NORTH PORT, Fla. - At about the same time that a body was found out west during the search for missing Florida woman Gabby Petito, the mobile command center was spotted pulling away from the scene where law enforcement had been searching for her fiancé – and person of interest in her disappearance.
Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, were on a cross-country trip, visiting scenic locations and sharing them on social media. Family reported Petito missing on September 11 after not hearing from her since August 25; Laundrie returned to their North Port home on September 1 with the van the couple was traveling in – without Petito.
Graphic via FOX News
Laundrie was named a person of interest in the case earlier this week. However, despite pleading with the family and their attorney, investigators had not heard from the Laundrie family at all until Friday night, when they told investigators their son had actually been missing since Tuesday.
Investigators spent two hours at the Laundrie home collecting things they say may help them find Brian and hopefully get answers.
An attorney for the Petito family says Brian is not missing but rather on the run, adding that the Laundrie family’s request to have the North Port police look for their son but not for Gabby is "reprehensible and hypocritical."
The search resumed Sunday morning (NPPD photo)
Saturday, 50 law enforcement officers from five agencies, including the North Port Police Department and the FBI, began searching the Carlton Reserve, a 25,000-acre park in Venice.
"Brian’s parents have reported to us that he was last seen Tuesday when he went for a hike there. They reported him missing three days later. The North Port Police Department and the FBI are working to corroborate the story," North Port Police Department public information officer Josh Taylor said.
Crews returned to the site Sunday morning. But just before 6 p.m., police said the search had concluded for the day with "nothing to report." Later Sunday evening, police closed off the area around the Laundrie home, moving media and onlookers back away from the house.
North Port police said the search would pick up again, but investigators found it hard to imagine that anyone could hide out there for days without being detected due to the difficult conditions.
Out west, FBI agents had been coordinating a search for Gabby at Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. A body was found there Sunday afternoon, and agents say it matches the description of Gabby Petito.
"I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby's family," Agent Charles Jones offered as he announced the news. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
A crowd gathered in North Port last night, hoping and praying for Gabby’s safe return. The vigil only lasted about 15 minutes, but those who attended say it was an important way for them to show support for Gabby’s family.
People held signs that said, "North Port loves Gabby." Someone sang amazing grace while others spoke to the crowd.
"We do need to find her, don't we? Gabby needs to be found, and so what I want to do is I want to pray."
"There's not really much we can do for them outside of giving them prayer and giving them our support as a community because if you live here in North Port you know this is a small city."
Investigators are asking the public for help in locating Laundrie. They say he is a white male, 5-foot-8 and weighing 160 pounds. He has brown eyes, very short brown hair, trimmed facial hair, and was last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-Call-FBI.
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