Brian Laundrie: Alabama police investigate possible sightings of Gabby Petito boyfriend

Sightings offer potential clues in the whereabouts of missing Brian Laundrie as police stepped up their investigation

Bevan Hurley
In New York
,Andrew Buncombe
Monday 20 September 2021 23:34
911 caller saw Brian Laundrie hitting girlfriend Gabby Petito
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Authorities in Alabama are looking into potential sightings of Brian Laundrie in the state over the weekend, widening the search for the missing “person of interest” in Gaby Petito’s death.

Officers from the Mobile Police Department received information that Mr Laundrie may have been in Tillman’s Corner, southwest of the city, 600 miles (965kms) from his home in North Port, Florida.

NBC 15 reported a large police presence near a Walmart in Tillman’s Corner on Monday afternoon. This was believed to have been from the discovery of a dead body, which authorities have said is unconnected to the search for Mr Laundrie.

Mr Laundrie left the home he shared with his parents last Tuesday, telling them he was going for a hike in the nearby Carlton Reserve.

He is a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Ms Petito, 22, whose body was found in a remote section of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park on Sunday.

The couple had been documenting their travels on YouTube.

Florida police and FBI agents swarmed the Laundrie family home on Monday as they executed a search warrant.

Officers with battering rams and body armour arrived at the home in North Port around 9:45am and declared the site a “crime scene”.

Mr Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta, were removed from the property as the search went room to room hunting for clues as to Mr Laundrie’s location.

They towed Mr Laundrie’s Mustang car away a few hours later.

North Point police were spotted hauling collapsed cardboard boxes as well as food and drinks into the Laundrie household.

Investigators intensified their search for Mr Laundrie on Monday

Details of what led the police to search the Laundrie house were revealed in a police search warrant.

Officers from North Port Police said text messages sent by Ms Petito to her mother Nicole Schmidt in the days before her disappearance showed growing strain between her and Mr Laundrie.

Ms Petito’s mother Nichole Schmidt’s suspicions were further raised when she received a final “odd text” in which Ms Petito mentioned her grandfather by his first name “Stan” on 27 August, the warrant stated.

Ms Schmidt said the text was concerning because her daughter never called her grandfather by his first name.

“Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” the text said, according to the warrant.

“The mother was concerned something was wrong with her daughter,” the warrant said, and provided “probable cause” that a felony crime had been committed.

Earlier on Monday, North Port police called off their search of the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve after a large-scale search at the weekend failed to turn up any trace of the missing man.

Police in Utah also released audio on Monday from a 911 call made by a Moab resident who saw the couple’s violent dispute there on 12 August.

Police pulled over the couple’s Ford Transit van soon after receiving the 911 call, but the incident was not deemed serious enough to press charges.

Audio of the call portrays Mr Laundrie as the aggressor in the incident.

Investigators: Body matching description of Gabby Petito found in Wyoming campground

“I’m right on the corner of Main St by Moonflower … I’d like to report a domestic dispute,” the caller says in the 49 second audio recording.

“The gentleman was slapping the girl … they ran up and down the sidewalk, he proceeded to hit her and then they drove off.”

The Grand Teton County coroner said an autopsy of the remains authorities discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on Sunday believed to be that of Ms Petito would be completed on Tuesday.

Speculation is mounting that police obtained a specific piece of crucial evidence when they visited Brian Laundrie’s family home – possibly in the form of a note – that led them to rapidly locate the body of Gabby Petito.

Last Friday evening, FBI agents and police in North Port, Florida, spent more than two hours at the home of Mr Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta, having been invited by the couple for a “conversation”.

During the meeting, after which police could be seen leaving with evidence bags and the family lawyer said they had taken with them “property to assist in locating Brian”, it emerged the parents claimed not to have seen their son since last Tuesday.

However, within 12 hours of that meeting, the FBI had assembled a team of around 150 agents, park rangers and police officers to conduct a very thorough search of the spread creek dispersed camping area, located about 20 miles north of Jackson.