Brian Laundrie’s Father Visits Florida Reserve to Help in Search for Missing Son

Wire Service
By Wire Service
October 7USshare
Brian Laundrie’s Father Visits Florida Reserve to Help in Search for Missing Son
In this screenshot from a police camera video, Brian Laundrie talks to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park, Utah, on Aug. 12, 2021. (The Moab Police Department via AP)

Brian Laundrie’s father, Chris Laundrie, visited a Florida nature reserve—which has been the focus of a massive search for his missing son—for several hours on Thursday to help law enforcement’s search, family attorney Steven Bertolino told CNN.

Brian Laundrie, whose fiancée Gabby Petito was found dead in Wyoming last month, is the subject of a massive manhunt after he returned to Florida without Petito from a road trip.

“Chris was asked to point out any favorite trails or spots that Brian may have used in the preserve. Although Chris and Roberta Laundrie provided this information verbally three weeks ago, it is now thought that on-site assistance may be better,” Bertolino said.

Additionally, the North Port Police Department confirmed that a notice was placed on an abandoned vehicle belonging to the Laundrie family near the nature reserve on Sept. 14.

Laundrie’s family told police on Sept. 17 that they had not seen him in days, saying he told the family he was headed to Florida’s Carlton Reserve, a sprawling 24,565-acre wilderness near Laundrie’s family home that has been closed to visitors.

The ongoing search comes as investigators try to piece together what happened to Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, on their trip in a white Ford Transit van through the American West this summer. Laundrie and the van—but not Petito— returned to his family home in North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1. Petito’s parents, unable to make contact with either her or Laundrie, reported her missing 10 days later.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito in a file photo. (FBI)

As police searched for Petito, Laundrie declined to speak with investigators and then himself went missing. The national focus on her whereabouts also revealed conflicts in their relationship, particularly during an August domestic dispute and police interaction, that were at odds with their aspirational, sun-drenched posts on social media.

Her remains were recovered Sept. 19 in Wyoming, near where the couple had last been seen together, and a coroner determined she died by homicide, the FBI said.

Laundrie has not been charged in her death, though he is the subject of a federal arrest warrant for unauthorized use of another person’s debit card in the days after Petito last spoke with her family.

Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie
Gabrielle Petito, 22, poses for a photo with Brian Laundrie in this undated handout photo. (North Port/Florida Police/Handout via Reuters)

Abandoned Vehicle Retrieved Near Reserve

The abandoned vehicle notice was placed on a Ford Mustang belonging to the Laundrie family outside the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Sept. 14, North Port police said Wednesday. The park acts as an entrance to the Carlton Reserve, not far from the family home in North Port.

Bertolino, the family attorney, told CNN that upon further communication with the FBI, “we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, Sept. 13.” His parents had previously told authorities he had left on Sept. 14.

Chris Laundrie went to look for his son on the night of Sept. 13 when he didn’t return from the park, Bertolino told CNN on Wednesday.

The next day, Brian’s parents returned to the area to look for Brian and saw the citation on the car, Bertolino said. The parents returned again the next day, Sept. 15, to retrieve the vehicle.

“The Laundries were basing the date Brian left on their recollection of certain events. Upon further communication with the FBI and confirmation of the Mustang being at the Laundrie residence on Wednesday, Sept. 15, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, Sept. 13,” Bertolino said.

search for Brian Laundrie, Petito's boyfriend
Vehicles from members of the media and curious passersby line a road outside the entrance of the Carlton Reserve during a search for Brian Laundrie, in Venice, Fla., on Sept. 21, 2021. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photo)

Bertolino told CNN that Chris Laundrie was asked to help North Port police search for him Wednesday but police had to postpone.

“Since the preserve has been closed to the public, Chris has not been able to look for Brian in the only place Chris and Roberta believe Brian may be,” Bertolino said. “Unfortunately, North Port police had to postpone Chris’s involvement but Chris and Roberta are hopeful there will be another opportunity to assist.”

CNN asked Bertolino whether Brian’s parents believe he’s in the reserve or another area. “No, they don’t believe he’s in another area. They believe he is in the preserve,” Bertolino said.

‘I Want to See Him in a Jail Cell for the Rest of His Life’

Petito’s body was found about a five-to-ten-minute walk from where her van was last seen near the entrance to the Grand Tetons, on the border of Bridger-Teton National Forest, according to her mother Nichole Schmidt and stepfather Jim Schmidt during the second installment of an exclusive interview with the “Dr. Phil” show that aired Wednesday.

Gabby’s body was in a clearing and was just in front of the remnants of a fire ring, Jim Schmidt said. “You could see where the rocks had been moved to make the fire ring,” he said.

“It’s definitely not an area that was heavily trafficked,” he added.

Gabby Petito's stepfather
Jim Schmidt (front), stepfather of Gabby Petito, speaks alongside (back L–R) Tara Petito, stepmother; Joseph Petito, father; Nicole Schmidt, mother; and the family attorney Richard Stafford during a news conference in Bohemia, N.Y., on Sept. 28, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP Photo)

Jim Schmidt left a memorial and sunflowers at the site, CNN has previously reported.

The Schmidts were joined by Gabby’s father, Joe Petito, and his wife Tara Petito, along with their attorney Richard Stafford, for the interview with host Phil McGraw.

Joe Petito said he wants Laundrie found alive so he can spend his life behind bars.

“I want to see him in a jail cell for the rest of his life where—he’s an outdoorsman—being in that concrete cell and he can’t go see those trees and hug—and smell the fresh air like that,” Petito said.

“I want to look him in the eyes,” Nichole Schmidt said.

Gabby Petito's mother
Gabby Petito’s mother Nicole Schmidt (front) speaks alongside (back L–R) Gabby Petito’s stepmother Tara Petito, father Joseph Petito, family attorney Richard Stafford, and stepfather Jim Schmidt, during a press conference in Bohemia, N.Y., on Sept. 28, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP Photo)

Laundrie family attorney Bertolino declined to comment Wednesday on the “Dr. Phil” interview.

In late September, Laundrie’s parents released a statement through their attorney, saying, “Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him. 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 CNN Wire contributed to this report.

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