PUERTO NORTE, Fla. (AP) – Florida police say they are working with the FBI to find Brian Laundrie, 23, whose girlfriend disappeared while hiking across the country in a converted pickup truck.
North Port police said Friday night that Laundrie’s parents told them they hadn’t seen him since Tuesday. Police said they spoke to the family at the request of the family.
Laundrie and his 22-year-old girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, set out in July on a trip that took them to national parks in the west. His family reported him missing on September 11 and he is now the subject of a nationwide search along with the FBI.
Investigators said Laundrie drove the truck back to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, on September 1. They identified him as a person of interest in the case.
The investigation is now a case of “multiple missing persons,” police said, adding that they are not investigating a crime.
An attorney for Brian Laundrie, Steven Bertolino, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press late Friday.
Earlier in the week, Petito’s family pleaded with the Laundrie family to tell them where their son last saw her. Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts who met while growing up on Long Island. Later, her parents moved to North Port, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Sarasota.
Police video released by the Moab Police Department in Utah showed an officer stopped the van on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding up and hitting a sidewalk near the entrance to Arches National Park. Body camera video showed an excited Petito, who was sitting inside a police cruiser while officers were also questioning Laundrie.
Laundrie says in the video that the couple had a small fight that started when he got into the truck with dirty feet and said he did not want to bring a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the assailant.
He told officers that he was not going to press charges because he loved her. “It was just a fight. Sorry, it had to become so public, ”Laundrie says in the video.
In the end, the Moab police decided not to press charges and instead separated the couple for the night, while Laundrie checked into a motel and Petito kept the converted sleeper.
The official conversation with the family came shortly after North Port boss Garrison publicly expressed frustration at Brian Laundrie’s lack of help on Wednesday, pleading with Laundrie’s attorney to set up a conversation. “Two people went on a trip and one person came back!” a previous tweet from the police chief had said.
Their journey in the Fort Transit van began in July from Long Island in New York, where they both grew up. They intended to arrive in Oregon before Halloween according to their social media accounts, but Petito disappeared after his last known contact with the family in late August from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, authorities said.
Laundrie drove the Ford Transit van back to Florida on Sept. 1 alone, police said. Petito’s family filed a missing persons report last Saturday with the Suffolk County, New York, police.
Petito’s parents delivered a letter through their attorney Thursday to Laundrie’s parents, asking them to help investigators locate Petito, despite their instincts to protect their son.
Bertolino, Laundrie’s attorney, said Laundrie’s family awaited Petito’s safe return, but asked them not to speak to investigators.
“We are still trying to pin down geographic areas,” Garrison said recently. “We are analyzing a lot of information. Our goal is to find Gabby. “
In other developments, a Utah sheriff said Friday that detectives have determined no connection between Petito’s disappearance on the trip and the unsolved murder of two women who were shot to death in a camp near Moab, Utah, the same resort town where Petito and Laundrie had the fight involving police.
The bodies of the two women were found on August 18, six days after the traffic stop involving Laundrie and Petito. The two women, Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Turner, 38, had told friends they feared a “creepy man” they had seen nearby could harm them.
Greater Utah County Sheriff Steven White said without elaborating in a news release that the two cases were unrelated.