The FBI entered and searched the family home of Gabby Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie in Florida on Monday, a day after investigators across the country found what they believe to be her remains. Petito and Laundrie had been road-tripping in a white van through the American West this summer, all while regularly posting photos and stories to their social media pages with the hashtag #vanlife.
Those posts abruptly stopped in late August, though. Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida, with their van but without Petito on September 1, according to police. Petito’s family, unable to get in touch with her, reported her missing on September 11.
On Monday morning, FBI investigators surrounded and entered Laundrie’s parents’ home in North Port as part of a “court-authorized search warrant” related to the Petito case. His parents were escorted from the home before the search and then were brought back inside for questioning, police said.
The warrant comes as investigators are still searching for Laundrie, who returned to the Florida home without Petito earlier this month, declined to talk to investigators, and then went missing last week. The search for him had centered on a nature reserve near his home, but investigators shifted their focus after they “exhausted all avenues in searching the grounds there,” North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said Monday.
Petito and Laundrie
On Sunday, human remains believed to be of Petito’s were found in Wyoming, a tragic discovery that could nonetheless help answer questions about what happened to the 22-year-old.
In the days since, her story has become a national obsession for many, spurring digital detectives to comb through their online trail to try to solve the case. The story has also further highlighted the tens of thousands of missing person stories that do not garner such intense interest; there were nearly 90,000 active missing person cases as of the end of 2020, according to the National Crime Information Center.
In particular with Gabby, her story has been covered far and wide; she is beautiful, white, blond, and young. It means that she is afforded a place on home pages based on those facts alone. There’s even a term for it; ‘Missing White Women Syndrome.’ It was coined by Gwen Ifill, an American journalist, and studied by sociologists. It refers to the veracity of which missing white women are disproportionately highlighted in news stories compared to missing people of color. It’s a compelling true-crime story with all the right twists and turns. And publicity can help solve crimes.
Another key reason is that the circumstances are strange and mysterious. Brian returned home from their cross-country trip alone with their van on September 1, a week after Gabby’s family last made contact with her. He refused to talk to police and then went missing himself, with footage this week showing the couple being pulled over by police a few weeks prior over a domestic incident.
Agents arrived at the Laundrie family home in North Port, Florida, the federal agency confirmed. No additional details were released.
Police in Florida also suspended their search in a nature reserve for the 23-year-old Laundrie, who is considered a person of interest in the unsolved case after driving Petito’s van home alone from a cross-country road trip.
The North Port Police Department “currently has no plans to conduct a major search” for Laundrie at the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, the agency said in a statement. His parents reported him missing late last week and said he was in that area, police have said.
The department said it has “exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there.” It was not immediately clear if investigators were searching elsewhere for Laundrie.