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Brian Laundrie’s Father Joins Police Search After Changing Story About His Disappearance

Sarasota County, FL – Brian Laundrie’s father joined law enforcement officers in the ongoing search for his son at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Thursday morning.

Brian Laundrie, 23, disappeared in mid-September just days before the body of his missing 22-year-old fiancé, Gabby Petito, was discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

Her death has been ruled a homicide, but her exact cause of death has not been released.

Police named Brian Laundrie as a person of interest in Petito’s homicide, but investigators have stopped short of labeling him as a suspect.

The U.S. District Court of Wyoming issued a federal warrant for Brian Laundrie’s arrest on Sept. 22 for use of unauthorized devices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Denver office announced in a press release.

But by then, Brian Laundrie had disappeared.

During an interview on the Dr. Phil McGraw television show on Tuesday, Petito’s parents and step-parents said the warrant was the result of Brian Laundrie stealing Petito’s bank card and using it “to get home and then [run] from the police,” WAGA reported.

The 160-acre, heavily-wooded Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park area is adjacent to the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve, where Brian Laundrie’s parents, Roberta and Christopher Laundrie, claimed their son disappeared while hiking, FOX News reported.

The couple initially told police Brian Laundrie disappeared on Sept. 14, although they failed to report him as missing until Sept. 17.

They changed their story earlier this week after the North Port Police Department (NPPD) confirmed an officer had placed an abandoned vehicle notice on Brian Laundrie’s car at the Carlton Reserve on Sept. 14, CNN reported.

The couple now claims their son actually left their house on Sept. 13 – one day earlier than the date they gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), WAGA reported.

“The Laundries were basing the date Brian left on their recollection of certain events,” their attorney, Steven Bertolino, said in a statement. “Upon further communication with the FBI and confirmation of the Mustang being at the Laundrie residence on Wednesday, September 15, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13.”

Bertolino further claimed Christopher Laundrie went out searching for his son the night of Sept. 13 after he failed to return home, according to CNN.

The couple said they also picked up Brian Laundrie’s car from the nature reserve a day earlier than they previously reported, WAGA reported.

A woman claiming to be one of the Laundries’ neighbors said she saw Brian Laundrie running out of his parent’s home the day they reported him as missing, a video posted to Twitter showed.

She said another neighbor’s surveillance camera recorded the alleged incident, and that police have been provided with that footage.

A source close to the Laundries told CNN on Wednesday that investigators found remnants of a recent campsite at the Carlton Reserve, which has been closed to visitors due to the search.

Bertolino announced on Wednesday that the FBI asked Christopher Laundrie “to assist law enforcement in their search for Brian,” according to FOX News. “Since the preserve has been closed to the public, Chris has not been able to look for Brian in the only place Chris and Roberta believe Brian may be.”

As Christopher Laundrie joined up with investigators at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Thursday morning, his attorney told FOX News he thinks Brian Laundrie is somewhere inside the Carlton Reserve.

“I believe Brian is still in the preserve and as such, I don’t think he has access to the news,” Bertolino said.

When reporters asked him about Brian Laundrie’s survival skills, the attorney described him simply as “a backpacker,” FOX News reported.

According to Bertolino, investigators asked Christopher Laundrie to come to the park “to point out any favorite trails or spots that Brian may have used in the preserve.”

“Although Chris and Roberta Laundrie provided this information verbally three weeks ago, it is now thought that on-site assistance may be better,” the lawyer added. “The preserve has been closed to the public and the Laundries as well but the parents have been cooperating since the search began.”

Christopher Laundrie left the environmental park by early afternoon, FOX News reported.

“There were no discoveries but the effort was helpful to all,” Bertolino said in a statement afterwards, according to the Independent. “It seems the water in the Preserve is receding and certain areas are more accessible to search. The entire Laundrie family is grateful for the hard work of the dedicated members of law enforcement that have been searching the Preserve for Brian over the last few weeks. Hopefully Brian will be located soon.”

The couple released a statement through Bertolino in late September claiming they have no idea where their son is, according to CNN.

“They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him,” Bertolino said. “The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong.”

During their interview with McGraw on Tuesday, Petito’s parents and stepparents recounted how they repeatedly tried to reach the Laundries after they weren’t able to get in touch with Petito, WAGA reported.

They initially believed Brian Laundrie was also missing.

Petito’s family said the Laundries refused to respond to their frantic messages.

“One of the texts, I mean, I was going to call the police. You know, ‘Just letting you know because we have no idea, no responses,’” explained Gabby Petito’s father, Joe Petito. “A normal parent, when you text someone that they’re going to call the cops because you can’t find your child, they would reply.”

When police showed up at the Laundries’ home, the couple allegedly “had papers at the door” telling the officers to contact Bertolino.

Joe Petito said he believes Brian Laundrie’s parents “owed me more than that,” WAGA reported.

“I’m a dad. I make my kids stand up for their decisions,” he added. “If they make a mistake, I’ll help you. I’ll walk you through that path. But you’re going to, man, you’re going to own up to your mistake because that’s what a parent does – not what they’re doing.”

Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said she is convinced the Laundries “know a lot more information than they’re putting out there,” WAGA reported.

Joe Petito told McGraw he absolutely believes Brian Laundrie is hiding out somewhere.

“He’s a coward. Flat out. I could use some other words, but I can’t use them on your show,” Joe Petito said. “Anyone that lived in that house is a coward, and they don’t know how to stand up for their actions.”

Protesters and reporters have been camped outside the Laundries’ home for weeks.

On at least one occasion, one of their frustrated neighbors was arrested for allegedly assaulting a protester who he said trespassed on his property.

When police ordered the media to clear the street in an attempt to bring some sanity back to the area, several neighbors started renting out their properties to the news outlets, TMZ reported.

Some residents have been charging as much as $3,500 per week to allow reporters to park and set up equipment on their lawns and driveways.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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