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missing Utah gabby petito and brian laundrie
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Boyfriend named person of interest in disappearance of van lifer Gabby Petito

(Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, as seen in a video posted to their YouTube channel. This is a screen grab of them speaking about their trip to Utah.)

Police in North Port, Florida officially named Brian Laundrie, 23, as a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, 22-year-old Gabby Petito, on Wednesday.

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In a statement posted to Twitter, North Port police wrote that Laundrie has “not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators” or provided any helpful details. 

Petito has not been heard from since late August, as she and Laundrie were traveling in the area of Teton Village, Wyoming. Their prior travels had taken them through Utah’s national parks in a 2012 Ford Transit van.

Boyfriend returned to Florida without Gabby Petito

Police said in their statement that Laundrie returned to North Port, where he and Petito lived with Laundrie’s parents, on Sept. 1, 2021. Petito’s parents did not learn she was missing until 10 days later, on Sept. 11. North Port police said they had no information that a crime had occurred in their jurisdiction.

“The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation,” North Port police chief Todd Garrison said in the statement. “The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance.”

 

During a late-morning press conference, North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor said investigators are operating on the assumption Petito is alive.

“We have to do that for ourselves, but more importantly for the family,” Taylor said. We want them to understand that if she’s out there, we’re doing everything in our power to bring her home but obviously we have a role to plan for the worst.”

Taylor said Laundrie has only provided them the name and phone number of his lawyer in New York.

Statement from Brian Laundrie, contact with Moab police

On Tuesday, Laundrie’s family issued a statement through attorney Steven Bertolino.

“This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family,” the Laundrie family statement said. “On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”

Also on Tuesday night, police in Moab, Utah confirmed to KSL they were contacted on August 12, 2021 regarding an “incident” involving Laundrie and Petito which was reported by a third party.

“Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” Moab police chief Bret Edge said in an email.

KSL is seeking a copy of the police report from the August 12 incident via Utah’s open records law. North Port police said in their press conference they hoped to obtain the same report from Moab police on Wednesday.

In a related event, Petito’s Instagram briefly went offline on Wednesday morning. A Facebook company spokesperson later confirmed the account was removed in error and has since been reinstated.

The FBI has established a hotline and is actively seeking tips in the Petito case. The hotline number is 1-800-CALL FBI (225-5324).

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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