NORTH PORT, Fla – More than 50 law enforcement officers began a second day of searching on Sunday in a large wildlife area near the Gulf Coast of Florida for a 23-year-old man whom authorities consider as a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend. who disappeared on a hike across the country.
Brian Laundrie’s research has resumed in the more than 24,000 acre Carlton Preserve in Sarasota County, Florida, a wildlife preserve with more than 100 miles of trails, as well as campgrounds.
Laundrie and Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, 22, left in July for a hike across the country in a converted van to visit the national parks of the western United States. Police said Laundrie was alone when he drove the van back to his parents’ home in North Port, Fla. On September 1. Petito’s family filed a September 11 missing person report with police in Suffolk County, New York.
Laundrie has been identified as a person of interest in the case.
“It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a felony,” North Port Police said in a statement. He added that the investigation is now a matter of “several missing persons”.
Laundrie’s family members told investigators the last time they saw him was Tuesday, when they believed he had visited the Sarasota area wildlife preserve.
Petito’s family had begged the Laundrie family to tell them where their son had last seen her. Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts who met growing up in Long Island, New York. His parents then moved to North Port, about 35 miles south of Sarasota.
The couple’s hike in the Fort Transit van began in July from Long Island. They intended to reach Oregon by the end of October according to their social media accounts, but Petito disappeared after his last known contact with his family in late August from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the authorities announced.
The FBI in Denver said on Saturday that officers began conducting ground investigations in Grand Teton National Park, with help from the National Park Service and local law enforcement, looking for clues about the disappearance of Petito.