Boyfriend of Gabby Petito named as person of interest in disappearance

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The boyfriend of a 22-year-old woman who was traveling through a national park when she was reported missing has now been named a person of interest, police said Wednesday.

Gabby Petito was reported missing Saturday after her family said it hadn't heard from her since the end of August. She was believed to be in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when she disappeared. Her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, has "not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators," police said.

Petito, from New York, had been living with Laundrie and his parents in North Port, Florida, before heading out on a cross-country road trip to multiple national parks. Laundrie returned home from the trip with Petito's white Ford van on Sept. 1 — 10 days before Petito's family reported her missing.

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"We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks," North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in a news release. “The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out.”

Garrison added, "As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby's family is going through."

The young couple left for the trip on July 22 from New York and made stops in Colorado and Utah. Petito was last seen on Aug. 24 when she and Laundrie checked out of a hotel in Salt Lake City. Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, said she last heard from her daughter on Aug. 25, when Petito told her they were headed to Wyoming.

Schmidt said her daughter seemed "excited" about their next adventure but that she began to worry when Petito stopped communicating.

"A few days is one thing when you're out camping, but when it starts to become seven, eight, nine, 10 days, that's a problem," Schmidt told ABC News.

Schmidt said she received two text messages from Petito's phone after Aug. 25 but is skeptical they had been sent by her daughter. The texts did not contain any photos or details of her whereabouts.

Adding to the curious case is an Aug. 12 incident in Moab, Utah, in which police responded to an incident involving the couple. However, Moab Police Chief Bret Edge said that "insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges." The incident had not been reported by Laundrie or Petito, Edge said in a statement Tuesday night.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie during the road trip in which she went missing. Courtesy of Rick Stafford / Find Gabby

North Port Police Department spokesman Josh Taylor said Wednesday that it was concerning that Laundrie had been in Florida for more than a week without saying anything about Petitio's disappearance.

"We're hopeful to talk to him," Taylor said. "He needs to talk to us. We need to know exactly where he was, where she was, their last locations — and the fact that he was back here for 10 days."

Richard Stafford, a spokesman for Petito's family, said: "Brian claims he wants to sit in the background while we search for Gabby in the wilderness of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Brian left Gabby in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves while he sits in the comfort of his home. In his home! Brian, how could you do this to Gabby? You selfishly remain silent while Gabby is all alone in the wilderness."

Petito and Laundrie left New York on July 2. Petito was last call to her family was on Aug. 25 in Grand Teton National Park. Courtesy of Rick Stafford / Find Gabby

He added, "Brian, your silence is reprehensible! We beg you to do the right thing and help us bring Gabby home. Brian, whatever happened in Wyoming happened. The only thing you can control is what you do now. Tell us where Gabby is. You tarnish your love for her with your silence."

Despite mounting pressure for Laundrie to talk, his family released a statement through its attorney, who described Petito's disappearance as an "extremely difficult time."

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"This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family," Attorney Steven Bertolino said. "It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."

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Tags: News, Crime, National Parks, Utah, Florida, New York, Missing Person, Law Enforcement

Original Author: Barnini Chakraborty

Original Location: Boyfriend of Gabby Petito named as person of interest in disappearance