North Port, FL – The boyfriend of a 22-year-old woman who went missing while the couple was on a cross-country trip in their van has hired a lawyer and is refusing to speak with investigators or the woman’s family about where he last saw her.
Now, new information is coming out that the couple was contacted by law enforcement prior to her disppearance.
Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, left Petito’s home state of New York in her converted camper van in early July to tour various U.S. National Parks, WNYW reported.
The couple shared videos and photos of their journey on social media, including stops at Mystic Hot Springs in Utah on July 26 and Arches National Park on Aug. 12, according to ABC News.
Petito’s family said she planned to showcase the trip on her “Nomadic Statik” YouTube channel, which had one eight-minute compilation of their adventure up to Aug. 19, when the video was posted, ABC News reported.
The 22-year-old was last seen on Aug. 24 as she and Laundrie were checking out of a Salt Lake City hotel, according to her family.
Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said she spoke to her daughter on Aug. 25, when Petito told her they were heading to Grand Teton, Wyoming before making their way to Yellowstone National Park, ABC News reported.
“She sounded good and excited to continue her trip and excited to start her YouTube channel,” Schmidt tearfully told the news outlet. “She seemed okay.”
Schmidt said she didn’t initially worry when she didn’t hear from Petito for a couple days, but she grew more concerned as time went on.
“A few days is one thing when you’re out camping, but when it starts to become seven, eight, nine, 10 days, that’s a problem,” she told ABC News.
Schmidt said she received two texts from her daughter’s phone since she last talked to her on Aug. 25, but that she isn’t sure Petito was actually the person who sent them.
“I don’t know if she left Grand Teton or not,” Schmidt told WNYW. “I did receive a text from her on the 27th and the 30th, but I don’t know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn’t verbally speak to her.”
Petito made her last Instagram post – an image of her holding a small pumpkin – on Aug. 25, ABC News reported.
The photo was not geotagged.
Laundrie has since showed up alone back in North Port, Florida, where the couple lived, ABC News reported.
He has refused to speak with Petito’s family or investigators regarding where he last her.
“We don’t know where she is,” Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, told ABC News.
Petito’s family reported her missing to the Suffolk County Police Department at 6:55 p.m. on Sept. 11, the North Port Police Department (NPPD) said in a press release on Monday.
Police recovered the missing woman’s 2012 Ford Transit van at Laundrie’s parents’ home in Florida, according to WNYW.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began a forensic examination of the seized vehicle on Tuesday, FOX News reported.
“We currently have no definitive information that a crime took place here in North Port,” the NPPD said in the press release. “With that said, the circumstances are odd. The vehicle she was traveling in was located here in North Port. So, we are actively gathering local details and any evidence to assist in finding needed answers.”
Laundrie has hired an attorney and is refusing to speak about Petito’s disappearance, ABC News reported.
An NPPD spokesperson told FOX News investigators are interested in talking to him.
“I think anyone would assume that the possible last person to be around her is a person of interest to want to talk with,” the spokesperson said. “However, there is no crime at this point.”
Laundrie’s attorney, Steven Bertolino, released a statement saying the family hopes Petito is located.
“This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family,” Bertolino said, according to ABC News.
“It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming,” Bertolino wrote. “On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Petito’s family subsequently issued a statement begging the Laundrie family for help, ABC News reported.
“The one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help,” Petito’s family said in a statement. “[We] beg the Laundrie family to not ‘remain in the background’ but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located?”
The family reiterated that “Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her,” ABC News reported.
“Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida,” the Petitos added. “These are critical questions that require immediate answers.”
The missing woman’s father, Joseph Petito, told NewsNation Now on Tuesday that he did not have any “red flags” about Laundrie in the past.
“You would think someone would want to cooperate if you loved them and you called them your fiancé,” the desperate father said. “I hadn’t seen red flags, but that’s not something you’re gonna tell your dad, you know? Your dad’s a fixer…no dad wants to see their daughter cry.”
Moab Police Department (MPD) Chief Bret Edge said his officers responded to an “incident involving Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito” on Aug. 12, but that someone other than the couple had made the call to police, ABC News reported.
“Insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” Chief Edge said.
The chief did not release additional information about the nature of the call.
“You read stories like this you sympathize and empathize but when you’re in it, it’s an indescribable, horrible, unfathomable experience,” Joseph Petito told WNYW. “We need to find her. I’m begging for everyone.”
A fundraising campaign established to help aid in the search for Petito has raised over $32,000 so far.