Brian Laundrie is now also missing. He’s the Florida man who police describe as a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito, with whom he was filming a cross-country YouTube series called “Van Life.” Authorities believe they have now found Petito’s remains in Wyoming.
Police in North Port, Florida, where Laundrie and Petito lived with his family, are spearheading the investigation and, with the news that Laundrie also has vanished, they’ve launched a massive search effort to find him – and Petito.
Charles Jones, supervisory resident agent in Wyoming for the FBI, said in a September 19, 2021, press conference, “I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby’s family.”
“FBI personnel in coordination with our partners…have been conducting investigative activity… earlier today human remains were recovered consistent with the description of Gabrielle, Gabby, Petito,” he said.
Full forensic identification is not yet complete. “The cause of death has not yet been determined at this time.” Authorities were searching a Wyoming area named Spread Creek camping area when the body was found. Jones described it as a “rugged area.” It’s located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the border with Grand Teton National Park.
In the days before Laundrie disappeared – Petito’s family attorney told CNN he’s “hiding,” not missing – police ramped up the public attention on his refusal to speak with them about where she was. Chief Todd Garrison tweeted at Laundrie and his lawyer, “@NPPDPoliceChief Mr. Steven Bertolino, esq. the @NorthPortPolice needs your help in finding Gabby Petito. Please call us to arrange a conversation with Brian Laundrie. Two people left on a trip and one person returned! #wheresgabby #FindGabby #fbitampa #gabbypetito.”
But then he too was gone. That news came after police say Laundrie’s family decided to speak with them in detail.
Petito, 22, of Blue Point, New York, is described by New York authorities as a “white female, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads ‘let it be.’ The van she was traveling in has been recovered.” Blue Point is located on Long Island.
At the fall of darkness on September 18, 2021, police called off their search for the day, finding nothing.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Are Searching for Laundrie in Carlton Reserve
As of September 18, 2021, North Port police were conducting a massive search for Laundrie in Carlton Reserve. That’s a 24,565-acre preserve located in Sarasota County, Florida.
“The North Port Police Department, FBI, and agency partners are currently conducting a search of the vast Carlton Reserve for Brian Laundrie. His family says they believe he entered the area earlier this week. More details when available,” North Port police wrote on Twitter.
Police revealed in a statement that the attorney for Laundrie’s family called the FBI on Friday night (September 17) and indicated the family wanted to “talk about the disappearance of their son.”
The family “now claims that they have not seen Brian since Tuesday of this week,” police wrote. He was “last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap.”
Police said they are frustrated because, for six days, they pleaded with the family to contact investigators regarding Petito. “Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail. It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing person investigation.”
2. Police Debunked Rumors That They Found a Body During the Search
Police say it’s not true that they found a body during their searching.
“There are currently false reports of a body being located where we are searching. Completely fake,” they wrote on Twitter on September 18, 2021.
According to News Channel 8, the search started at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, where police believe Laundrie first entered the park.
Harrison noted on Twitter, “The conversation at the Laundrie home is complete. Once we have the details, a statement will be made. We ask for calm! Please let us work through this and information will be forthcoming.”
North Port police wrote in a news release on September 15 that Laundrie is now a “person of interest in this case.”
“The national search into the disappearance of Gabrielle Petito of North Port continues. Due to the parties in this case residing in North Port, Florida, the North Port Police Department will be the primary investigating agency, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. We will also continue to work with the Suffolk County Police Department, and we are thankful for their assistance,” the release stated.
“Several detectives are working around the clock to piece this complex and far-reaching situation together. Gabrielle’s vehicle was recovered here in North Port at her home on September 11th. A home shared with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie and his parents. That vehicle was fully processed for evidence along with FBI agents Tuesday evening. As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details.”
According to police, “We know Brian returned here to North Port on September 1st — ten days before her family reported her missing on September 11th. We have no information that a crime occurred here in North Port. Brian Laundrie is a person of interest in this case.”
“As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby’s family is going through. We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in the release.
“FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips. 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324). That is now our primary tip line. So far, we have received hundreds of tips which are being vetted through multiple agencies. If anyone has seen the van photographed and information which might be helpful, please let us know,” police wrote.
3. Authorities Are Using Bags of Laundrie’s Clothing in the Search for him; Petito’s Family Last Had Contact With Her During the Last Week of August
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Authorities told News Channel 8 that K9s are using bags of Laundrie’s clothing to help with the search for him. About 50 officers from various departments are involved, according to the television station.
“We’re hopeful that he’s out here,” North Port Police Spokesman Josh Taylor said to News Channel 8. “Certainly, we prepare for all different possibilities, but you know, our goal is to locate him and bring him back to North Port.”
Police told CNN that Laundrie’s vehicle is back at his home but might have been at the reserve at one point.
North Port police revealed that, according to Petito’s family, “they were last in contact with Gabrielle during the last week of August. Prior to the last communication, Gabrielle is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Petito and Brian were traveling in a white 2012 Ford Transit van with Florida license plate QFTG03. Gabrielle, 22, is white, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads ‘let it be.’”
Petito’s family reported her missing because they considered it unusual not to hear from her while she was on the trip touring national parks, which began in July, Fox News reported.
“We had been in touch with her as she traveled,” Petito’s father, Joe, told The Daily Beast. “I’d speak to her once a week or so, her mom spoke to her two or three times a week. My son would talk to her often on Snapchat, FaceTime; my niece would be in constant contact with her.”
Petito’s dad has also been posting on his Facebook page urgent pleas to find his daughter. “Please Help Find Gabby. This is my daughter Gabby Petito. Please share and help find her. She was last seen headed to Yellowstone National Park from Salt Lake City, Utah,” he wrote with one plea.
A missing person’s alert for Petito was released by Suffolk County, New York, police. It says “Blue Point Woman Missing,” and added, “Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Date/Time: Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 6:55 p.m.”
The release states, “Suffolk County Police Fifth Squad detectives are investigating the disappearance of a Blue Point woman who went missing while traveling. Gabrielle Petito was traveling in a white, 2012 Ford Transit van with Florida license plate QFTG03 with a companion when she stopped communicating with friends and family.”
It adds, “Petito was reported missing to the Suffolk County Police Department by her family on September 11 at approximately 6:55 p.m. According to family, they were last in contact with her during the last week of August. Prior to the last communication, Petito is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.”
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, told Fox News she last spoke with her daughter on August 25. She received a text from her on both the 27th and 30th but now says “I don’t know if she left Grand Teton or not…I don’t know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn’t verbally speak to her.”
Viral videos by TikTok user Miranda Baker are helping authorities piece together the timeline. They claim that she picked up Brian Laundrie while he was hitchhiking in Wyoming – without Gabby Petito – and she thought he was acting oddly.
That’s only four days after Petito told her family she was at Grand Teton National Park, where Baker says she picked up Laundrie. According to Fox News, police in North Port, Florida, where Laundrie and Petito lived, confirm they spoke with Baker.
“We have spoken with her and are potentially utilizing her info into our timeline,” department spokesman Josh Taylor said in an email to Fox News.
In a series of TikTok videos, Baker claims that she picked up Laundrie on August 29, 2021, on her way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He asked to get out about 6:09 p.m. when she mentioned that city, she says in videos.
“Once I said Jackson Hole he became agitated,” she said in a TikTok video. “He seemed like he needed to get out, he was kind of antsy. And that’s when things got weird.” She said he continued trying to hitchhike when he got out of her car. She thought it was weird he offered her $200 for a 10-mile ride, she says.
She added, “He kind of hurried out of the car, and then was like ‘I’m going to find someone else to hitchhike,’ and we’re like, okay.’ It was a weird situation.”
@mirandabaker_##findgabby ##brianlaundrie ##gabbypetito ##wheresgabby♬ original sound – Miranda Baker
In the videos, she claims Laundrie suspiciously didn’t have a full backpack, noting, “You think if you’re going camping for days on end you’d want food and a tent and he had none of that.” She added that he claimed his fiancee was back in their van running their social media accounts.
“We were going south out of the park when he said he was camping north. He had told us that he and Gabby were not camping on a regulated camp site… they were camping out in the middle of nowhere out in the Snake River. He said he had hiked for days out in the Snake River… he said all he had was a tarp to sleep on.” She said he “looked clean and didn’t smell bad.”
She also posted a map showing the “whole journey with Brian” in one of her TikToks.
@mirandabaker_##findgabby ##brianlaundrie ##gabbypetito ##wheresgabby♬ You Are Enough – Sleeping At Last
You can find her page on TikTok here. Some of her videos have been viewed millions of times.
4. Petito’s Family Attorney Says He’s ‘Hiding,’ Not Missing
Richard Stafford, the attorney for the Petito family, told CNN that Laundrie is “hiding.”
“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing,” he said, according to CNN.
Before he vanished, Laundrie’s lawyer told NBC he would not speak with authorities because “intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance.”
Jim Schmidt, Petito’s stepfather, told CNN about the search for Laundrie, “We’re still trying to get the word out there and try to find that one person that might have some details that we need. Just trying to get out there and find that person and hopefully they can help us with anything that will bring her home.”
5. The Couple Featured Their Van Trip in a YouTube Series
The couple’s YouTube series is called “VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey.” One of their videos has more than 145,000 views.
It’s eight minutes long and shows the couple walking on a beach together. They appear close in the video, which shows them together during various travels. It then shows them on the road. They kiss in one scene; they’re eating sushi in the next. In one frame, they’re in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. In another, they watch the sunset together on the beach.
They do cartwheels on the beach in front of an amusement park and ride a ferris wheel together before kissing some more.
Their YouTube Channel, called Nomadic Statik, has more than 1.37 million users. The van life video is their only video.
“A glimpse into our van adventures! After our first cross country trip in a little Nissan Sentra, we both decided we to wanted downsize our lives and travel full time, but trying to fit everything for two people into the tiny little trunk of the car, also spending way too much on gas, food, and airbnb, was not the road to take,” the page says.
“We quickly realized we had to come up with a solution if we wanted to continue traveling and living nomadically, so that’s why we handcrafted our own tiny van, a simple 2012 Ford transit connect, utilizing space with unique designs and features. Creating a space for both artistic expression and distance hiking. Thank you so much for watching, and we hope you tag along on our journey wherever the van takes us!”
They added: “Follow our van life journey for some awesome van life ideas, tips, hacks, camping spots, and so many beautiful places to travel!”
The couple also had a website and a blog. The website, captioned Brian & Gabby, is password protected and sends readers back to the YouTube page.