Police Launch Manhunt for Missing Hiker Gabby Petito’s Fiancée at Massive Wildlife Preserve

by Josh Lanier

Police have launched a manhunt for Brian Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve in northern Florida. Laundrie, who authorities say is a person of interest in the disappearance of his fiancée Gabby Petito, is now also missing, his family told investigators Friday. They said they last spoke to him on Tuesday when he told them he was heading to the 25,000-acre reserve.

Gabby Petito vanished last month while on a cross-country trip with Laundrie. Petito last spoke to her parents on Aug. 25 while the couple hiked in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Her whereabouts after that are a mystery. Laundrie returned to his Florida home in Petito’s van on September 1 without her.

The couple filmed their trip as part of a “Van Life” YouTube Channel. The channel only has one video, which features clips of the couple’s earlier adventures and promises more videos later.

Laundrie and his family haven’t helped the investigation since he returned, the North Port Police department said. After stonewalling police for days, the Laundrie’s family finally spoke at length with investigators on Friday. That’s when they reported Brian was missing.

“We are frustrated too,” the North Port Police Department said in a statement Friday. “For six days, the North Port police department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian’s fiancée Gabby Petito.

“Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail. It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing persons investigation.”

The family of Gabby Petito doesn’t believe he’s missing. They believe he fled.

“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing,” the family said in a statement.

Police Are Searching For Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie

Agents with the FBI, search dogs, local police, and volunteers descended on Carlton Preserve Saturday morning. The public park is located just north of North Port, Florida, in Sarasota County, and it is full of dangers.

The New York Times reported that the park is home to feral hogs, alligators, and panthers. But aside from the wild animals, heavy rains have flooded the park’s hiking trails. Lightning also sparked fires throughout other parts of the park, a volunteer told the newspaper.

Some 50 police officers are working their way through the muddy grounds on ATVs looking for Brian Laundrie.

More than 2,000 miles away, FBI agents and investigators are combing the Grand Teton National Park to find any trace of Gabby Petito. Her family was also in Montana to aid in the investigation.

“We’ve got to start somewhere,” her dad, Joseph Petito, said. “There’s 2,500 miles between Wyoming and Florida, so if we start now it’s less we have to do when we pinpoint a better location. That’s how we look at it. What if we get lucky, and we don’t need Brian anymore, and we find her right now?”