The FBI searched the family home of Gabby Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, in Florida for hours Monday, a day after investigators across the country found what they believe to be her remains.
In the morning, FBI investigators searched Laundrie’s parents’ home in North Port as part of a “court-authorized search warrant” related to the Petito case. His parents were escorted from the home before the search and then were brought back inside for questioning, police said.
Agents removed a number of items from the home, and a Ford Mustang convertible was also towed away.
The FBI tweeted Monday evening that the search was finished but the investigation is ongoing.
Meanwhile, investigators are still searching for Laundrie, who returned to the Florida home without Petito earlier this month, declined to talk to investigators and then went missing last week. The search for him had centered on a nearby nature reserve, but investigators shifted their focus after they “exhausted all avenues in searching the grounds there,” North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said Monday.
On Sunday, human remains that officials believe to be of Petito’s were found in an undeveloped camping area in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday to confirm the identity.
Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, had road tripping in a white van from New York through the American West this summer, all while regularly posting photos and stories to their social media pages with the hashtag #vanlife.
Those posts abruptly stopped in late August, though. Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida, with their van but without Petito on September 1, according to police. Petito’s family, unable to get in touch with her, reported her missing on September 11.
In the days since, her story has become a national obsession for many, spurring digital detectives to comb through the couple’s online trail to try to solve the case. The story has also further highlighted the tens of thousands of missing persons stories that do not garner such intense interest; there were nearly 90,000 active missing person cases as of the end of 2020, according to the National Crime Information Center.
More details about an incident involving the couple emerged Monday when authorities in Utah released a recording of a 911 call where a man described a woman being slapped.
In the audio provided to CNN by the Grand County Sherriff’s Office in Utah, a caller to 911 tells an operator he wants to report a domestic dispute and describes a white van with a Florida license plate.
“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller says. “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.”
Police later stopped the couple.
‘She touched the world,’ father says
Pathologists will do a full forensic examination of the remains found Sunday to confirm the identity, said Charles Jones, FBI Denver’s supervisory senior resident agent in Wyoming. Authorities also need to identify the cause of death, he said.
Even so, Petito’s family has been notified of the discovery. Her father, Joseph Petito, tweeted a picture of her Sunday evening, saying, “She touched the world.” Richard Stafford, an attorney representing Joseph Petito and her mother, Nichole Schmidt, issued a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WABC asking that the family be given space.
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino called the news “heartbreaking,” adding: “The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.”
Laundrie’s sister also issued a statement to ABC News praising Petito for her relationship with Laundrie’s nephews.
“Gabby was a fun and loving influence to ‘the boys’ as she always referred to them. We will cherish the time we spent with her,” Cassie Laundrie said in the statement.
The search for Laundrie
Laundrie, meanwhile, avoided authorities after returning home to Florida and has now gone missing.
Police visited the Laundrie family home after Petito was reported missing, but Laundrie’s family refused to talk and instead gave authorities their attorney’s information, police said last week.
Their home was searched Friday evening after Laundrie’s family told police they had not seen him for days. He left home with his backpack Tuesday and told them he was going to a local nature reserve, Taylor, the police spokesperson, said Saturday.
Over the weekend, federal and local authorities conducted their search for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, police said. The search was suspended Sunday evening and there was “nothing to report,” North Port Police said on Twitter.
The search effort included the use of drones and bloodhounds who used articles of Laundrie’s clothing taken from his home to get his scent, Taylor said in a news conference at the scene of the search Saturday. Police initially focused their search on a nearby park which spans about 200 acres before expanding to the rest of the reserve.
Laundrie is not wanted for a crime, officials have said. Still, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson said that could soon change as the investigation continues.
“One thing for sure: they’re focused on him, looking for him, and when they do find him, I expect he’ll