Brian Laundrie’s father agrees to join search for son, a ‘person of interest’ in Gabby Petito’s homicide
Brian Laundrie’s father has agreed to join police in Florida in the coming days on a search of a vast wildlife reserve for his son, the 23-year-old “person of interest” in the homicide of former fiancee Gabrielle Petito, the Laundrie family attorney said Wednesday.
Lawyer Steven Bertolino said a North Port police detective asked for the assistance of Christopher Laundrie as they continue to search the Carlton Reserve where Brian Laundrie was said to have gone hiking Sept. 13. His parents reported him missing four days later.
“The North Port police informed me that they were focusing on certain areas of the preserve today and they were actually hoping that Mr. Laundrie could join them on that search,” Bertolino said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Mr. Laundrie has consented and we are waiting for the call from the North Port Police Department to make that happen.”
Bertolino said the detective on the case initially wanted Christopher Laundrie to help in the search Wednesday, but police wanted to focus on a specific area of the reserve and thought it “would be better if Chris wasn’t there.”
Bertolino said police “wanted to narrow down some of the places in the park that Brian had liked to visit in the past. … I think they’re just narrowing down their search based upon the inability to locate Brian on the previous days.”
North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor said in an email Wednesday: “Mr. Laundrie was not a part of the search today.”
Taylor directed questions to the FBI, which declined to comment on the case.
Bertolino said Christopher Laundrie is “excited” to help in the search for his son, adding that the father searched the reserve for Brian Laundrie on the night of Sept. 13 when his son didn’t return home from a hike there. The following day, Bertolino said, both of Brian Laundrie’s parents spent 4 to 5 hours hiking through the reserve in an attempt to locate their son.
“He was excited to go because he hasn’t been allowed in the park,” Bertolino said. “The park has been closed to the public. … The only place they would look for Brian is in the park.”
Bertolino, of East Islip, said the couple is “distraught” and hope authorities find their son soon.
“They are distraught and they are upset and they are hopeful that their son will be found,” Bertolino said. “And we will deal with what needs to be dealt with at that time.”
Laundrie, who had returned home without Petito from a cross-country trip on Sept. 1, refused to speak to police after Petito was reported missing. The couple, both graduates of Bayport-Blue Point High School, embarked on the road trip in Petito’s white van with a final destination of Portland, Oregon.
Authorities have searched the reserve for several days since Laundrie was reported missing Sept. 17. Petito’s body was found two days later in a national forest in Wyoming. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Bertolino on Tuesday also augmented the timeline of events in the case, saying after consulting with the FBI, Laundrie’s parents now believe they last saw him on Sept. 13, not the 14th, as they previously said. Bertolino also revealed Tuesday that five days after Laundrie and Petito got into a physical altercation in Utah, Laundrie flew back to Florida to empty a storage unit the couple shared, before heading back to Utah on a plane several days later to “rejoin” Petito on the trip.
Her family reported her missing after she stopped answering calls and texts from them in late August.
Bertolino said Laundrie’s parents believe their son is either in the reserve or another hiking area and said they have no plans to publicly plead for their son, who is wanted by the FBI on an arrest warrant for alleged credit card fraud, to surrender to authorities.
“The parents don’t believe he’s watching the news in any way shape or form … they believe he’s in the preserve or some other type of wilderness area if he has left the preserve,” Bertolino said. “So putting out a plea publicly and getting scrutiny for that is not necessarily in their best interest.”
Bertolino also disputed the narrative that Laundrie is a survivalist who could hide out in the wilderness for an extended period. Authorities in North Carolina have investigated several alleged sightings of Laundrie along the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia.
“I don’t know who put the term ‘survivalist’ out there,” Bertolino said. “Brian is a hiker. He’s a camper. I don’t think it goes beyond that.”