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Search for Gabby Petito’s boyfriend in FL nature reserve comes up empty; cops make public appeal for tips

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The first day of the search for the fiancé of missing Gabby Petito came up empty on Saturday. Police shut down their hunt for Brian Laundrie who has been named as a person of interest in the mysterious disappearance of the 22-year-old.

Laundrie, who has refused to cooperate with authorities vanished on Tuesday as questions continue to mount over his reluctance to talk after he returned to Florida alone from the young couple’s western journey to national parks where they documented their trip to some of America’s most scenic locations.

The 23-year-old Laundrie, who could hold the key to unlocking the mystery of Petito’s whereabouts, was last seen on Tuesday when he went on a hike but never returned, leading to the search of the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve near Venice, FL.

The huge park in Sarasota County contains nearly 25,000 acres of dense foliage and swampy terrain; it is an area where he often went hiking. The search was based on information received from his parents.

According to Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the North Port Police Department, “It’s muddy, it’s wet, there are a few unpaved dirt roads that are out there basically running along the power lines, you know it’s a place that people hike, there are mountain biking trails out there.” He said that the effort for could take “a long time.”

The search for Laundrie was halted due to nightfall when authorities from five agencies including the FBI called it a day after hours of trekking through the wilderness on an oppressively hot and muggy day.

Additional developments in the missing person case that has seized the nation’s attention include an account by a Tik Tok user named Miranda Baker who on Friday, posted a series of videos to her account alleging that she and her boyfriend picked up Laundrie who was hitchhiking Grand Teton National Park.

According to Baker, the encounter occurred on Aug. 29th, days after Petito had last spoken with her family and that Laundrie’s behavior was “weird.”

“He then told us he’s been camping for multiple days without his fiancé. He did say he had a fiancé and that she was working on their social media page back at their van,” she said.

While there is no way to corroborate Baker’s account, the FBI took it seriously enough that they are mounting a search of the national park, a 310,000-acre area in Teton County, Wyoming near Jackson.

Petito and Laundrie had documented their swing through the western states on social media with the two vibrant young adults exploring the magnificent natural settings with the rest of their lives ahead of them but beneath the happy surface, there were dark undertones as seen by a police bodycam video of an intervention into a domestic quarrel between the two.

The video, which went viral immediately after its release on Thursday showed an emotional Petito struggling to hold back tears.

While there were no arrests made, police separated the couple, putting Laundrie up in a local hotel and allowing Petito to stay with the white Ford van that they were traveling in, the van that he drove back to Florida alone.

The search for Laundrie will resume on Sunday, and North Park Police are asking for tips from anyone who might have seen Laundrie near the Carlton Reserve, requesting that they contact the FBI.

 

Chris Donaldson

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