The probe on Brian Laundrie, who reportedly left behind his wallet and cell phone before leaving his parents’ home 10 days ago, ended at a nature reserve in southwestern Florida on Friday and will continue on Saturday after new details about the case surface.
Authorities are now searching for Laundrie after he became a subject of a federal arrest warrant for the death of his fiancée Gabby Petito, who was found dead in Wyoming on Sunday.
According to the FBI’s Denver field office, a warrant was issued for Laundrie by the US District Court of Wyoming after a grand jury indicted him for his “use of unauthorized devices” after Petito’s death.
In the indictment, Laundrie used a debit card and PIN number for accounts that were not his with a total of over $1,000 between August 30 and September 1.
Laundrie’s family lawyer pointed out that the warrant was for the related activities after Petito died and not for her death.
“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,” Steve Bertolino said in a statement. “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.”
Michael Schneider, FBI Special Agent in Charge, said, “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. We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI.”
Federal and local authorities continued to search on Friday for any signs of Laundrie in the Carlton reserve, an approximately 25,000-acre nature preserve close to his parents’ North Port home.
Officers started the search of the area after Laundrie’s family reported that he has been missing for days after he told them he is going to the reserve.
According to North Port Police Department Commander Joe Fussell in a video shared online Friday. “We’re looking through wooded areas, we’re looking through bodies of water, we’re looking through swampy areas. And we’re deploying the resources to be able to do that. We have air units, we have drones, we have the swamp buggies, airboats, multiple law enforcement agencies, we have ATVs, we have UTVs and we have officers on foot as well.”
The arrest warrant announced Thursday “doesn’t change anything for us,” Fussell added. “We’re working as hard to find him now as we did on day one.”
The North Port Police Department shared videos of the conditions the investigators have been working in on Friday like muddy roads, murky water and thick vegetation.
On Thursday, Josh Taylor, North Port police spokesperson said “rough is an understatement,” pertaining to the conditions in the reserve.
After the end of the “major” part of the search on Friday, Taylor added that they’ll be focusing on “areas of more likelihood” on Saturday and Sunday.
He also said that they won’t be giving any regular updates unless they find something noteworthy over the weekend.
A source close to the Laundrie family shared to Chris Cuomo of CNN on Thursday that Laundrie left his cell phone and wallet in his parents’ home before he left and went missing.
The source added that Laundrie’s parents are worried he might harm himself.
Taylor refused to comment to CNN on the report, saying, “I cannot give any statement to a timeline at this time. That investigation is being conducted by the FBI.”
The FBI did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Possible tensions between the couple
Many witnesses are sharing some details about Petito and Laundrie before they went missing.
A couple of tourists in Jackson, Wyoming from Louisiana shared they saw an incident concerning Petito and Laundrie in a restaurant last month.
On Wednesday, Nina Angelo told CNN that she and her boyfriend, Matt England, saw a “commotion” as Petito and Laundrie were leaving The Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant.
Angelo shared that Petito was in tears and Laundrie was visibly angry, going into and out of the restaurant several times and continuing to show anger toward the staff around the hostess stand. Angelo added that the waitress serving the couple was also visibly shaken by the incident. Angelo told CNN she did not see any violence or physical altercation between Petito and Laundrie.
A manager at Merry Piglets, who requested to remain anonymous, confirmed she indeed saw “an incident” at the restaurant on August 27 and called the FBI on Wednesday, she told CNN. The manager refused to give details of what happened and said the restaurant did not have surveillance video of the incident.
In Moab, Utah, a police officer had an encounter with the couple earlier in August. The officers reportedly saw them “engaged in some sort of altercation.”
Despite the two looking like getting into a physical fight following an argument, a report from Eric Pratt said, “both the male and female reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” a report from officer Eric Pratt says.
Petito’s memorial visitation set for Sunday
Petito and Laundrie share their travels out to the west regularly online by posting using the hashtag #VanLife, but those posts suddenly stopped in late August.
According to the North Port police, Petito’s family last contacted her in the last week of August. The police added that Laundrie returned to the couple’s home, where his parents also live, on September 1.
On September 11, Petito’s family reported her as missing after they lost contact with her.
According to the FBI, Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest on September 19. A coroner identified the remains two days later.
“The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results,” the FBI said.
According to Moloney’s Holbrook Funeral Home, a memorial visitation for Petito is planned for Sunday afternoon in Holbrook on Long Island in New York. It will be open to the public.
Richard Stafford, an attorney for Petito’s family, confirmed in a statement Friday her funeral would be held Sunday. He added that the family has asked for donations to be made to the future Gabby Petito Foundation in lieu of flowers.
A small group of people gathered in Salt Lake City on Wednesday to mourn the death of Petito.
“We won’t forget about you. We won’t let your light dim,” Serena Chavez, vigil organizer, said before the group.
“We will remember other women or children who are missing,” Chavez continued. “Their families are devastated, and I can only imagine what Gabby’s family is going through.”