Gabby Petito Case: Florida Residents Speak Out About Investigation

by Jennifer Shea

North Port, Florida residents have been drawn into the Gabby Petito saga as the investigation into her disappearance and death unfolds in their community.

Residents there and in neighboring communities have been following the latest developments with interest, WWSB reports. They’re worried about Laundrie’s disappearance and stoked about Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman’s entrance into the case.

Moreover, they’re concerned about their own daughters after the apparent homicide that took Petito’s life, according to WWSB.

Florida Residents Sound Off About Investigation

“It’s been a really big topic, we’ve heard from our customers, and we sympathize with everybody, and we all feel the same because this is a tight, close-knit community,” North Point resident Renee Queen told WWSB.

“It’s just a question I think a lot of us have had, and other conversations I’ve had with other people, they’re just a little curious about why this guy wasn’t watched a little closer,” she added.

Port Charlotte resident Paul Von Gillern seconded that last sentiment. He said it makes him uneasy knowing Petito’s killer is still out there on the loose.

“It’s really a tragedy. It really is bad,” he told WWSB. “I feel for the family because I have three daughters of my own. I wouldn’t want nothing to happen to them.”

“It makes you on edge,” he continued. “It makes you make sure your kids are inside, make sure you keep an eye on your daughters, I mean, it just makes you uneasy, you know?”

Gabby Petito Went Missing in August, Found Dead Last Month

Gabby Petito was a 22-year-old hiker who disappeared while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. Her last social media post went up on Aug. 25. Sometime between then and Sept. 1, she and Laundrie separated, and he returned to his parents’ house in Florida in their white Ford converted camper van alone.

Once back in Florida, Laundrie lawyered up and refused to speak to Petito’s family or to authorities about Petito’s whereabouts. Then, shortly before Petito’s body turned up, he went missing himself.

On Sept. 19, search teams found Petito’s body in Teton-Bridger National Forest. The Teton County coroner ruled her death a homicide. The cause of death is pending the release of the final autopsy report.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has obtained a warrant for Laundrie’s arrest, but first they have to find him. That’s where Dog the Bounty Hunter comes in. He announced last weekend that he was joining the search for Laundrie, and tips promptly came flooding in. Acting on one he felt was particularly solid, the bounty hunter headed to Fort De Soto Park outside St. Petersburg.

There, he learned, the Laundries had gone camping from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8. And he wondered why they were off camping when Petito – who had lived with the family in Florida before the trip – was nowhere to be found.

But with many unsubstantiated tips also pouring in, and sightings of Laundrie reported in multiple states (Florida, Alabama, North Carolina…), authorities have their work cut out for them finding Petito’s former boyfriend. As of this weekend, the search continues.