National

Mystery persists as Gabby Petito fiancé’s family comes forward

The police want to question Brian Laundrie after his fiancée, Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito, disappeared on a cross-country trip. Laundrie’s sister said she hadn’t heard from him since he returned.

Gabrielle Petito. Petito family via The New York Times


The sister of a Florida man who has declined to speak to investigators after his fiancee was reported missing spoke warmly of her brother in an interview broadcast Friday and said that she, too, was hoping to speak to him.

The man, Brian Laundrie, 23, returned home alone Sept. 1 from a cross-country trip with his fiancee, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, 22. Her parents reported her missing 10 days later.

In an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Laundrie’s sister Cassie Laundrie said she had not spoken to him since he returned to his home in North Port, Florida, near Fort Myers.

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“I wish I could talk to him,” she said. “I’ve cooperated every way that I can. I wish I had information, or I would give more.”

Cassie Laundrie said her brother is the type of person who does the right thing for his family and Petito.

“He’s a wonderful uncle,” she said. “He’s always been there when I need him. He’s been there every time Gabby has needed him.”

Cassie Laundrie became the first member of Brian Laundrie’s family to speak publicly about the case, when portions of the interview were released Thursday night.

“Obviously, me and my family want Gabby to be found safe,” Cassie Laundrie told ABC. “She’s like a sister, and my children love her, and all I want is for her to come home safe and sound, and this to be just a big misunderstanding.”

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Through a lawyer, Brian Laundrie has declined to speak with investigators, police said. He has not been arrested or declared a suspect in the case; police have described him only as a person of interest, a vague term often used by law enforcement agencies to identify a person they believe may have been involved in a crime.

A lawyer for the Laundrie family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Todd Garrison, chief of the North Port police department, said Thursday that Petito’s disappearance was being treated as a “missing persons” case.

Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the department, said police had no reason to arrest Brian Laundrie, who returned to Florida in the van, which was registered to Petito and has not been reported stolen.

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“The reality of that situation is that it was a common-use vehicle between the two of them,” Taylor said. The state law does not allow police to arrest Brian Laundrie any more than it allows for the arrest of a teenager found driving his or her parents’ car, he said.

Taylor said that “law enforcement has touched base with a sister” of Brian Laundrie. “It is my understanding that nothing of substance has been shared,” he said. “Brian has still not spoken to us.”

FBI agents, National Park rangers and police in at least two states have been searching for Petito, since her parents reported her missing Sept. 11.

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Her father, Joseph Petito, said in an interview released Friday by North Port police that family members had gone to Wyoming because it was “the last known place that we have.”

“We’ve got to start somewhere,” he said. “There’s 2,500 miles between Wyoming and Florida, so if we start now it’s less we have to do when we pinpoint a better location. That’s how we look at it. What if we get lucky, and we don’t need Brian anymore, and we find her right now?”

Gabrielle Petito left with Brian Laundrie in July in a white Ford van outfitted for a cross-country adventure, according to police.

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Speaking to reporters in Florida on Thursday, Joseph Petito called on Brian Laundrie’s parents to speak with police and said he remained determined to find her alive. “What I need from everybody here is help,” he said.

In the video police released Friday, Joseph Petito called on people who know Brian Laundrie’s parents to put pressure on them to say something.

“I’ll let the courts and, you know, society judge them. I already did my judgment; it’s not going to change. So now I’m focusing on what matters,” he said. “I just hope people pay attention. I hope people look.”

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The case has drawn widespread attention, as reporters have gathered outside Brian Laundrie’s house and members of the public have scoured the couple’s Instagram accounts, which depicted a seemingly carefree, nomadic “Van Life” in the American West.

Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie left New York on July 2 for what was supposed to be a four-month cross-country trip visiting national parks, said Gabrielle Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt.

Brian Laundrie posted on Instagram that they were “downsizing our life into this itty bitty van.” Gabrielle Petito posted that converting a Ford Transit into a camper was “an adventure in itself.” The van was decorated with plants and outfitted with a bed, tiny bookcases and a small wooden counter to prepare food.

On Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah, Brian Laundrie had “some sort of argument” with Gabrielle Petito and told her to take a walk and calm down, according to Moab police, who responded to a report of a “domestic problem.”

Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito both told police that they were in love and engaged to be married and “desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime.”

Brian Laundrie told one officer that “issues between the two had been building over the last few days,” a police report said.

Gabrielle Petito cried during the encounter with police and said she suffered from anxiety, according to body camera footage of the episode. In the police report, Gabrielle Petito is recorded saying she moved to slap Brian Laundrie because she feared that he “was going to leave her in Moab without a ride.”

Both told police that the episode should be classified as a “mental/emotional health ‘break,’” rather than as a domestic assault.

Cassie Laundrie said a police body camera recording showing the encounter was a familiar scene.

“It looked typical of both of them,” she told ABC. “Whenever they fight, they would take a little break and come back and be fine, because that’s what you do in a couple.”

In the report, police described Brian Laundrie as the victim of the incident. They arranged for him to stay in a hotel that night while Gabrielle Petito kept the van. No charges were filed, the report states.

On Instagram, Gabrielle Petito kept a personal blog of their journeys. In many of the posts published before her disappearance, she was photographed smiling and posing against backdrops of nature.

Gabrielle Petito, the oldest of six siblings, had been working as a pharmacy technician to save money for the trip. She met Brian Laundrie at Bayport-Blue Point High School on Long Island, New York, Schmidt said. They began dating after graduation and moved two years ago to Florida, he said.

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