VENICE, Fla. – With Gabby Petito still missing, 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, Florida – not for Gabby, but for Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in her disappearance, who himself has not been seen for days.
North Port Police Department public information officer Josh Taylor said Laundrie’s family spoke with officers Friday night because they were concerned about the well-being of their son.
The family told officers they believed he entered the reserve earlier this week and his car was driven from the reserve back to the Laundrie house at some point, but authorities did not elaborate on a definitive time frame.
“Brian was not going to speak with us. We knew he wasn’t going to speak with us, so we are not going to dedicate a lot of time to follow someone who was not wanted on a crime. Our focus was to find Gabby,” Taylor explained.
He added, “They are North Port residents and he is a North Port resident and it is our responsibility to locate him.”
Courtesy: North Port Police Department
Gabby Petito was reported missing on September 11. She had been traveling out west with Laundrie in a camper van. He returned to North Port Florida on September 1 with the van, but without Petito and has been refusing to talk to law enforcement officers.
Taylor said a search for Gabby was taking place Saturday morning in Wyoming, which is the last place she is believed to have been. Taylor added, “We’re doing everything we can, within the law, to get answers.”
Taylor said that Laundrie’s parents did not provide any information to officers Friday night about Petito.
Jason Anderson lives across from the Carlton Reserve and says he heard helicopters flying over the area beginning around 6 or 7 p.m. on Friday. When he woke up Saturday morning he and his wife saw police officers, the FBI and dogs outside.
“It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what they were looking for,” Anderson commented.
He went on to say that the reserve goes on for miles and miles and it would be a good place to get lost and not be found if that’s what someone wanted to do. However, he hopes law enforcement finds Laundrie and Petito.
“The greatest thing would be to find the girl first,” Anderson stated. “Tell us where she is and give some peace to the family. I don’t want this to be a long, drawn-out thing. Find the guy immediately.”
Taylor said authorities are hopeful they will find Laundrie in the reserve, but added, “These are people who are used to living off the grid. I don’t know if he would do day-hikes out here or whatever, but you could be out here for several months if you wanted.”
Anyone with information on Laundrie or Petito’s whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-Call-FBI.