What to Know
- The FBI's prime person of interest in Gabby Petito's disappearance, her fiancé Brian Laundrie, has been missing for more than a week
- The 23-year-old has been missing since telling his family he was going for a hike in a Florida nature preserve
- The Laundrie family released a statement saying that they did not help Brian leave their home or avoid arrest, calling rumors alleging that "just wrong"
The parents of Brian Laundrie said any notion that they helped their son get out of the house or evade arrest is "just wrong," despite rumors and speculation that may exist in the public's eye, according to their attorney.
"Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him," the statement from the attorney said. "The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong."
The message was aimed at crowds that once again lined up outside the family's home in North Port, using a bullhorn to voice their frustration with the family, implying that the parents know more than what they are letting on. Police said that the parents are still not cooperating with the investigation.
Also at that home, North Port Police confirmed that Dog the Bounty Hunter had shown up and that the department was called.
The statement Monday comes as law enforcement in Florida scale back their search efforts for Laundrie, in what North Port Police said is an FBI-led investigation "targeted based on intelligence." North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said that the hopes were water levels will lower soon, providing more access for those still searching.
Federal investigators returned to the Florida home of Brian Laundrie's family on Sunday to retrieve personal items for the purposes of matching DNA, a lawyer for the family confirmed to NBC News.
The search for Gabby Petito's fiancé intensified last week following his disappearance and after the FBI named him a person of interest in the wake of her death. Laundrie has been missing for more than a week since telling his family he was going for a hike in a sprawling Florida nature preserve.
The federal arrest warrant does not implicate Laundrie in the death of Petito, whose case has been ruled a homicide, but it does ensure law enforcement has the power to hold him on some charge — in this case one involving debit card fraud — if they ever do find the 23-year-old man.
The regular updates from law enforcement officers tasked with finding Laundrie quieted over a weekend her family and friends spent mourning the loss of the New York native. On Sunday, while crowds by the hundreds were paying their respects at a public memorial service in Long Island, FBI officials were spotted returning to Brian Laundrie's family home in Blue Point.
"The FBI requested some personal items belonging to Brian Laundrie to assist them with DNA matching and Brian’s parents provided the FBI with what they could," a lawyer for the Laundrie family said in a statement.
A police spokesperson confirmed last week that searches would continue, but acknowledged the manpower dedicated to finding Laundrie was pulling resources from other cases.
It's not clear how long investigators plan to keep looking for Laundrie in this particular area — or where they might look for him next if they don't find him there. Laundrie hasn't been seen since Tuesday, Sept. 14, when he told his family he was going to the sprawling Carlton Reserve for a hike.
A friend of Petito said on Monday that she didn't know where Laundrie was, because "he could be most anywhere. He knows how to survive." The friend, Rose Davis, said that Laundrie went to the Appalachian mountains for weeks one time before coming back, saying that he "often kept to himself, read a lot of books," but didn't know what those books were about.
Davis also shed some light on the relationship between Petito and Laundrie, calling him "controlling, possessive, jealous" of their friendship.
"I believe I was her only close friend, he didn’t allow her to have others. And that may’ve been the reason he took her on the cross-country trip, to have her to himself, although Gabby seemed happy and very excited to be going," Davis said. "He always came across as nice; they had their moments like many couples, but I never saw anything bad or out of the ordinary."
The Petito and Schmidt family will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. on Tuesday from Long Island.
Dozens of personnel from a large swath of different agencies have aided in searching the 25,000-acre reserve, a swampy subtropical terrain replete with alligators, snakes, bobcats and other wildlife. There are more than 100 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, plus multiple camping areas and rivers. Drones and other all-terrain vehicles have been used as part of the search, which has come up empty thus far.
Laundrie and Petito had set out in a white van in July on a cross-country trek visiting national parks. Laundrie returned to his Florida home in that van on Sept. 1.
He was alone.
It wasn't until 10 days later, on Sept. 11, that Petito's family grew concerned they hadn't heard from her in a few days and filed a missing persons report. As it turns out, her cellphone had been off for much longer — since Aug. 27, records show.
Gabby Petito Case
Petito's remains were found in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park on Sunday. Her death was ruled a homicide, an autsopy found, though further forensic analysis is needed to determine exactly how she died.
Federal and local law enforcement continue to ask the public for tips. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit tips.fbi.gov.