Police to resume search of Florida wilderness for fiance of Gabby Petito By Reuters
By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) – Police and FBI agents planned to resume their search of a swampy Florida wilderness for Gabby Petito’s fiance on Wednesday, one day after the local coroner in Wyoming identified a body found there as the missing 22-year-old travel blogger.
Brian Laundrie (23 years old), has been identified by police as a “person-of interest” in this case that was reported missing by Petito’s family on September 11. Laundrie was reported to have returned home from Florida’s cross-country roadtrip ten days before.
Laundrie was last seen on Sept. 14th, when he allegedly left his North Port family home with the intention of hiking alone in the nearby Carlton Reserve wilderness. North Port police claim that they only learned Friday from Laundrie’s family that he was missing for three days.
On Tuesday evening, police and FBI agents gave up trying to locate Laundrie inside the alligator-infested, 80 mile long reserve. Others sections of the reserve are almost impassible.
According to a North Port police spokesperson, they will return early Wednesday morning to continue the search.
Petito’s body was discovered by search teams in an area in Bridger–Teton National forest, western Wyoming. The location is less than 1,000ft (300m) away from where, on Aug. 27, a couple of bloggers recorded video of what looked like their white Ford Transit van, parked on a dirt road.
The Teton County Coroner’s Office identified Petito’s remains but didn’t make her cause of death public.
The FBI Denver Special agent in Charge Michael Schneider released a statement saying that his agency and partners “remain committed to ensuring any person responsible or complicit with Ms. Petito’s murder is held accountable for its actions.”
Petito and Laundrie left her home state of New York in late June or early July, heading west in the van with plans to visit U.S. national parks and document the trip on social media.
Petito last appeared in public on Aug. 24, when she was leaving a Salt Lake City hotel. The next day, she posted her last photo.
Petito’s family thinks she was on her way to Grand Teton National Park. She was found dead at the Park’s Edge, in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camp area.
Investigators executed a search warrant for the Laundrie home on Monday. The Laundrie family was seen loading boxes of cardboard into a van, and then towing away the silver Ford Mustang.
Investigators requested the search warrants after Nicole Schmidt received a Aug. 27 text message from Petito to her mother. It described Petito getting voice and phone calls from Stan, Petito’s grandfather.
Schmidt explained to investigators that the text was unusual because her daughter wouldn’t usually call her grandfather by his initials. Petito’s family said that a second message sent by Petito also appeared suspicious.
Police in Moab released video from their body cameras last week of an Aug. 12, encounter between Petito and Laundrie at a traffic stop.
Petito is seen crying as she recounts a fight with Laundrie and admits that she had slapped him. They did not arrest the couple, but they insisted that Petito and Laundrie spend the night apart. Petito was in her van while Laundrie was at the hotel.
A caller reported to emergency dispatchers the same day that Petito was being hit by Laundrie, as per audio from 911 calls released by police.