NORTH PORT, Fla. – Friday night, the family attorney for Brian Laundrie, the 23-year-old North Port man considered a “person of interest” in the disappearance of this fiance, Gabby Petito, said his client had been missing since Tuesday. Just after midnight Saturday, the family attorney for Gabrielle Petito says Brian is not missing, rather, he is on the run.
The Laundrie family called police and the FBI to their home Friday night, breaking a week of silence in the case of their soon-to-be daughter-in-law, who went missing during a cross-country trip with their son. After more than two hours inside the home, investigators left, issuing a statement that Brian had not been seen since Tuesday.
Soon after, the Petito family attorney, Rick Stafford issued a statement contradicting reports that Brian was considered missing.
“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. He is on the run. Gabby is the one missing,” the Petito family attorney, Rick Stafford said.
Stafford went further, saying the Laundrie family’s request to have the North Port Police Department help find their son – and not Gabby – was “hypocritical” and “reprehensible.”
“I don’t know how that attorney and his parents look at themselves in the mirror,” Stafford told FOX 13 News’ Evan Axelbank.
After investigators met with the Laundrie family Friday night, the FBI announced it was adding Brian to their search in the missing persons case.
While at the Laundrie home Friday, the FBI and North Port Police said they removed property that may help to locate Brian. North Port police maintained they thought Brian was at the home at the time they went in, however, his family said he left days before.
In a statement from North Port PD regarding Brian’s disappearance, spokesperson Josh Taylor said the department understands the frustrating nature of developments in the case.
“We understand the community’s frustration, we are frustrated too. For six days, the North Port Police Department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian’s fiancée Gabby Petito. Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail. It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working multiple missing person investigations,” Taylor said.
Brian Laundrie is described as a white male, 5’8″ tall and weighing 160 pounds. He has brown eyes, very short brown hair, trimmed facial hair, and was last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap.
Anyone who knows his whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Laundrie and Petito had been on a cross-country trip together in a white camper van. But Laundrie returned home alone to North Port with the van — 10 days before Petito was reported missing by her family, according to the North Port Police Department.
Laundrie has declined to speak with investigators, who had up until this point been communicating through the family’s attorney. The couple’s converted camper van was recovered by North Port police at the home shared by Petito, Laundrie and Laundrie’s parents, authorities said.
A small group of protesters had gathered outside the home Friday evening, shouting “Where’s Gabby” and holding signs demanding Laundrie speak with investigators.
While some officers eventually moved the crowd off the Laundrie property, another group of officers went inside the home. FOX 13’s Evan Axelbank reported they carried paperwork inside and later briefly looked inside one of the cars parked in the driveway.
Weeks before Petito was reported missing, a witness in Moab, Utah called police after seeing Petito and Laundrie in an altercation on Aug. 12. The witness called 911 to report a “possible domestic violence” incident between the couple on a street near the Moonflower Co-op.
“The driver of the van, a male, had some sort of argument with the female, Gabbie [sic],” a responding officer wrote in the report after interviewing Petito, Laundrie and the witness.
“The male tried to create distance by telling Gabbie [sic] to go take a walk to calm down, she didn’t want to be separated from the male, and began slapping him,” the report said. “He grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van, he tried to lock her out and succeeded except for his driver’s door, she opened that and forced her way over him and into the vehicle before it drove off.”
Media on the lawn of the Laundrie home.
The police report and body camera video later released shows responding officers pulled the van over and had an encounter with the couple for over an hour. An emotional Petito sat in the back of a patrol vehicle on the side of the road and Laundrie remained outside their camper van as law enforcement officials sorted out what transpired.
While the report and video show possible mental health concerns and tension between the two, officers ultimately determined the events did not add up to chargeable crimes. They also took steps to separate the pair for an evening in an effort to prevent escalation.
An officer enters the Laundrie home in North Port.