What to Know
- The FBI and North Port Police said they are searching an expansive nature reserve for the 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, with the Laundrie family claiming that they have not seen Brian since Tuesday.
- For the first time since Gabby Petito went missing, members of the Laundrie family spoke with investigators at their Florida home Friday evening, presumably about their son's disappearance
- In a statement released late Friday night, Petito's family was not exactly sympathetic to Brian or the Laundrie family regarding their son's disappearance, stating "Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing"
Police searching for Gabby Petito have a new and urgent issue on their hands: Where is her fiancé, Brian Laundrie?
The FBI and North Port, Florida Police are looking for the 23-year-old, with the Laundrie family claiming that they have not seen Brian since Tuesday. The attorney for the family called FBI investigators Friday evening, indicating that the family would like to talk about the disappearance of their son.
On Saturday morning, police said they were searching a nearly-25,000 acre nature reserve that his family believes he may have entered earlier this week. This as the FBI is now conducting 'ground surveys' of Grand Teton National Park looking for Petito.
Police paused the search due to darkness late Saturday evening, saying "nothing found" and that they would resume Sunday. Photos tweeted by the North Port Police show them searching woods in the reserve with dogs.
With Laundrie's whereabouts unknown, his family for the first time spoke to law enforcement in detail on Friday night. The FBI removed property from the Laundrie's home to assist in their search for Brian, the family's attorney said.
North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in an interview later that Brian was not at the house at the time police spoke with the family, and said that "I don't know where he's at right now. You know, he could be anywhere."
The North Port Police Department said that they are now treating the investigation as two missing persons cases, adding that they "understand the community's frustration, we are frustrated too." The department also noted that "while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby's disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime."
Laundrie is 5'8'' with brown eyes, short brown hair and trimmed facial hair, and was last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap.
In a statement released late Friday night, Petito's family was not exactly sympathetic to Brian or the Laundrie family.
"All of Gabby's family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing," the statement read.
Although the Laundrie family was talking with investigators about their son who they haven't seen in days, he believes they would know something about Gabby's disappearance as well.
"Gabby lived in that house too, in North Port. So if Brian returned without Gabby, you would think people would be asking: 'Where is Gabby at?' There had to be some type of conversation or dialogue with the parents and other family members," Garrison speculated. "I'm a reasonable person, but I would believe that, yes, they do know something."
Protesters lined the street outside the family's home, chanting "Where is Gabby?!" at times throughout the night. A police officer addressed the crowd at one point in the night, asking them to be respectful of the neighborhood.
The only other member of the family who has spoken out is Laundrie's sister, Cassie, who revealed in an interview that she hasn't spoken to her brother since he returned to his Florida home from his and Petito's cross-country "van life" trip without Petito.
In an interview with ABC News, Cassie Laundrie said that although she hasn't talked to her brother, she has cooperated with police.
"I haven't been able to talk to him. I wish I could talk to him. I cooperated every way that I can. I wish I had information or I would give more. This is all I have. I gave it to the police," she said.
Calling Petito "a sister," Cassie said that she hopes for her safe return.
"Me and my family want Gabby to be found safe. She's like a sister and my children love her and all I want is for her to come home safe and sound," Cassie said.
Laundrie's sister went on to say that her brother has always done the right thing.
"He's a wonderful uncle. He's always been there when I needed him. Like he's -- I mean, he's been there every time Gabby has needed him," she said during the interview.
On Friday, the police department in North Port, Florida also put out an interview with Petito's father, Joe Petito, on YouTube (see video below) to continue getting the message out of the young woman's disappearance.
In the interview, Joe says it is hard to remain positive, but he is still holding on to the hope that she is somewhere in need of help.
"Positivity is hard," he said. "Trying to focus on the scenario I have in my head that she is stuck somewhere and she just, you know, needs help. We have to go get her and bring her home. I know how these things sometimes end and I am trying not to think of that."
Joe said he wants the search for his daughter, who he described as "artistic" and a "beautiful soul," to continue until she is brought home. He went on to say that although Laundrie refuses to cooperate, he hopes his family and friends can get through to him and convince him to talk to authorities about all that he knows.
"This type of behavior is cruel," he said. "It's heartless. If you did nothing wrong, and you genuinely did nothing wrong, I'm not saying you did -- I have no idea. I can't even ask you what you know. I can only take this attitude as cruel and heartless."
Joe went on to say that it was unlike her to go for so long not contacting a loved one.
"She's still out there, somewhere, where she doesn't have access to communication, and we've got to get her," he said.
The parents of Petito had their first inkling something may be off after receiving a text message from her in late August, the last communication they have had with her — or at least her phone.
According to an attorney for the Petito family, the 22-year-old said in a text to her mother "no service in Yosemite." That raised eyebrows because the last time they spoke to her, Petito and her fiancé Laundrie were on their way to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming — some 800 miles from the California park mentioned in the text.
Petito's mother, Nicole Schmidt, received that text on Aug. 30, and she still doesn't know for sure who texted it. But now her husband, Jim Schmidt, is helping lead the search in Wyoming for the missing Long Island woman, who disappeared during a cross-country road trip with Laundrie.
Schmidt said that he saw the young couple before they started making their way west for their months-long van trip, as they left from the Long Island town of Blue Point. He said they looked "excited" for the journey.
"They were getting the van ready, and they just seemed like they couldn’t wait to go," Schmidt said Thursday, as he hung up posters throughout the area around Jackson Hole, near Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. It was at some point during the couple's travels through that area when Petito vanished, her family believes.
"We’re just asking that anybody who has been to this area, visited, taken pictures, videos, whatever it may be — to go back and look at those and take a look, see if there’s anything that may be in there that could help us, help the police do what they have to do to find Gabby," Schmidt pleaded.
At least one person, a woman on TikTok, claimed that she and her boyfriend picked up Laundrie as he was hitchhiking in Grand Teton National Park on Aug. 29. In a series of videos, Miranda Baker said Laundrie stopped the couple in Colter Bay around 5:30 p.m. asking for a ride to Jackson, which she and her boyfriend agreed to give him. Baker said that Laundrie then offered them $200 for the short trip.
Once in the car, Laundrie told the couple that he had been camping for multiple days without his fiancée, and that she was working on their social media page back at the van.
Shortly after, Laundrie "freaked out" when they said they were heading to Jackson Hole (which is the same place as Jackson), and had the couple pull over at Jackson Dam. Baker said he "hurried out of the car" at 6:09 p.m., telling them he would find another ride.
Baker also noted that for someone who said they had been camping for days, "he didn't look dirty, he didn't smell dirty, so that part was kind of weird." She also said she and her boyfriend did not see him with a phone, nor with any other normal camping equipment, like food and supplies. Laundrie told them he only brought a tarp to sleep on.
North Port Police confirmed that they have spoken with Baker, and are investigating her claims.
Schmidt and other officials can't even begin to narrow down their search area for Petito, because Laundrie still hasn't spoken with police. Schmidt said in a statement Friday that he and the family was "glad to hear of any communication and dialog" from the Laundrie family, and that they hope "the authorities could possible get information to Bring Gabby home."
Laundrie's attorney, Steven Bertolino, said the Laundrie family is hoping for Petito's safe return.
Earlier in the week, police labeled Laundrie a person of interest in the case, a label that Bertolino shook off as nothing more than procedure.
It's the silence from Brian that Schmidt said he cannot comprehend.
"It’s absolutely absurd. You refer to her as the love of your life, everything seemed to be happy," he said. "Why, why are you silent?"
Petito's family reported her missing on Saturday but they hadn't heard from her in three weeks, officials have said. The converted camper Petito and Laundrie had been traveling in returned to Florida, Laundrie apparently with it, two weeks ago. But Petito was not with him, police said. Forensic analysis of the van as well as phone data is ongoing.
As investigators in North Port, Florida, where Petito lived with Laundrie and his parents, continue to struggle getting any information from the family, more law enforcement agencies are now involved in the case. In addition to the ground search in Wyoming and around the national park, there is also a nationwide search the includes police departments and the FBI. Law enforcement is trying to track and trace Laundrie's every move he made from Wyoming back to the home in Florida.
The young woman's father, Joe Petito, also pleaded for help at a police briefing on Thursday.
"What I need from everyone here is help. The goal is still not met, which is to bring Gabby home safely," Joe Petito said -- and urged anyone with information to call the FBI's tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI. "Whatever you can do to make sure she comes home, I'm asking for that help. There's nothing else that matters to me now."
Utah Police Release Bodycam Video of Distressed Gabby Petito After Cops Called Amid Argument
The couple had been seen arguing in southern Utah just before they traveled to Wyoming -- a dispute that prompted at least one 911 call from a witness, not Petito or Laundrie.
That body camera video clearly shows Petito in a state of distress as she stands on the side of the road in tears. She is heard saying she had been telling Laundrie she was sorry "for being so mean ... sometimes I have OCD, sometimes I get frustrated."
Investigators who responded to that Aug. 12 call described the situation as more of a mental health crisis. Cops said in a police report no significant injuries were observed. They pulled the van over near the entrance to Arches National Park, after it was seen speeding and hit a curb.
The body camera video shows Petito visibly upset when an officer approached them.
“We’ve just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues,” she tells him, adding that she suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects her behavior.
“Some days, I have really bad OCD, and I was just cleaning and straightening up and I was apologizing to him saying that I’m so mean because sometimes I have OCD and get frustrated,” she said.
Laundrie says on the video the couple got into a minor scuffle that began when he climbed into the van with dirty feet, and said he didn't want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the aggressor.
“I’m not going to pursue anything because she is my fiancée and I love her. It was just a squabble. Sorry it had to get so public,” Laundrie says. He told the responding officer that emotional tension had been building between him and Petito and that they were arguing more frequently because they had been traveling together for four to five months, the report said.
Ultimately Moab police decided not file any charges and instead separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the converted sleeper van.
Police officials said Thursday the body camera video shows there was a disturbance but at this point, police don't know if it had anything to do with Petito's disappearance. North Port police had no history of interactions with the couple before they went on the trip, nor were they aware of any prior mental health issues.
Laundrie's sister also touched upon this video during her interview with ABC saying that the fight "looked typical."
"It looked 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.
Police Identify Fiance as Person of Interest
Authorities identified Laundrie as a person of interest in the case Wednesday and appealed on social media to the family attorney for help arranging an interview as they seek to find answers for Petito's family.
North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison vented to reporters on Thursday, "We share the frustration with the world right now. Two people went on a trip and one person returned and that person isn't providing us any information."
Investigators have released very few details so far to protect the integrity of the investigation. What's clear is that Laundrie was in Florida 10 days prior to Petito being reported missing and just before the couple traveled to Wyoming, they were seen arguing in southern Utah.
Laundrie's family attorney has released a statement saying the family declined comment apart from saying it hopes Petito gets home safely. In another emailed statement Wednesday, Bertolino said that Laundrie's family “is remaining in the background" as the search continues.
“In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter,” Bertolino said.
But police want to hear from Laundrie specifically.
"We don't know what Brian knows. That's the bottom line and we were hopeful to talk to him. He needs to talk to us," said Taylor. "We need to know exactly where he was, where she was, their last location."
Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts in Suffolk County but moved from Blue Point, New York, in 2019 to live with his parents in North Port, which is about 34 miles south of Sarasota. They set out on their journey in July from New York, saying on social media accounts they intended to reach Oregon by Halloween.
Petito is white, 5-foot-5 and about 110 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes, police said. She has several tattoos including one on a forearm that reads, “let it be.”