Fiance’s family speaks to police as search for Gabby Petito continues

Fiance’s family speaks to police as search for Gabby Petito continues

Police on Friday spoke to the family of the man named as a person of interest in the disappearance of Gabby Petito, officials in Florida said.

Brian Laundrie’s family requested to speak to police at the Florida home they share with their son, who had been traveling cross-country with his fiancee before she was reported missing earlier this month.

“North Port Police are currently speaking with the Laundrie family at their request,” city of North Port, Florida spokesman Joshua Taylor said by email. “At this time, we are not speaking with Brian.”

Laundrie has not spoken on Petito’s disappearance on the advice of the family’s attorney, Steven P. Bertolino, who said police too often focus on the intimate partner.

Two law enforcement officials on Friday searched a Mustang convertible parked in the driveway of the home where Laundrie lives, according to NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa.

The station reported that police entered the home with empty paper bags.

Since the investigation into the disappearance of 22-year-old Petito made international headlines her fiancé and his family had not spoken about the case beyond statements issued through an attorney.

In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday, Cassie Laundrie became the first member of Laundrie’s family to break her silence, saying she has not spoken to her brother and is looking for answers.

“I wish I could talk to him,” Cassie Laundrie said. “I’ve cooperated every way that I can. I wish I had information or I would give more.”

Her brother and Petito began a cross-country tour of national parks in July, documenting their journey on YouTube and Instagram using the hashtag #VanLife. Brian Laundrie and that van, with Florida plates, returned to North Port, south of Tampa, on Sept. 1, 10 days before Petito’s family reported her missing, police said.

Cassie Laundrie called her brother a “wonderful uncle” and a partner who has “been there every time Gabby has needed him,” adding that all she and her family want is for her safe return.

“She’s like a sister, and my children love her, and all I want is for her to come home safe and sound, and this to be just a big misunderstanding,” she said.

North Port police this week called Laundrie a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance and have said he’s been uncooperative in the investigation.

Bertolino did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Authorities across the U.S. are searching for Petito, who hasn’t been heard from since late August when she was believed to be in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming. At least a half-dozen law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are looking into her disappearance.

Petito and Laundrie left Blue Point, New York, on July 2 in a 2012 Ford Transit van, according to her social media posts and her mother’s statements to NBC affiliate KSL.

On Aug. 12, police in Moab, Utah, responded to an alleged physical altercation between the two.

In body camera footage released by Moab police Thursday, Petito could be seen wiping away tears as she told the responding officer she was struggling with her mental health.

Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie.via Instagram

“I’m sorry,” Petito said after the officer asked her why she was crying. “We’ve just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues.”

Brian Laundrie added: “It was a long day. We were camping yesterday.”

In the nearly hourlong video, the couple admitted to arguing all morning. When the officer asked Brian Laundrie about scratches on his face, he responded: “She had her phone and was trying to get the keys from me. I said, ‘Let’s just step back and breathe,’ and she got me with her phone.”

Cassie Laundrie told ABC that the body camera footage was “typical of both of them.”

“Whenever they fight, they would take a little break and come back and be fine because that’s what you do in a couple,” she said.

One officer wrote that Petito had slapped Brian Laundrie after an argument, at which point Laundrie allegedly attempted to lock her out of the van. She forced her way back in before Laundrie drove off, according to the report.

The two told the officer that “they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” according to the report.

The pair was told to separate for the night, with Petito maintaining possession of the van, according to the police report. No charges were filed.

In the days after the Moab incident, Petito’s communications with her family stopped, police have said.

Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, said the couple left Salt Lake City for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming around Aug. 24, which was when she said she last spoke to her daughter on a FaceTime call. She said she received texts sent from her daughter’s phone until Aug. 30, but she wasn’t sure whether her daughter sent them.

Petito’s last text to her mother read: “No service in Yosemite.” It is unclear whether the couple ever made it to the California state park. Petito’s last post on Instagram is dated Aug. 25, with no location specified.

Petito’s family has pleaded with Brian Laundrie to cooperate with authorities to help locate Petito.

“Every day the search for Gabby continues the Schmidt and Petito family becomes more desperate,” Petito’s family’s attorney, Richard Stafford, said this week. “They are frantically searching for answers and information in their daughter’s disappearance while Brian sits in the comfort of his home.”

In an interview with North Port police Friday, Joe Petito, Gabby’s father, told authorities he just wants his daughter home.

“There is one goal and one goal only: Bring Gabby home,” her father said.

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