Florida police today identified the boyfriend of missing Blue Point woman Gabby Petito as “a person of interest” in her disappearance case and said he is hindering the investigation.
Brian Laundrie, 23, who moved to North Port, Florida, with Petito two years ago and was traveling with her in Utah and Wyoming this summer has not made himself available to be interviewed by authorities, police said. Nor has he provided any helpful details toward locating Petito, who was officially reported missing on Sept. 11 but has not been heard from by family since August.
The North Port Police Department announced it has taken the lead in the investigation, working in conjunction with the FBI, Suffolk County Police and local authorities in the places where Petito and Laundrie visited in July and August while on what the couple documented on YouTube and Instagram as a “van life” trip.
“Several detectives are working around the clock to piece this complex and far-reaching situation together,” North Port police said in a release posted on social media. “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.”
The white Ford Transit van the reportedly engaged couple had been traveling in was fully processed for evidence, by North Port officers and FBI agents Tuesday night, the police statement said.
“As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details,” North Port police said. “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.”
The FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips: 1.800.CALLFBI (225-5324). North Port police said hundreds of tips are being vetted by multiple investigative agencies.
“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,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said. “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.”
On Tuesday, Laundrie’s lawyer, Steve Bertolino, issued a statement on Petito’s disappearance:
“This is an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. I understand that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming,” Bertolino stated. “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,” Bertolino concluded.
Petito’s family released the following statement in response to Bertolino:
“The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives. Their beautiful twenty-two year old daughter is missing and the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help. Brian Laundrie was traveling with Gabby in the Grand Teton – Yellowstone area. They were traveling together in Gabby’s 2012 Ford Transit van. That is where we believe Gabby was last seen. Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers. The Schmidt and Petito family 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 Schmidt and Petito family implore Brian to come forward and at least tell us if we are looking in the right area.”The family of Gabby Petito
Prior to Petito’s last communication with family during the last week of August, Petito is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
On Aug. 19, a video recorded by the couple was shared on the YouTube account Nomadic Statik. The eight-minute video, entitled “Gabby & Brian: Beginning Our Van Life Journey,” provides a “glimpse” into their “van adventures.” Multiple news reports indicate that the couple is engaged.
Petito is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 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.”
Below is the most recent post from Laundrie’s Instagram account.
Above photo: North Port (Florida) Police Department