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Brian Laundrie’s dad joins search for son at Florida nature preserve

The extra help follows reports that police found signs of a recent campsite in the preserve.
A manhunt for Brian Laundrie continues in South Florida.
A manhunt for Brian Laundrie continues in South Florida. [ COURTESY NORTH PORT POLICE DEPARTMENT | TNS ]
Published Oct. 7

Brian Laundrie’s father arrived at a Florida nature preserve Thursday to join the search for his fugitive son, who remains the only person of interest in the death of his fiancée, Gabby Petito.

Local TV cameras captured Chris Laundrie walking out of his home in North Port with a dark plastic bag in his hands around 10 a.m. He ignored the reporters and protesters who have been outside the property for weeks and drove away in a red pickup truck.

Steve Bertolino, an attorney representing the Laundrie family, later confirmed that the father was indeed assisting the FBI’s manhunt in Sarasota County’s massive Carlton Preserve.

“Chris was asked to point out any favorite trails or spots that Brian may have used in the preserve,” Bertolino told reporters. “Although Chris and Roberta Laundrie provided this information verbally three weeks ago, it is now thought that on-site assistance may be better.”

The extra help follows reports that police found signs of a recent campsite in the preserve. Brian Laundrie, who is wanted on a charge of bank card fraud, was reported missing on Sept. 17, days after he told his parents he was going to the Carlton Preserve area for a hike, according to his family.

Previous unconfirmed sightings of the 23-year-old fugitive were reported in the Appalachian Trail near the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and as far away as Toronto, Canada.

The case has drawn nationwide attention because he might be the only person who knows what happened to Petito, who documented her trips on social media and was considered a popular travel influencer.

The couple was on a cross-country trip over the summer when Brian Laundrie returned to his Florida home by himself on Sept. 1. Petito, 22, was reported missing on Sept. 11, triggering a frantic, multi-agency search that ended with the discovery of her dead body in a Wyoming national park about a week later.

Her death has been ruled a homicide, but her fiancé's possible involvement remains unclear. He hired a lawyer shortly after returning home last month and refused to cooperate with the search for Petito.

Chris Laundrie and his wife have not said anything publicly about the case. But Brian’s sister, Cassie Laundrie, went on TV this week to urge her brother to surrender.

“Come forward and end this horrible mess,” she told ABC News on Monday.

She said she’s been cooperative with the investigation and hopes her parents are too.

“I don’t know if my parents are involved,” she said. “I think if they are, they should come clean.”

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