PUERTO NORTE, Fla. (AP) – Florida police said Friday night that they are working with the FBI to locate 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, a person interested in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito. .
North Port police said in a statement that Laundrie’s family told officers they had not seen him since Tuesday. Police said the Friday night conversation was the first time they spoke with the laundries in detail about the case and that the meeting came at the request of the family. An attorney for the family called FBI investigators and said they wanted to talk about Laundrie’s disappearance, police said.
Laundrie and Petito, 22, set out on a cross-country hike in a converted truck in July to visit national parks in the western United States. His family reported him missing on September 11.
Investigators said Laundrie drove the truck back to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, on September 1. He was later identified as a person of interest in the case.
“It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime,” North Port police said in Friday’s statement. He added that the investigation is now a case of “multiple missing persons.”
An attorney for Brian Laundrie, Steven Bertolino, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press late Friday.
The Petito family’s attorney issued a statement saying “Brian is not missing.”
“The entire Gabby family wants the world to know that Brian is not missing, but in hiding. Gabby is absent, “said the statement from the law firm of Richard B. Stafford.
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 got into a small fight that started when he got into the truck with dirty feet and said he did not want to file 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 on Friday came shortly after North Port Chief Todd 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 truck 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 had sent 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.
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.