Cops Call Off Swamp Search for Van-Life Fiancé and Swarm His Home


Police have ended their search of a Florida nature preserve for Brian Laundrie, the fiancé of missing 22-year-old “van-lifer” Gabby Petito, whose body is believed to have been discovered Sunday in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest.

“The North Port Police Department currently has no plans to conduct a major search of the Carlton Reserve today,” North Port, Florida, PD spokesman Josh Taylor announced in a statement. “At this time, we currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there.”

Laundrie, 23, was reported missing by his family on Friday. Relatives told cops that he left the home he shares with his parents on Tuesday with plans to go for a hike in the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve. Investigators have combed the area for days, with no results.

Now the Boyfriend in Van-Life Saga Is Missing, Too

“We’re going by the family’s word this is where the family said he was going,” Taylor said Sunday. He also said that Laundrie’s relatives only talked with police about the whereabouts of Brian, not about the disappearance of Petito.

On Monday morning, authorities descended on the Laundrie home with a search warrant and declared it an “active crime scene.” At least six unmarked vehicles carrying at least a dozen FBI agents in bulletproof vests pulled up to the residence shortly before 10 a.m. Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta, were later spotted climbing into a black van with an FBI agent.

“The FBI is executing a court-authorized search warrant today at the Laundrie residence in North Port, FL relevant to the Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito investigation,” the bureau’s Tampa field office said in a statement. “No further details can be provided since this is an active and ongoing investigation.”

The desperate search for Petito came to an end on Sunday evening when the FBI discovered a body in a remote area of Bridger-Teton, near Grand Teton National Park, that matched the young woman’s description. The bureau stopped short of confirming the remains are Petito’s, pending a forensic examination. A cause of death has not yet been determined. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.

“It’s been a rough morning,” Gabby’s father, Joe Petito, told The Daily Beast on Monday. “I haven’t heard anything new [about Laundrie], and I’m honestly not really paying attention to it at the moment. Me and the family are going to reconvene and kind of go over things and get on the same page, and then we’ll be putting out a statement.”

Laundrie’s parents did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday.

When Petito went missing, the couple was several months into a cross-country road trip that began in July.

“After our first cross country trip in a little Nissan Sentra, we both decided we to wanted downsize our lives and travel full time, but trying to fit everything for two people into the tiny little trunk of the car, also spending way too much on gas, food, and Airbnb, was not the road to take,” the pair wrote on their shared YouTube page. “We quickly realized we had to come up with a solution if we wanted to continue traveling and living nomadically, so that’s why we handcrafted our own tiny van...utilizing space with unique designs and features. Creating a space for both artistic expression and distance hiking. Thank you so much for watching, and we hope you tag along on our journey wherever the van takes us!”

Laundrie returned to North Port on Sept. 1, without Petito. Her parents reported her missing 10 days later, after not hearing from her for two weeks.

“We had been in touch with her as she traveled,” Joe Petito told The Daily Beast in an interview last week. “I’d speak to her once a week or so, her mom spoke to her two or three times a week. My son would talk to her often on Snapchat, FaceTime; my niece would be in constant contact with her.”

But when Gabby went silent, the family instinctively knew something was wrong.

In the days that followed, information began to trickle out that revealed things were not all they seemed. Although the videos the pair posted from the road showed a smiling, happy couple, a police report obtained by The Daily Beast described a physical confrontation the two had had while passing through Moab, Utah. Bodycam footage subsequently released by the Moab City PD provided a first-hand look at the recent tensions the couple had apparently been experiencing.

In the video, which is more than an hour-and-a-quarter long, Petito tells a police officer that she and Laundrie had been arguing over “personal issues” that came to a head after months of traveling together. Neither wanted the other to be arrested or charged with a crime. Petito said she was frightened that Laundrie was going to leave her behind in Moab, and that the two both suffer from severe anxiety. In the end, cops determined the incident was more of a “mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault,” states the police report.

Laundrie has thus far refused to speak to investigators. In a statement provided last week to The Daily Beast, Laundrie’s lawyer, Steven Bertolino, said this was not going to change.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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