A week after frantic search efforts began for 22-year-old “van-life” YouTuber Gabby Petito, the one person thought to hold all the answers has also disappeared.
A lawyer for Petito’s boyfriend (and supposed fiancé) Brian Laundrie, said that Laundrie had also vanished. When police entered Laundrie’s parents’ home late Friday, his family told officers they had not seen him since Tuesday—and now the FBI is hunting for him.
Police in North Port, Florida, who are now under fire for having a single person of interest go missing, issued a statement defending themselves.
“We understand the community’s frustration. We are frustrated too,” the department said in a tweet. “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 a multiple missing persons investigation.”
Steven Bertolino, Laundrie’s attorney, said Friday night that the FBI was at the family home removing items to help in the search for him.
Petito’s family issued a withering statement through their lawyer, Richard Stafford: “All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing.”
Petito was reported missing by her parents on Sept. 11 after they learned she didn’t come back to Florida. Her mom, Nichole Schmidt, has said she last received a text from Petito’s phone on Aug. 30.
Police had reportedly believed that Laundrie was inside his family home nearly all week, until they entered Friday and learned from his parents that he was not there.
The latest twist in the saga came after bodycam footage surfaced from the aftermath of what police called a “domestic” altercation between the couple on Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah.
In a police report released Wednesday for the Aug. 12 incident in Utah, officers said Gabby Petito had moved to slap Laundrie after an argument. Police described him as the victim in the incident, which they said resembled an emotional or mental health “break.” No charges were filed, according to police documents obtained by The Daily Beast.
Laundrie’s sister said it wasn’t uncommon for her brother and his fiancée to fight and then take a break from each other.
“It was typical of both of them, whenever they would fight, they would take a little break and come back and be fine—because that’s what you do in a couple,” Cassie Laundrie said during an ABC News interview that aired Friday on “Good Morning America.”
“He’s been there every time Gabby’s needed him,” she said.
Cassie Laundrie said that while she’s been cooperating with investigators to find Petito, she hasn’t spoken with her brother since he returned to Florida on Sept. 1.
“I haven’t been able to talk to him,” she said. “I wish I could talk to him.”
In a NewsNation Now interview, Gabby’s father, Joe Petito, accused the Laundrie family of ignoring their cries for help.
“If that’s that family’s version of love, to just ignore and not care that someone’s gone and people are looking for them and an entire country’s looking for them, I mean, that explains how we got to where we are today. Because I mean, look at their version of what they call love,” he said.
In a letter, Petito’s family implored Laundrie’s parents to tell them “where Brian left Gabby.”
Stafford, the lawyer for Petito’s parents and stepparents, said the family is “devastated.”
“They’re at the point that desperation has turned to anger,” Stafford said during a news conference Thursday. “They know that the Laundries know where their daughter is, and they will not tell them. That’s infuriating.”
Cassie Laundrie insisted that she shared the hopes of Petito’s family that Gabby would be brought safely back home.
“Obviously, me and my family want Gabby to be found safe,” she said. “She’s like a sister and my children love her, and all I want is for her to come home safe and sound and for this to just be a big misunderstanding.”