Cross-country search for missing “#vanlife” couple continues

Cross-country search for missing “#vanlife” couple continues

The cross-country hunt for Gabby Petito and her now missing fiance, Brian Laundrie, continued Sunday, as the FBI combs the Wyoming mountains for Petito and police in Florida search a wildlife preserve for Laundrie.

Laundrie, 23, went missing Friday night after police named him a “person of interest” two days prior in the disappearance of Petito, his fiancé.

The two ventured on a cross-country tour of national parks in July, documenting their journey on YouTube and Instagram using the hashtag #VanLife. Laundrie returned home to North Port, south of Tampa, in the couple’s van on Sept. 1 — 10 days before Petito’s family reported her missing, police said.

North Port Police search for Brian Laundrie search for Brian Laundrie in Carlton Reserve in Sarasota, Fla., on Sept. 19, 2021.North Port Police Department via Twitter

The 22-year-old Petito was last known to be in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in late August when she stopped communicating with her family, police said.

The North Port police said Sunday that they are continuing their search for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve, an almost 25,000 acre wildlife refuge full of alligators where his parents believe he went.

“A team of more than 50 looking for anything of note after his parents say this is where he went. We continue to corroborate all info in the search for him and Gabby,” police said on Twitter.

Police emphasized on Friday that Laundrie has been named as a person of interest, but is not wanted for a crime.

Petito’s family addressed his disappearance, saying through a family lawyer that “All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing.”

Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie.via Instagram

The FBI’s Denver branch said on Saturday that they are searching for Gabby in collaboration with the Wyoming Resident Agencies, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office & the Jackson Police Department.

Much of that search has been conducted in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, which is closed to the public as it is surveyed.

Throughout last week, numerous developments in the case were revealed.

On Aug. 12, police in Moab, Utah, responded to an alleged physical altercation between the two. Body camera footage released Thursdays shows Petito wiping away tears as she told the responding officer she was struggling with her mental health and Laundrie being asked about scratches on his face.

Law enforcement officials conduct a search of the vast Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota, Fla., area for Brian Laundrie on Sept. 18, 2021.North Port Police Department via AP

On Friday, North Port officials confirmed that police interviewed a woman who said on a video posted to TikTok that on Aug. 29, she and her boyfriend picked up a hitchhiker whom she later realized was Laundrie.

Laundrie offered her and her boyfriend $200 for a ride away from Grand Teton National Park but later got out of the car abruptly, the woman alleged in her account which has not been verified by authorities.

Laundrie’s sister, Cassie, told reporters she has not spoken to her brother and is looking for answers.

The couple left Salt Lake City for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming around Aug. 24, Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, said. Schmidt has not spoken with her daughter since, but said received texts sent from her daughter’s phone until Aug. Petito’s last text to her mother read: “No service in Yosemite.” It is unclear whether the couple ever made it to the California state park and if Petito sent the text. Her last post on Instagram is dated Aug. 25, with no location specified.

The Associated Press contributed.

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