Earlier this week, authorities issued a federal arrest warrant for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, whose whereabouts have become the subject of an intense search following the death of his fiancée, Gabby Petito.
The couple had been documenting their seemingly idyllic travels and “van life” on a cross-country trip over the summer. But more than two months ahead of their planned arrival in Portland, Ore., Laundrie returned to his family home in Florida on Sept. 1 without 22-year-old Petito.
The case quickly garnered national attention and brought scrutiny to several broader issues, including how law enforcement handles cases involving domestic violence and the role the media plays in covering the stories of certain victims — namely young, white women.
Petito’s body was discovered in Wyoming last Sunday after a high-profile search. Now, another search is underway for Laundrie, who has been at-large for nearly two weeks. He has reportedly not been seen by his family since he first disappeared — although unconfirmed reports of Laundrie being sighted in public have cropped up. Here is what we know about the ongoing case.
When was Laundrie first reported missing?
After communications with their daughter abruptly stopped in late August, the parents of Petito grew concerned. They filed a missing person report with police on Sept. 11 in Suffolk County, N.Y., where the couple is from. Laundrie refused to cooperate with authorities on the advice of legal counsel shortly thereafter.
It was only days later that Laundrie told his parents he was going on a hike in the Carlton Reserve, a roughly 25,000-acre nature reserve near their home in North Port, Fla. He left home alone on Sept. 14 with his backpack, but reportedly without either his cell phone or wallet.
Why was a federal arrest warrant issued for Laundrie?
Laundrie was indicted by a federal grand jury in Wyoming Wednesday, but the charges weren’t directly related to Petito’s death.
Rather, the indictment alleges Laundrie used “one or more unauthorized devices,” including a debit card and personal identification numbers, to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges amounting to more than $1,000 during the time Petito had been missing — specifically between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.
“While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide,” FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in the release. “We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI.”
Laundrie had been named a person of interest in the case prior to Petito’s body being found in an undeveloped camping area over the weekend, but he had not been formally charged for any wrongdoing.
The FBI also asked anyone who used the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between Aug. 27 through Aug. 30, those who may have had contact with Petito or Laundrie, or individuals who may have seen their vehicle, to contact authorities.
The Grand County, Utah, Sheriff’s Office released a 911 recording that included a caller reporting a fight between “a couple with a white van that had a Florida license plate,” according to audio obtained by the Washington Post.
“We drove by them, and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller reportedly said. “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.” That caller has not been identified.
Where is the search for Laundrie taking place?
Investigators are currently searching the Carlton Reserve for Laundrie, where he had told his parents he was going hiking last week. The approximately 25,000-acre wetlands habitat is located in Sarasota County. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said earlier in the week that he had “all state agencies” under his purview to “assist in the effort.”
A North Port police spokesman said about 75 personnel from 16 agencies were searching the area on Thursday. An underwater diver team reportedly arrived at the reserve the day before. But on Thursday the nearly weeklong search for Laundrie was narrowed, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
“We’ve partnered with other law enforcement agencies in our region,” North Port Police Commander Joe Fussell said in a video released by the agency Thursday. “We’ve teamed up, we’ve broke them into different groups to do a line search and a grid search throughout a specific area in the Carlton Reserve.”
Authorities have used drones, boats, ATVs, and UTVs during their search efforts while navigating the rough terrain of the swampland.
“Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently (waist) deep in water in many areas,” police said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails.”
Federal authorities also searched his family home in North Port on Monday. His parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, were filmed by local news outlets as they were escorted out of their house for a brief period of time. Investigators then brought the couple back inside for questioning.
WABC reported that a Florida court had issued a warrant for Laundrie’s computer and external storage.