Manhunt for Gabby Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, to continue this weekend in Florida wetlands

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Search crews will resume the manhunt for Brian Laundrie in Florida wetlands this weekend after Friday’s search was called off in the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve, a wilderness park in Sarasota County.

The search comes a day after after the FBI issued a federal arrest warrant over events that occurred following the death of his fiancée Gabby Petito.

“We will be back out throughout the weekend. Focusing on areas of more likelihood across the Reserve,” the department said in a social media post.

Laundrie’s parents told investigators he went camping in the park on Sept. 14 after returning home from a cross-country trip to national parks without Petito on Sept. 1.

The search for Laundrie, who has been missing for more than a week, turned into a manhunt Thursday after a grand jury indicted him for alleged unauthorized use of a Capital One debit card and several accounts. The documents say he spent more than $1,000 but did not state who the cards or accounts belonged to.

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The indictment released Thursday by the U.S. District of Wyoming also charges Laundrie with unauthorized access of a device and says he used the bank accounts without permission from about Aug. 30 through Sept. 1.

Laundrie is considered a person of interested in Petito’s homicide but has not been charged.

Authorities said Thursday they were looking for Laundrie in a specific section of Carlton Reserve, marking the first time the search has been narrowed. More than 75 law enforcement personnel from 16 agencies joined the search.

The park includes thousands of acres of swampy, subtropical terrain and wildlife including alligators, snakes, bobcats and coyotes. There’s more than 100 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, camping areas and rivers. 

The reserve is very wet and has little food or safe drinking water, said local survival expert Mark Burrow. Black bears, panthers and clouds of gnawing insects also populate the reserve, he added. 

“If he’s down there in the Carlton Reserve, he’s living in hell,” Burrow said.

Authorities are using a specialized diver unit, dogs, drones and ATV vehicles to search the park.

“It is currently waist deep in water in many areas,” North Port police said in a Facebook post. “This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator- and snake-infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails.”

In July, Petito and Laundrie embarked on a road trip that they documented on social media as a romantic adventure. The trip was set to end in Oregon next month, but Laundrie returned alone to the couple’s Florida home, about 35 miles south of Sarasota. Petito’s parents reported her missing 10 days later.

Her body was found Sunday at a campground near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and preliminary results from an autopsy concluded her death was a homicide. The Teton County coroner provided no specific cause of death pending final autopsy results.

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On Monday, Utah’s Grand County Sheriff’s Office released a 911 call from Aug. 12 in which the caller says he drove by the couple’s van and witnessed that “the gentleman was slapping the girl.”

Body camera video released last week showed Petito in tears during a police stop on the side of a highway near Arches National Park in Utah. The footage shows a Utah police officer speaking with Laundrie, who said friction had been building between the two for several days, though authorities at the scene took no action other than telling the couple to separate for the night.

This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle 'Gabby' Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021.

After Laundrie returned from the trip without Petito and went missing himself, the FBI searched the van the pair traveled in and his family’s home in Florida. Investigators say Laundrie and those around him withheld critical information about the case.

The Laundrie family issued a brief statement through attorney Steven Bertolino: “May Gabby rest in peace.” 

Laundrie is a white male, 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing 160 pounds, with brown eyes, short brown hair and trimmed facial hair. Anyone with information can reach out through a national hotline to receive tips at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).

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Contributing: Joel Shannon, Christine Fernando and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; Patricia McKnight, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; The Associated Press