The FBI-led search for Gabby Petito’s fiance is scaling back but becoming more targeted on intelligence, police say
The FBI is scaling back its search for Gabby Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, to be more targeted based on intelligence after officials spent more than 10 days combing through a 25,000-acre nature reserve, police in North Point, Florida, said Monday.
The development came after the FBI visited Laundrie’s family home to request personal items of his to assist with DNA matching, the Laundries’ lawyer told multiple news outlets.
Laundrie’s parents told investigators they last saw him on September 14, three days after Petito was reported missing. His parents told police he left their home with a backpack, saying he was going to the nearby Carlton Reserve.
A source close to the family told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Laundrie left his parents’ home without his cell phone and wallet and his parents were concerned that he might hurt himself.
That weekend, the search for Laundrie became more critical when authorities found Petito’s remains in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. A coroner ruled her death a homicide
Petito’s family asked for privacy following the discovery of her remains, only making comments about the woman they described as happy, loving and adventurous online and at some of the many memorials held in her honor.
But on Tuesday afternoon, the family is expected to hold a news conference, according to the law office of Richard Stafford, who represents the family.
Petito’s case has highlighted the tens of thousands of missing persons’ cases across the country and stirred heartbreak and outrage in many.
The looming questions surrounding what happened on her road trip with Laundrie has spurred digital detectives to comb through the couple’s online trail to try to solve the case and surfaced reports that tension may have been building between the couple.
Dispatch audio sheds more light on a dispute
The first reports of conflict between the two came on August 12, when a 911 caller in Moab, Utah, told dispatchers he wanted to report a domestic dispute and described a white van with a Florida license plate.
“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller said. He went on to say, “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”
CNN obtained dispatch audio recordings from the Grand County Sheriff’s office Monday that shed more light on what Moab Police were told about “some sort of altercation.”
According to the audio, the dispatcher told the officer that “a male hit a female” and that they got into a white Ford Transit van.
Police located the white van and initiated a stop near the entrance to Arches National Park. Petito and Laundrie were in the van.
In his police report, Officer Eric Pratt said Petito had slapped Laundrie, “who grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van.”
Another responding officer, Daniel Robbins, said Petito had “gone into a manic state” when Laundrie tried to “separate from her so they could both calm their emotions.” The officer reported seeing “minor visible scratches” on Laundrie’s face.
Bodycam video of the incident shows Petito telling police, “We’ve just been fighting this morning — going through some personal issues.”
“He wouldn’t let me in the car before,” Petito said.
The officer asks Petito, “because of your OCD?”
She responds, “He told me I needed to calm down, but I’m already calm.”
“I have OCD and sometimes I get really frustrated,” she said.
According to police, the officers suggested the couple go their separate ways that night and no charges were filed.
Moab Police Assistant Chief Braydon Palmer told CNN regarding the handling of the dispute on August 12, “We are reaching out to an outside agency to conduct that investigation.”
Palmer did not specify the agency.
The search for Laundrie
Laundrie returned to the Florida home he shared with his parents on September 1 without Petito, and authorities have been looking for him to provide answers.
Initially, he wasn’t wanted on any charges, but Laundrie now faces a federal warrant for his arrest for the “use of unauthorized devices” stemming from his alleged actions following Petito’s death. Laundrie allegedly used a debit card and PIN number for accounts that did not belong to him for charges exceeding $1,000 between the dates of August 30 and September 1, according to a federal indictment.
An attorney for Laundrie’s family emphasized in a statement that the warrant was not for Petito’s death but related to activities that allegedly took place afterward.
Two separate rewards totaling $30,000 have been offered to anyone who provides law enforcement officials with Laundrie’s whereabouts.
FBI agents returned to the Laundrie home Sunday, as seen in video shot by CNN. At least two agents could be seen at the home and one had a bag in his hand.
During the agency’s visit to the family home, “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,” the Laundries’ lawyer, Steven Bertolino, told multiple news outlets.
‘Enjoy every moment of this beautiful world, as she did’
As investigators continued their search for Laundrie Sunday, friends, family and strangers gathered in Holbrook, New York, to pay their respects to Petito.
Joseph Petito described his daughter in a eulogy as a “happy girl,” who people would gravitate toward. She made others feel welcome, he said, and she loved being outdoors, scuba diving, hiking the Appalachian Trail or snowboarding down sand dunes in Colorado.
“I want you to be inspired by Gabby, that’s what we’re looking for,” Joseph Petito said. “If there’s a trip that you guys want to take, take it now. Do it now while you’ve got the time.
“If there’s a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now,” he said, an apparent reference to his daughter’s relationship with Laundrie.
Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, also gave a eulogy, telling those gathered, “Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. That’s not how this is supposed to work.”
Petito provides “an example for all of us to live by,” Schmidt said, “to enjoy every moment in this beautiful world, as she did — to love and give love to all like she did.”
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