LATEST DEVELOPMENTS (9/18/2021): Rangers Combing Wyoming Wilderness For Gabby Petito, Fiancé Brian Laundrie’s Whereabouts Remain Unknown
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Nearly a week has passed since Gabby Petito’s family reported her missing, but her whereabouts remained a mystery Friday, and now her fiancé’s whereabouts are also unknown.READ MORE: Roads Flood, Rivers Overflow As Nor'easter Dumps Heavy Rain On New Jersey
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports, police were seen at the family home of Brian Laundrie in North Port, Florida, on Friday, and then later searching a car in the driveway. They say the family reached out to them.
North Port Police are currently speaking with the Laundrie Family at their request. At this time, we are not speaking with Brian. More details when available.
— North Port Police (@NorthPortPolice) September 17, 2021
“They called us there this evening. Once we got there, they are now claiming they have not seen their son since Tuesday,” North Port, Florida, Police public information officer Josh Taylor said.
The family’s attorney released the following statement Friday evening:
“Be advised that the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie are currently unknown. The FBI is currently at the Laundrie residence removing property to assist in locating Brian. As of now the FBI is now looking for both Gabby and Brian.“
So far, police say they want to know from the family what Brian Laundrie told them.
“You know, Gabby lived in that house, too, here in North Port, so I mean, if Brian returned without Gabby, you would think people would be asking, ‘Where’s Gabby at?'” said North Port, Florida Police Chief Todd Garrison. “I’m a reasonable person, but I would believe that, yes, they do know something.”
— Carolyn Gusoff (@GusoffTV) September 18, 2021
Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, said he was taken off-guard by the news.
“We’re happy that they called the police in and they want to cooperate, but until I hear something official from the law enforcement, I’m not going to speculate. I don’t know what to believe,” he said.
The video came from Utah police officers who questioned the couple.
Watch Carolyn Gusoff’s Report
Petito seemed distraught in the body cam video from Aug. 12, about two weeks before her last call to family, CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported.
“We’ve been fighting this morning, some personal issues,” Petito told an officer, in stark contrast to the smiles she was posting on social media during her cross-country road trip since early July.
Petito and Laundrie were pulled over by police in Moab, Utah after a witness saw them fighting.
“He wouldn’t let me in the car before,” Petito said.
“Why wouldn’t he let you in the car? Because of your OCD?” the officer asked.
“He told me I needed to calm down, but I am perfectly calm, I’m calm all the time and, he really stresses me out,” Petito said.
While Petito sat in the back of a police cruiser, Laundrie spoke with officers nearby.
“So you pushed her and she hit you?” an officer asked him.
“She was, I wasn’t, I wasn’t. It wasn’t like a push and she jumped on me… She was already, she was already, I don’t know, swinging man and I just pushed her,” Laundrie said.
Neither was charged with a crime, but they were separated for the night.READ MORE: Candidate Conversations: Eric Adams
Laundrie and his family have remained silent on Petito’s disappearance, despite pleas from her family and as many others come forward with tips aimed as getting Gabby home alive, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Friday.
“It’s awful to watch. I just want to take my daughter and save her and hug her and protect her. She looked horrified,” Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said while watching the police video.
Laundrie, who returned home to Florida alone, is a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance. He’s refused to talk to police on advice from his family’s lawyer.
“Two people went on a trip, one person returned. And that person that returned isn’t providing us any information,” Garrison said.
Petito’s parents called the Laundrie family’s silence reprehensible.
“This type of behavior is just, it’s cruel, it’s heartless,” said Joseph Petito, Gabby’s father.
Only Laundrie’s sister has spoken publicly.
“She’s like a sister and my children love her, and all I want is for her to come home safe, and found and this to be just a big misunderstanding,” said Cassie Laundrie.
“It’s ridiculous, to be honest,” Nichole Schmidt said. “If you loved her that much, like a sister like you say, why are you not begging your brother to talk?”
Police said they’re frustrated by Laundrie’s silence, but that he’s exercising his constitutional right.
Law enforcement in Utah initially said they were investigating any possible link between Petito’s disappearance and the murders of two women in Moab in August. Friday evening, the Grand County sheriff’s office said they had determined the double homicide was not related to the Petito investigation.
Meantime, tips are pouring in from a nationwide appeal. A TikTok user claimed she picked up Laundrie, alone, in Grand Teton National Park on Aug. 29.
“That van made it across this country. It certainly didn’t do it on one tank of gas. There were people that saw this van,” Taylor said.
Legal expert Bruce Barket said an attorney typically advises a client to stay silent if their story will implicate them or needs vetting.
“His silence is destroying his public image,” Barket said.
Eventually, law enforcement may find a way to force him to talk, Barket said. But any statements made by Laundrie may not be used against him.
“He can be put in front of a grand jury, he can be forced to answer questions. If he doesn’t answer those questions, he’ll be held in contempt and incarcerated until he does,” said Barket.
Meantime, Petito’s hometown community in Blue Point, New York is rallying around her family.
“The fire department is bringing food, taking care of the food, making sure that they have enough. People are taking care of the kids and we’re also raising money,” said Jennifer McNamara, a family friend. “I think everyone is hopeful we are going to bring her home.”
A Friday night vigil was planned in North Port, Florida, where Petito moved to.MORE NEWS: Storm Topples Large Tree Onto Car In Jackson Heights, Queens; Hollis Residents Remain Mindful Of Prior Storm Devastation
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu and Carolyn Gusoff contributed to this report. Editor’s note: This story was first published Sept. 17.