Gabby Petito disappearance: Boyfriend 'refusing to tell Gabby's family where he last saw her'
NORTH PORT, Fla. - Legal representatives for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of a North Port woman who went missing while the couple was in the middle of a cross-country trip, said he and his family are "remaining in the background" while searches get underway near the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito and Laundrie – who police have not identified in relation to the case, but legal representatives for his family identified Tuesday afternoon – were driving a converted camper van from Florida to New York and then to national parks out west when Gabrielle went missing.
North Port police joined the investigation, assisting agencies across multiple states to find out what happened to her now that her boyfriend and the van were located Saturday at his North Port family home.
Screenshot from Youtube video of Gabrielle and her boyfriend during roadtrip (Nomadic Statik/Youtube)
North Port police confirmed Tuesday morning that Gabby's boyfriend was not cooperating with the investigation and did not identify him by name. FOX 13 News has confirmed his identity through a press release from Steven P. Bertolino, P.C., of Bertolino Law in Long Island, New York.
Previous coverage: Search continues for missing 22-year-old
The statement says the Laundrie family hopes the search for Gabby is "successful."
"This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family. On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."
Petito's family responded, calling for Laundrie to tell them where he last saw Gabby.
"The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives. Their beautiful twenty-two year old daughter is missing and the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help," the statement says, in part.
"Brian [Laundrie] is refusing to tell Gabby's family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers.
"The Schmidt and Petito family beg the Laundrie family to not ‘remain in the background’ but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located?
"The Schmidt and Petito family implore Brian to come forward and at least tell us if we are looking in the right area."
Meanwhile, investigators in Sarasota County have been searching the van for clues into Gabrielle's disappearance, but there are no obvious signs of foul play inside.
"The concern is already there. There is enough information there that we are concerned for her health and well-being," said Josh Taylor, with the North Port Police Department. "The investigation will evolve when we have more details and evidence. I’m confident that will happen."
Agencies from Sarasota County to New York to the FBI are now trying to piece together where she might have gone.
Gabrielle and her boyfriend began their trip in July, driving from Florida to New York, where Petito grew up. The couple then drove west, stopping at national parks along the way.
A little more than a month into their trip, on September 11, Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, reported her daughter missing. Schmidt said the last time she talked to her daughter was August 25.
Previous coverage: Van located at boyfriend's parents' home
Nicole said her daughter and boyfriend's road trip was supposed to end in Portland next month, but along the way, she seemed to have disappeared. They chronicled their travels on several social media accounts throughout July and August. Then, the posts stopped and so did the calls home.
At first, they figured she was out of cellphone range, but after several days passed, Gabby's family became worried. On Saturday, they officially reported her missing.
Her last post on social media was August 25. That's also the last day her mother said she heard from her. She said the two spoke over Facetime. Gabby told her they were in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and planned to visit Yellowstone National Park next, but it's unclear if she ever made it.
Map of possible route traveled by Gabby and Brian (WNYW)
Her mom said the two normally spoke at least three times a week. She's pleading for help in finding her daughter.
Gabrielle is described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall and has blonde hair and blue eyes. She has a triangle tattoo with flowers on her left arm and a "Let It Be" tattoo on her right arm.
Her family is asking for people to help look for her, Her mom said she could be stranded in the wilderness. They're hoping more people will share her story and picture to get the word out.
Social media trail
The couple documented some of their travels on social media. On July 4, Gabrielle posted a photo of herself on Instagram, standing in between two rock formations in Monument Rocks, Kansas.
On July 11, Gabrielle posted a photo of herself in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Eleven days later, she posted a photo of herself in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park.
According to her Instagram posts, Gabrielle and her boyfriend spent several weeks in Utah, visiting Mystic Hot Springs, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. One post describes the dangers of rock climbing and their experience climbing a less-traveled, treacherous area.
"We walked just a little past the arch where the rock is at such an angle, it appears impossible to walk on, but being such experienced hikers, I had confidence that I could make it!" the post read, in part. "Many people who spotted us were contemplating how we made it here, shouting things like ‘wow you guys must be crazy!’"
Gabrielle's most recent Instagram post was made on August 25. The photos appear to be taken in front of a mural called "The Monarch" in Ogden, Utah.
In a 7-minute Youtube video titled "VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey," posted August 19 on the account Nomadic Statik, the couple can be seen in various, unmarked locations, seeming to enjoy their life on the road.
Parts of the video feature them both, while other parts only show Gabrielle. The video is the only post visible on the Nomadic Statik Youtube channel.
Mother pleads for answers
According to Fox News, who spoke to Gabrielle’s mother, the couple stopped in Grand Teton National Park on Aug. 25, which is Petito's last known location before the pair planned to visit Yellowstone National Park.
"I don't know if she left Grand Teton or not," Schmidt told Fox News on Sunday. "I did receive a text from her on the 27th and the 30th, but I don't know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn't verbally speak to her."
Gabrielle's mother, Nicole Schmidt breaks down during press conference about her missing daughter
"I can’t say much, but she’s no longer with the van," Schmidt told Fox News of her daughter. "I don’t want to say anything more than that but for people looking for her, I want them to look for her now, not look for that van anymore."
According to police in North Port, the van was found at the home of Gabrielle's boyfriend's parents.
In a statement, North Port PD said, "We currently have no definitive information that a crime took place here in North Port. With that said, the circumstances are odd. The vehicle she was traveling in was located here in North Port. So, we are actively gathering local details and any evidence to assist in finding needed answers."
Screenshot from Youtube video of van driven by Gabrielle and her boyfriend (Nomadic Statik/Youtube)
North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor said they are not ruling anything out, including that Gabrielle may not want to be found.
"We're hopeful that she's out there somewhere. People just sometimes don't want to communicate so that's certainly still a viable option," Taylor said. "But we have to prepare for something maybe more sinister."
Detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department in New York, Petito's hometown, are leading the investigation into her disappearance. Anyone who has a tip about the case to submit to the Suffolk County Police Department may do so by calling 1-800-220-8477.
North Port PD says anyone who might have information about the case is asked to 941-429-7382.
The FBI Tampa Field Office is also assisting the investigation. You can also call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit tips to tips.fbi.gov.
Petito is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and has blonde hair and blue eyes. She has a triangle tattoo with flowers on her left arm and a "Let it be" tattoo on her right arm.
A family friend has started a GoFundMe to raise money to help in the search for Gabrielle Petito. The page calls her disappearance suspicious.