’s whereabouts, with empty paper bags Friday evening. Two law enforcement officials searched a Mustang convertible parked in the family’s driveway.

Taylor confirmed Friday that police interviewed a woman who said on a video posted to TikTok recently that on Aug. 29, she and her boyfriend picked up a hitchhiker whom she later realized was Laundrie.

In the video, the woman says that he offered $200 for a ride away from Grand Teton National Park but later got out of the car abruptly. The city spokesman did not say police verified the woman’s account, only that they had talked to her and that her account was part of the broader investigation.

Earlier Friday in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday, Cassie Laundrie said she has not spoken to her brother and is looking for answers.

“I wish I could talk to him,” Cassie Laundrie said. “I’ve cooperated every way that I can. I wish I had information or I would give more.”

Her brother and Petito began a cross-country tour of national parks in July, documenting their journey on YouTube and Instagram using the hashtag #VanLife. Brian Laundrie and that van, with Florida plates, returned to North Port, south of Tampa, on Sept. 1, 10 days before Petito’s family reported her missing, police said.

Cassie Laundrie called her brother a “wonderful uncle” and a partner who has “been there every time Gabby has needed him,” adding that all she and her family want is for her safe return.

“All I want is for her to come home safe and sound, and this to be just a big misunderstanding,” she said.

Authorities across the U.S. are searching for Petito, who hasn’t been heard from since late August when she was believed to be in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming. At least a half-dozen law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are looking into her disappearance.

On Aug. 12, police in Moab, Utah, responded to an alleged physical altercation between the two.

In body camera footage released by police Thursday, Petito could be seen wiping away tears as she told the responding officer she was struggling with her mental health.

Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie.via Instagram

In the nearly hourlong video, the couple admitted to arguing all morning. When the officer asked Brian Laundrie about scratches on his face, he responded: “She had her phone and was trying to get the keys from me. I said, ‘Let’s just step back and breathe,’ and she got me with her phone.”

Cassie Laundrie told ABC that the body camera footage was “typical of both of them.”

“Whenever they fight, they would take a little break and come back and be fine because that’s what you do in a couple,” she said.

One officer wrote that Petito had slapped Brian Laundrie after an argument, at which point Laundrie allegedly attempted to lock her out of the van. She forced her way back in before Laundrie drove off, according to the report.

The two told the officer that “they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” according to the report.

The pair was told to separate for the night, with Petito maintaining possession of the van, according to the police report. No charges were filed.

In the days after the Moab incident, Petito’s communications with her family stopped, police have said.

Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, said the couple left Salt Lake City for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming around Aug. 24, which was when she said she last spoke to her daughter on a FaceTime call. She said she received texts sent from her daughter’s phone until Aug. 30, but she wasn’t sure whether her daughter sent them.

Petito’s last text to her mother read: “No service in Yosemite.” It is unclear whether the couple ever made it to the California state park. Petito’s last post on Instagram is dated Aug. 25, with no location specified.

Andrew Blankstein contributed.

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