Where is Brian Laundrie? Gabby Petito’s boyfriend remains on the run

Deceased’s fiance was in the sights of law enforcement for several days before he fled his parents home. Now they cannot find any trace of him

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Wednesday 29 September 2021 23:44
Watch live as police and FBI search family home of Brian Laundrie

Authorities in Florida are continuing their search of an aligator-infested nature reserve close to the Florida home of Brian Laundrie after he went missing just prior to the body of his girlfriend Gabby Petito was discovered in a Wyoming national park.

The FBI took over the manhunt from local police, while Dog the Bounty Hunter tipped off authorities to the Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County where the Laundrie family went camping just days before Ms Petito was reported missing.

Mr Laundrie, 23, has not been seen since telling his parents he was going for a hike in the “vast and unforgiving” Carlton Reserve on Tuesday 14 September amid intense media interest in the disappearance of Ms Petito, 22, a popular Instagram and YouTube star who had been documenting their cross-country roadtrip on social media until late August.

His disappearance came on the same day investigator’s branded him “a person of interest” in the Petito case. The FBI and Florida police subsequently executed a search warrant on the Laundries’ home in North Port.

Police say they have exhausted all avenues searching a reserve near the home of Brian Laundrie, right, with Gabby Petito

Here is a timeline of events in relation to the police investigation of Mr Laundrie.

2 July - Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito leave New York bound for a months-long “van life” trip across the United States. The couple camp in national parks and nature reserves in Virginia, Utah and Wyoming, documenting their trip on their YouTube channel Nomad Statik and on Instagram.

12 August - Police are called to an “altercation” between the couple in Moab City, Utah. A 911 call, released on 20 September, reveals a witness saw Mr Laundrie slapping and hitting Ms Petito.

“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.”

911 caller saw Brian Laundrie hitting girlfriend Gabby Petito

Police pulled over the couple’s Ford Transit van soon after and spoke to the couple. According to body-camera evidence and attending officer Daniel Robbins’ written reports, the couple told officers they had an argument after Ms Petito suffered a “mental health crisis”.

A visibly upset Ms Petito pleads with the officers not to arrest Mr Laundrie and they are separated for the night. She stays with the van while he is checked into a motel for the night. The incident is not considered serious enough by police to press charges.

Newly released body cam video shows missing Gabby Petito

24 August - Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie check out of a Salt Lake City motel. It’s the last confirmed sighting of Ms Petito alive.

25 August - Ms Petito speaks with her mother Nichole Schmidt, in the last confirmed communication with her family. She said she was in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming heading towards Yellowstone National Park.

26 August - Mr Laundrie was reportedly seen drinking alone and was “angry at the world” a day before his fiancee was last seen alive. Hunter Mannies, 44, said he was drinking with a doctor friend in Bullwinkle’s Saloon in West Yellowstone, Montana, when the pair argued with a man resembling Mr Laundrie, and who identified himself as “Brian”.

30 August - Text messages are sent to Ms Schmidt’s from her daughter’s phone claiming she is in Yosemite. Ms Schmidt later says these are “fake”.

1 September - Mr Laundrie returns to his parents’ Florida home in North Point without Ms Petito, driving her Ford Transit van.

6 September - Brian Laundrie and his parents go camping at the Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County. A Florida couple who camped beside the Laundrie family say they may have captured Mr Laundrie in a selfie.

8 September - The Laundrie family leave the campground.

10 September - Gabby Petito’s mother texts Mr Laundrie and his mother Roberta but says her texts were ignored.

11 September - Ms Schmidt files a missing person report with Suffolk County Police in New York and her daughter is declared missing. Laundrie also bought a new cellphone around the time he went missing, which has since been turned over to the FBI.

Mr Laundrie and his family refuse to cooperate with police and refer them to their family attorney, Steve Bertolino. Later that night, the couple’s van is seized from the Laundrie family home and taken for processing by the FBI.

Police later admit that they did not see Mr Laundrie at his family’s home the night they seized the van, and have refused to confirm whether they ever saw him again after 11 September.

North Port Police released photographs of the van they seized from Mr Laundrie’s home

14 September - Mr Laundrie leaves his parents’ home in his Ford Mustang and says he is going for a hike in the Carlton Reserve nearby. Much of the 25,000-acre reserve is swampland with waist-deep water and is infested with alligators and snakes.

Police receive a search warrant to examine an external hard drive retrieved from the couple’s van.

15 September - Mr Laundrie is named a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend.

At a press conference, police said the 23-year-old “has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details”.

More details of Mr Laundrie’s “hiking” trip would emerge days later. His parents Christopher and Roberta would say they went to look for Mr Laundrie on the 15 September after he failed to return home. They say they found the vehicle parked by the reserve.

According to Mr Bertolino, police placed a note on the vehicle asking for it to be removed. They said they left the car there in case he returned to it.

According to a NewsNation reporter monitoring the home, the Mustang in question reappears in the driveway on Wednesday.

16 September - North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said he knew where Mr Laundrie was located. Mr Laundrie’s sister Cassie, meanwhile, tells ABC’s Good Morning America that she hasn’t spoken to her brother and that their family “love” Ms Petito.

Protestors gather outside the Laundrie home chanting “Where’s Gabby?” and with placards saying “Truth comes out in the end”.

Protests outside the Laundrie home in Florida

17 September - Mr Laundrie is reported missing by his family, three days after they last saw him.

The same day police rule out any link to a double homicide in Moab City, Utah, of newlyweds Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte, who were nearby on the date of the altercation between Mr Laundrie and Ms Petito reported to police.

That evening, police take away items from Mr Laundrie’s Mustang, which is parked in the family’s driveway.

North Port Police are searching the 25,000 acre Carlton Reserve for Brian Laundrie

18 September - Police begin searching the Carlton Reserve for any trace of Mr Laundrie while, in Wyoming, the FBI hunt for clues in a mountainous national park in Wyoming.

19 September - Remains believed to belong to Gabby Petito are located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The search for Mr Laundrie intensifies.

North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor admits Mr Laundrie could be out there for months.

“We’re not following him everywhere he’s going. We’re trying to keep an eye out kind of where he’s at so that when needed we could potentially reach him. But our focus was putting resources on trying to find Gabby.”

Police face criticism for their investigation.

Pat Diaz, a former Miami-Dade homicide detective, told Fox News: “Why would you [try to] get consent from the guy, and now get a search warrant?”

20 September - Police say they have exhausted all avenues and call off the search of the reserve.

At about 9.45am, police and FBI arrive at the Laundrie family home to execute a search warrant. A convoy of five vehicles arrived at the street where the Laundrie home is located in North Port on Monday morning and cordon off the surrounding area. Moments later, FBI agents arrived to execute the warrant and could be heard saying “you’re in a crime scene”.

Mr Laundrie’s father Christopher could be seen being led from the house by FBI agents.

He and wife Roberta Laundrie were being held in a parked police van in the driveway as officers conducted the search before being let back in a few hours later.

Police search Brian Laundrie’s home in Florida a day after remains believed to be those of Gabby Petito discovered in Wyoming

In a tweet, the FBI said it was “executing a court-authorized search warrant today at the Laundrie residence in North Port, FL relevant to the Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito investigation”.

The police search warrant reveals text messages sent by Ms Petito to her mother in the days before her disappearance showed growing strain between her and Mr Laundrie. Ms 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. “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” the text said, according to the warrant.

The search for Mr Laundrie widens after several possible sightings of him in Alabama.

Officers from the Mobile Police Department received information that Mr Laundrie may have been in Tillman’s Corner, south west of the city, 600 miles from his home in Florida.

21 September - Law enforcement agencies resume their search of the “vast and unforgiving” Carlton Reserve near the Laundrie’s home.

“This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake-infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails,” North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor says.

The search is being conducted by several law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota Police Department, Venice Police Department and K9 search and rescue teams.

Authorities are looking in to a potential sighting of Brian Laundrie on a deer cam

Authorities in Baker, Florida, said they were investigating a possible sighting of Mr Laundrie taken on a deer camera.

Sam Bass said that he spotted the man at 6.17am Monday in the town of Baker, Florida, about 500 miles away from Mr Laundrie’s home in North Port.

“I’m not saying this is the guy but whoever was on my trail camera this morning in Baker, Fl strongly fits the description of Brian Laundrie,” Mr Bass wrote on Facebook.

The Oskaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) used drones as part of an extensive search of woodland near Baker.

On Tuesday afternoon, they issued an update to say “nothing of note” had been found.

“The OCSO did its due diligence in response to this report and is wrapping up an extensive search that took place in this area to also include nearby farmlands and a search by drone. No one - and nothing - of note was located.

“There are no known possible past or current connections between Laundrie and anyone in this area at this time to follow up on. In the meantime we will remain vigilant and if anything new of significance develops we will share.”

Florida governor Ron DeSantis said he had directed all state agencies under his purview to assist federal and local law enforcement as they continue to search.

“We need justice for Gabby Petito,” he said in a post on Twitter.

22 September - The search resumes in the Carlton Reserve for Mr Laundrie, with a 10-person dive unit called in from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office at the request of North Port Police.

A Pinterest account believed to belong to Mr Laundrie offers fresh clues as to his state of mind in the weeks leading up to Ms Petito’s disappearance.

One image being widely shared shows a sketch of ghostly figures and gravestones taken from the 1933 Betty Boop cartoon Snow White, with lyrics scattered throughout from the American folk song “St James Infirmary Blues” that read: “Let her go, let her go, god bless her, wherever she may be.”

The most recent post from August shows the cover of a book titled Burnt Out: How to Cope with Autistic Burnout.

Mr Laundrie’s drawings posted to his Instagram account, often of dark and macabre themes, have also been attracting the attention of the army of online sleuths obsessively tracking developments in the case.

He twice references death or dying when posting about his relationship with Ms Petito.

23 September - The FBI announced that a federal arrest warrant had been issued for Mr Laundrie. According to the bureau’s division in Denver, Colorado, the warrant was issued on 22 September.

“On September 22, 2021, the US District Court of Wyoming issued a federal arrest warrant for Brian Christopher Laundrie pursuant to a Federal Grand Jury indictment related to Mr Laundrie’s activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito,” FBI Denver said in a tweet.

Laundrie family lawyer Mr Bertolino reacted to the arrest warrant by saying that it “is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise.

24 September - The North Port Police Department and FBI continue their search of the Carlston Reserve for Brian Laundrie. In the afternoon, police provided an update on their search, saying they had not found any trace of Mr Laundrie in the reserve but said they were “not wasting their time” looking for the man in the swamp.

Dog The Bounty Hunter declined to speak to media as he left the Laundrie family home on Saturday

25 September - Dog The Bounty Hunter joins the search for Mr Laundrie in a well-publicised arrival at the Laundrie home. He knocked on the Laundries’ door to attempt to speak with the family but was denied access. Police continued their search for Mr Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve.

26 September - The North Port police continued their search for Mr Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve. At the same time, the FBI visited the Laundrie house and collected items for use in DNA matching. Mr Bertolino described the collection as “routine”.

27 September - Florida rancher Alan McEwan, who has been helping police investigate the swamplands where Mr Laundrie was last known to be heading, tells Fox News he believes there is little chance the missing man could survive in that wilderness.

“I’ve been in the woods in and out all my life… I have learned a lot in my life, and one thing I know is no one is gonna survive out there for two weeks on foot,” Mr McEwen said.

28 September - Pinellas County Parks records appear to confirm that Brian Laundrie’s mother visited the site of Dog the Bounty Hunter’s “tip” – Fort De Soto Park in Florida.

29 September - Dive teams return to the Carlton Reserv after authorities previously scaled back the search at the site.