A federal court has issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie, the missing fiancé of Gabby Petito, the FBI has announced.
According to the bureau’s Denver, Colorado division, the warrant was issued on Wednesday.
“On September 22, 2021, the U.S. 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.
Mr Laundrie, who had been Ms Petito’s fiance, is still missing. Police have been searching for him at the Carlton nature reserve in Sarasota, Florida.
Specifically, Mr Laundrie has been charged with fraudulently using someone else’s debit card from 30 August to 1 September, spending or withdrawing $1,000 or more. He has not at this point been charged with Ms Petito’s homicide, but has been a person of interest in her missing person case since she first disappeared.
In a statement, the FBI added that it still needs any information on the case that the public can provide.
“While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms Petito’s homicide,” Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said. “We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI.”
Mr Laundrie’s lawyer, Steven Bertolino, told Fox News the warrant is unrelated to Ms Petito’s death itself. “It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise,” the attorney said. “The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum.”The Independent has contacted Mr Bertolino for further comment.
Mr Laundrie hasn’t spoken publicly about the case since he returned from the couple’s cross-country road trip alone on 1 September. Remains believed to belong to Ms Petito were located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on 19 September. An autopsy confirmed that it was Ms Petito.
A neighbour told Fox News that the Laundrie family went camping together shortly after the young man got back from the road trip.
Since then, authorities have searched the Laundrie family’s home in North Port, Florida, where the couple lived before setting off on their roadtrip. It is now an active crime scene.
Police departments around the country are engaging in a massive manhunt for Mr Laundrie, who is believed to possess survival skills that would allow him to remain in the wilderness for “months”, according to friends.
Sixteen different police agencies, using tools ranging from drones to trained divers, have joined in the search at the nearby Carlton Reserve nature area, 25 minutes away from the Laundrie home, though authorities have yet to find traces of Mr Laundrie. Mr Laundrie told friends he was going for a hike in the area before he left his parents’ home.
Authorities also investigated a woodland in Baker, Florida, also nearby, after a trail camera caught sight of an unidentified man that may have been Brian Laundrie.
Police also searched for Mr Laundrie in Alabama, where officers at the Mobile Police Department got a tip that he may have been in Tillman’s Corner, 600 miles away from North Port.
An eyewitness has told the FBI she saw Brian Laundrie alone and “acting weird” close to the site where Ms Petito’s body was found in a Wyoming national park.
Jessica Schultz told the San Francisco Chronicle she spotted the couple’s white Ford Transit van in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming several times in late August.
It was only after she was sent a photo of Mr Laundrie by a friend that she realised the significance of the sighting and reported it to law enforcement.
Ms Schultz also discussed her “creepy” encounter with the man she would later identify as Mr Laundrie on TikTok.
Another witness has come forward and described seeing Mr Laundrie have an “aggressive” argument with a waitress at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on 27 August. If true, it would be one of the last sightings of Ms Petito before she was killed.
Earlier that month police in Utah were called after witnessed saw a potential domestic incident between the couple, where both may have injured each other. Melissa Hulls, a visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park, told Ms Petito, 22, that the relationship appeared “toxic” after she found her sobbing in the back of a police vehicle.