NORTH PORT — What to know about the homicide of Gabby Petito:
1 THE CASE
Gabby Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11. The North Port resident had been on a months-long journey with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, 23.
The couple had dated for years and were, at one point, engaged. They lived with his parents in the 4300 block of Wabasso Avenue.
Laundrie returned from the trip on Sept. 1, driving Petito’s Ford van.
Her body was discovered Sept. 19 in the Spreading Creek area of Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. An autopsy in Teton County, Wyoming, concluded she died in a homicide.
Laundrie has been deemed a “person of interest” in her disappearance.
2 LAUNDRIE IS WANTED BY THE FBI
The search continues for Brian Laundrie, who is now the subject of an FBI wanted poster. The FBI is charging him with bank fraud, according to FBI Denver authorities. A grand jury indicted Laundrie for “use of unauthorized access devices” after she died, according to FBI statements.
The investigation continues in Utah, Wyoming and other areas where Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito spent August.
The warrant is “related to Mr. Laundrie’s activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito,” the FBI stated.
“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,” FBI Denver Special Agent Michael Schneider said.
The FBI also hopes anyone with information from those in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between Aug. 27-30 or who had contact with Petito or Laundrie — or saw their vehicle, the release states.
Their vehicle is a 2012 white Ford Transit van outfitted for camping.
3 CARLTON SEARCH
Local and state authorities spent days in the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve near Venice and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port searching for Brian Laundrie.
It is the area where Laundrie’s parents claim he went hiking on Sept. 14. They didn’t reveal that until they reported him missing from their Wabasso Avenue home on Sept. 17. They later revised their statement, saying he went out there Sept. 13.
Personnel from more than a dozen agencies have taken part in the searches.
It is in an unforgiving terrain in the Carlton Reserve where authorities are looking for Laundrie. Investigators are using dogs, four-wheelers, dive teams and drones, among other tools.
Still, they must cover horizonless ground, said Debbie Blanco, the former Carlton Reserve land manager who knows that vast space “like the back of my hand,” she said.
Blanco said it would be hard to locate Brian Laundrie in such a vast location.
“There are more than 80,000 acres,” she said. “But it’s not like (they’re) wading up to their necks in swamps.”
The 25,000 acres of the Carlton Reserve abuts other wild lands, including the vast Myakka State Park to the north, the Walton Tract, the Orange Hammock property and others — all acquired over the years by different government and conservation entities in an attempt to give wildlife a link from the Myakka River into the west, all the way to the Peace River in the east.
Florida Wildlife Commission, FBI, Sarasota County, North Port and K-9 teams had run a weekend ground and aerial search that hadn’t yielded answers in the hunt for Laundrie, a North Port police spokesperson said.
“Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently (waist) deep in water in many areas,” North Port Public Information Officer Josh Taylor said.
4 PUBLIC RECORDS
In a recent public records request on the Laundrie family and Gabrielle Petito, the North Port Police Department provided nearly 40 fully redacted reports.
The request was made Monday for Brian Laundrie, Christopher Laundrie, Roberta Laundrie, and Petito dating back three years.
There were virtually no police interactions with the families until earlier this month, aside from a traffic citation.
The reports returned to The Daily Sun on Sept. 21 are dated between Sept. 10, 2021, and Sept. 20, 2021.
North Port Police cites the Florida Statute “Active criminal investigative and intelligence information” as the reason behind the nearly complete redactions.
An attorney for The Daily Sun disputes those redacations.
One redacted report — incident No. 21-053269, at 2:42 p.m. dated Sept. 14 — is filed as an abandoned vehicle report at the address of 6968 Reisterstown Road, in North Port, where the Mustang was left.
Brian Laundrie’s parents then picked up the Mustang the next day. The FBI towed the Mustang from the family’s home Monday.
Another redacted NPPD report — incident No. 21-05411, at 6:47 p.m. dated Sept. 17 — is filed as a missing person report from the Laundrie family’s home address.
A third redacted report —incident No. 21-054246, at 11:22 p.m. dated Sept. 18 notes a “suspicious incident” at the intersection of Balboa Terrace and Delmar Drive in North Port.
Delmar Drive is a bit of a beaten trail of a road that drags along Big Slough in the middle of North Port. There are no homes on Delmar Drive; and only a handful along Balboa Terrance.
5 MOAB INCIDENT
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie were involved in an incident Aug. 12 near Arches National Park.
Body camera footage from Moab City Police, and the subsequent release of the 911 call, suggest different situations were considered.
A 911 caller said Laundrie had been slapping Petito. A Moab City Police officer pulled over the couple just outside Arches National Park and said on the video he had seen her slapping him.
How much of the 911 call information was given to on-scene police has led to questions about the reality of what was taking place.
The couple was told to sleep separately that night; no arrests were made.
Moab City Police is now launching an investigation into how that situation was handled.
6 REWARDS OFFERED
The Boohoff Law firm announced a $20,000 a reward for information that leads law officers to Brian Laundrie, 23, of North Port, according to Kate Shakira, an employee of the firm’s North Port office.
Shakira said the reward will be paid once the investigating law enforcement agency supplies Boohoff Law written verification that a tip helped lead to locating Laundrie.
Other rewards are being offered as well.
7 POLICE CRITICISMS
North Port Police have been subjected to criticism in the case of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.
The investigation dating to Sept. 10 had drawn worldwide media, bloggers, podcasters, analysts, anyone with insider-like speculation on the disappearance of the 22-year-old North Port resident and how North Port police reacted to the sudden fury of attention.
North Port Mayor Jill Luke is defending city police to armchair detectives second-guessing city police
“Our (police) abide by the law,” Luke said, lashing at those throwing shade at the North Port Police Department. “They cannot jeopardize a case … (they) have done exactly what they were supposed to do. This is crazy.”
North Port Public Information Officer Josh Taylor has received much of the brunt of the criticism.
“We understand the public’s concern,” he said. “But they don’t know all the facts. We can’t release all of the facts.”
8 THE LAUNDRIE FAMILY
There are other aspects that are being looked at in regards to the parents of Brian Laundrie.
Wabasso Avenue neighbors, Charlene and William Guthrie, told Fox News they saw Laundrie and his parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, leave for a short trip on Sept. 11 — the day Petito’s family reported her missing.
It is unknown if he returned with them.
The Laundrie family called authorities on Sept. 17 to file a missing person report on Brian Laundrie, saying they had not seen him since Sept. 14.
They said he drove a Ford Mustang out to Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Sept. 14 to go for a hike. Authorities towed that car away Sept. 20 and returned it Sept. 23.
The Laundries have not spoken to the media. They have an attorney, Steven Bertolino, in Islip, New York. Bertolino has spoken for the family exclusively.
Bertolino said Sept. 23 that he met with the couple in Orlando. Through his firm, they have sent out a message of condolences after it was revealed that the remains of Gabby Petito were identified in Wyoming.
Some members of Gabby Petito’s family are stating in public their anger with the Laundrie family.
According to neighbors, Chris and Roberta Laundrie reportedly left with Brian Laundrie for a short trip on Sept. 11 — the day Petito’s family reported her missing.
“His parents gave him a head start,” Jill Hengel said.
Hengel is the great-aunt of Petito.
“When they went camping the three days, that was the head start,” Hengel said. “They just left the car there to throw everybody off — and it’s not just me saying that; a lot of other people are saying that, too.”
Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, told Sean Hannity that they don’t believe the last text message they received from Gabby was actually from her. In it, it states that the couple is in Yosemite and that text messages would be tough because of the area.
It was received on Aug. 30.
“You do the math,” Nichole Schmidt said Sept. 17. “We know that she didn’t send it because he was home Sept. 1. They never went to Yosemite; they never had plans to go to Yosemite — so it’s obvious.”
In late September, Long Island residents are being asked to light a candle and put it at the end of their driveway for Gabby Petito; Hengel encouraged that to happen “around the world,” she said.
Then, the next night, a similar event will take place in North Port in front of North Port City Hall, 4970 City Hall Blvd. T
Memorials have been taking place at the North Port City Green in front of North Port City Hall starting Sept. 17 and are continuing. Teddy bears, candles and candle-lighting events have happened as people stop by on their own or in groups, with some praying and some dropping off cards of condolences.
It has since been removed; the items being held for the Petito family. A permanent memorial is slated to be created in the area for Gabby Petito.
WHO IS BRIAN LAUNDRIE?
Brian Laundrie is 23 years old and known for hiking. He is described standing about 5-foot 8-inches tall and weighing 160 pounds. He has short brown hair, trimmed facial hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a hiking bag which had a waist strap, the news release said.
Anyone with information on Brian Laundrie should contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI or tips.fbi.gov.