Gabby Petito case: FBI agents search Brian Laundrie's Florida home, seize his Mustang

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Gabby Petito case: FBI agents search Brian Laundrie's Florida home, seize his Mustang
Police swarmed Brian Laundrie's Florida home and took his Mustang, as the search continues to find him for questioning in Gabby Petito's death.

NORTH PORT, Florida -- FBI agents and police on Monday swarmed the family home of Brian Laundrie, searching the property and seizing a Mustang belonging to the missing man who is wanted for questioning in the death of Gabby Petito.

The court-authorized search warrant was executed at the North Port, Florida home where Laundrie lives with his parents.

Over the weekend, Petito's body was apparently discovered at a Wyoming national park months after the couple set out in a van on a cross-country trek. Authorities said the remains discovered at Grand Teton National Park match Petito's description but a full exam is still pending.

The FBI escorted Laundrie's parents out of their home into a waiting van in their driveway at 10 a.m. Monday.

They were in the car for about 10 minutes before going back inside.

Investigators were inside the home with the family all day.

Around 2:30 p.m. they towed Laundrie's silver Mustang from the driveway.

Laundrie and Petito had been living with his parents before making the trek on which she died.

Petito and Laundrie hit the road in July in a converted van to visit national parks in the West. They got into a fight along the way, and Laundrie was alone when he returned in the van to his parents' home on Sept. 1, police said.

Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case, but his whereabouts in recent days were unknown.

A cause of death for Petito remains undetermined.

"We continue to seek information from anyone who utilized the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between the dates of August 27 and August 30. Anyone that may have had contact with Gabby, or her boyfriend or who may have seen their vehicle in that area, please share any new information with the FBI," Jones said.

An attorney for the Petito family released a statement Sunday evening asking for privacy to grieve and also thanking the agencies that assisted in the search.

"Your tireless work and determination helped bring Gabby home to her parents," the statement said. "The family and I will be forever grateful."

Petito's father Joseph, tweeted a heartbreaking message following the discovery, saying "she touched the world."

The development came as a search for Brian Laundrie, Petito's boyfriend, resumed in Florida.

Petito's parents reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not speaking with her for two weeks.

Laundrie had been named by police as a "person of interest" in Petito's disappearance. The 23-year-old Laundrie, who returned home more than two weeks ago without Petito and has refused to speak to police, has not been seen since Tuesday, according to law enforcement officials.

The Laundrie family attorney said in a statement Sunday evening, "The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family."

Search resumes of 'vast' preserve for boyfriend of missing 22-year-old

A search for Laundrie resumed on Sunday in a 24,565-acre preserve in Florida.

North Port, Florida, police said a team of officers picked up the search for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve north of Laundrie's home in North Port. The search began on Saturday but was suspended overnight due to darkness.

"A team of more than 50 looking for anything of note after his (Laundrie's) parents say this is where he went," North Port police said in a post on Twitter Sunday morning.

North Port police officers accompanied by FBI agents, drones, K-9 and bloodhounds are involved in the search for Laundrie, police said during a briefing Saturday afternoon. Authorities took clothing from the family home Friday to help canine units, North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said.

Speaking to Good Morning America Saturday, Officer Josh Taylor said North Port Police were "trying to corroborate everything they've been telling us."

Laundrie's family told police on Friday that they last saw him on Tuesday with a backpack and he told them he was going to the massive preserve, which he would frequent for hikes, according to Taylor.

In response to the news that Laundrie's whereabouts were unknown, a lawyer for the Petito family said in a statement: "All of Gabby's family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing."

The search for Laundrie is the latest twist in the case that has grabbed national attention as the couple had been traveling across the country since June in Petito's 2012 Ford Transit and documenting the trip on social media. Laundrie returned home in Petito's van to North Port, on Sept. 1 without his girlfriend, according to police.

Taylor confirmed that investigators have spoken to Miranda Baker, a college student who posted a TikTok video over the weekend claiming she and her boyfriend picked up Laundrie around 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 29 as he was hitchhiking alone in the Colter Bay Village area of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. In the video, Baker said Laundrie offered her and her boyfriend $200 to drive him to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Miranda Baker says she picked up Brian Laundrie as a hitchhiker in Wyoming.

"He told us he's been camping for multiple days without his fiancee. He did say he had a fiancee and that she was working on their social media page back at their van," Baker said in the video.

She said that during the ride, Laundrie "freaked out" and demanded to be let out of the vehicle.

"He's like, 'Nope, I need to get out right now. You have to pull over,'" Baker said in the video and later in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America."

Baker said she and her boyfriend let Laundrie out near the Jackson Lake Dam a little after 6 p.m. She said Laundrie had a backpack and was dressed in a long-sleeve shirt, pants, hiking boots and had a scruffy beard.

"For someone who was camping for multiple days, he didn't look dirty. He didn't smell dirty," Baker said.

Asked about Baker's purported encounter with Laundrie, Taylor told ABC News on Sunday, "We have spoken to her. Her timeline is plausible."

Former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Brad Garrett discusses how investigators are likely searching for Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.

The FBI specifically said it would like to talk to anyone who was at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area from Aug. 27 to 30 and may have seen the couple or their van. The agency said it would not comment on the specifics of the information in its investigation.

Schmidt received two text messages from her daughter's phone in the days after speaking to her, but it was unclear whether they were actually sent by Petito

"Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito's absence," the attorney representing the Laundrie family, Steven P. Bertolino, said in a statement last week. "In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this, and the warning that 'any statement will be used against you' is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito's disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter."

ABC News contributed to this report.