The search for Brian Laundrie, whose fiancée Gabby Petito was found dead in Wyoming after the pair embarked on a cross-country road trip over the summer, continues in an inhospitable Florida nature reserve that may soon prove easier to navigate for teams trying to find him, the Laundries’ family attorney says.
“It seems the water in the preserve is receding and certain areas are more accessible to search,” said Steve Bertolino. “The entire Laundrie family is grateful for the hard work of the dedicated members of law enforcement that have been searching the preserve for Brian over the last few weeks. Hopefully, Brian will be located soon.”
But police in North Port, Florida, say no one has actually seen Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve, a vast nature reserve near the family’s home that has been the focus of the search for Laundrie for weeks now.
Police spokesperson Josh Taylor told CNN’s Randi Kaye the search has been prompted entirely by information from Laundrie’s parents, who said he planned to hike in the reserve in mid-September and hasn’t been seen since.
Taylor told CNN they have not found any physical evidence of Laundrie but plan to continue the search until they have better information.
Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies have been looking for Laundrie since September 17.
Laundrie returned to Florida on September 1 without Petito, and after her disappearance was reported he and his family rebuffed initial attempts by law enforcement to speak with them directly.
Laundrie was being surveilled by police – as best authorities could do so legally – before he disappeared, North Port Police Department spokesperson Josh Taylor told CNN’s Randi Kaye Thursday. At the time, Laundrie was not wanted for arrest and Petito was still missing. Her remains were discovered September 19 in Teton County, Wyoming.
Laundrie has not been charged in Petito’s death, but he now is the subject of a federal arrest warrant for unauthorized use of another person’s debit card in the days after she last spoke with her family.
Authorities never spoke with Laundrie before he went missing. When police were at the family home on September 11, the day Petito was reported missing, Laundrie was not seen and there was no opportunity to speak with him, Taylor told CNN.
On September 17, when police spoke with Laundrie’s parents after they reported him missing, they refused to address Petito’s disappearance, which police described as “odd,” Taylor said. Laundrie’s parents, who had their lawyer on speaker phone, would only speak about their son missing.
Additionally, authorities do not have in their possession the phones Laundrie and Petito had on their trip, Taylor said. Police searched the van used on the trip that Laundrie drove back to Florida but neither phone was there, Taylor said.
Laundrie had purchased a new phone shortly after returning home, attorney Bertolino told CNN last week. A source close to the Laundrie family previously told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Laundrie left their home without his cell phone and wallet, and Bertolino said the FBI is in possession of the new phone. The FBI has declined to comment to CNN, citing its ongoing investigation.
Laundrie’s father assisted with search on Thursday
Chris Laundrie, Brian’s father, was seen Thursday morning entering the Carlton Reserve, after being asked by law enforcement to accompany them on their search, according to Bertolino.
“Chris was asked to point out any favorite trails or spots that Brian may have used in the preserve,” the attorney said. Though the family provided what information they knew earlier, “it is now thought that on-site assistance may be better,” he said.
“The preserve has been closed to the public and the Laundries as well but the parents have been cooperating since the search began,” Bertolino said.
“There were no discoveries but the effort was helpful to all,” he said.