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Police Search For Brian Laundrie After Family Claims He Disappeared While Hiking

Sarasota County, FL – A search for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito, is currently underway in the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve area north of North Port.

The North Port Police Department (NPPD) listed Laundrie, 23, as a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance on Sept. 15, but the current search has nothing to do with any alleged crimes.

Laundrie’s parents now claim he has been missing since Sept. 14, the NPPD said in a press release.

Laundrie returned to Florida in Petito’s converted camper van without her on Sept. 1.

The couple had been touring U.S. national parks in the van since early July.

Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said she last spoke with her daughter on Aug. 25, when Petito told her she and Laundrie were heading to Grand Teton, Wyoming before making their way to Yellowstone National Park, ABC News reported.

Laundrie has refused to speak with law enforcement or Petito’s family about where he last saw her.

Petito’s van was recovered at a home belonging to Laundrie’s parents after her family reported her as missing on Sept. 11.

Law enforcement officers in Florida have been searching for Laundrie since Sept. 17, when his parents reported him as “missing,” the NPPD said in an update on Saturday.

They claimed Laundrie was last seen on Sept. 14, when he headed to the Carlton Reserve area with his backpack to go hiking, according to police.

He never returned home.

They waited three days to report his alleged disappearance.

“We’ve obviously been trying to reach the family to get answers in this case since (last) Saturday,” NPPD Spokesperson Josh Taylor told reporters, according to KABC. “The first time that we’ve had any in-depth conversation with them was (Friday) when their attorney called and said the family was concerned about Brian’s whereabouts.”

As many as 50 law enforcement officers from five local police agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been searching the vast, swampy nature reserve with the help of bloodhounds and drones, KABC reported.

“As of now, Brian has not been found. The search for the evening has been called off due to darkness. Efforts will continue Sunday,” the NPPD said on Saturday night.

“Again, it is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime,” the department added. “We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working multiple missing person investigations.”

Richard Stafford, the attorney representing the Petito family, scoffed at claims Laundrie is truly missing or in danger, KABC reported.

“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding,” Stafford declared. “Gabby is missing.”

He said the fact that the Laundrie family asked the NPPD to search for their son while refusing to help in the search for Petito is “reprehensible and hypocritical,” WTVT reported.

Meanwhile, a massive search for Petito continues in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, park officials said in a press release on Saturday.

“The FBI Denver Field Office and its Wyoming Resident Agencies, in coordination with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, and the Jackson Police Department, have been conducting ground surveys at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the east boundary of Grand Teton National Park,” the update read. “This area is closed to the public and will remain closed until the surveys are complete.”

The FBI urged anyone who used the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between Aug. 27 and Aug 30 who might have had contact with Petito or Laundrie to contact their tip line.

A video that showed a van that seems to match the description of Petito’s was shared to YouTube on Sunday.

The footage was recorded at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping area between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 27, according to the video caption.

The Petito family and the FBI have seen the video, WTVT reported.

“We believe this is the van for multiple reasons,” her family wrote on their Find Gabby Facebook Page. “Please do not clog up the tip line with the same video. This is in the hands of the right people. Thank you so much, this is exactly why we are asking people to review older photos and video.”

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.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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