The search for Brian Laundrie has yet to reach a successful conclusion despite the fact it has become arguably one of the most publicized in recent memory.
Laundrie, a 23-year-old from Florida, is the only person of interest following the murder of his fiancé Gabby Petito, 22.
The couple embarked on a cross-country road trip in a van earlier this year, only for Laundrie to return home alone in early September. After 13 days without hearing from their daughter, Petito’s parents filed a missing persons report – Gabby’s remains were then found in the Bridger-Teton National Park in Wyoming.
A coroner’s report listed the young woman’s manner of death as homicide, though the specific events surrounding her demise remain a mystery.
Naturally, significant media attention has been placed on Brian Laundrie, who hired a lawyer and refused to talk with police after returning home to Florida.
Perhaps tellingly, the 23-year-old vanished from his parents home just days before Gabby’s body was found. Chris and Roberta Laundrie claimed he had disappeared after telling them he was going hiking – they failed to report their son as missing until four days after he was gone.
A large-scale manhunt was thereafter initiated, with the likes of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh and celebrity bounty hunter Dog the Bounty Hunter pledging to join the authorities in the effort to find Laundrie.
In fact, Dog the Bounty Hunter – real name Duane Chapman – claimed that he alone had gotten over 1,000 tips as to Laundrie’s whereabouts only a day or two after appearing at the home of the young man’s parents to begin his search.
He then said that he would not be sharing said tips with the police, but reaffirmed last week that he feels as though he’s closing in.
On Wednesday, Dog said: “We’re here at the island. This would be and could be the perfect spot for him to hide. Not too many people out here but there’s a lot of environmental things that we’re going to fight.
“So here we go. The search now is really on. The search has just begun.”
Only last weekend did a hiker traversing the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina claim that he was sure he had spoken to Brian Laundrie on Saturday morning.
53-year-old Dennis Davis explained how the two had crossed paths on a deserted road, saying of his encounter: “There is no doubt in my mind I spoke to Brian Laundrie — none whatsoever.
“Dog the Bounty Hunter’s daughter sent me an audio file of Brian’s voice and the voice was the same I heard.”
As per Davis’s account, he was waved down by a man appearing dazed and confused where the Appalachian Trail runs nearby the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.
Said man pulled up his car alongside Davis and asked for directions to California via backroads only. Davis, a father of four, said the man, who matched Laundrie’s physical description, was acting skittish. He is said to have rambled about having had a fight with his girlfriend.
“He said ‘man, I’m lost.’ I said ‘what are you trying to find?’ and he said ‘me and my girlfriend got in a fight but she called me, told me she loves me, and I have to get to California to see her.’
“I said ‘well, I-40 is right there and you could take it west to California’ and he said, ‘I’m just going to take this road into California’,” Davis explained.
“He was worried and not making sense.”
Gabby was last seen alive with Laundrie on August 27, when the couple surfaced at a Wyoming restaurant.
On August 12, however, the couple were pulled over by police following reports of a domestic incident in Utah. Bodycam footage has since been released to the public, during which Petito is painted as the aggressor of the two.
A former Utah Grand County prosecutor, however, accused police of “withholding” footage taken when they responded to the domestic violence call.
Former attorney Happy Morgan has accused the department of a “cover-up” for failing to release footage taken by a second officer, referring to a second video – almost an hour-long – wherein Gabby can be seen admitting that Brian grabbed and hit her, leaving a scratch mark on her face. The second video was released on September 30 after Morgan himself lodged a complaint.
Gabby’s mom, Nicole Schmidt, said of the bodycam footage: “I”m glad we got to see that reality because people aren’t what you see on social media.
“Even though that police video is hard to watch, I think it was a blessing to see that she’s a real human being and she was in pain.
“And I’m glad that she lived a really good life and she died doing what she loved to do. She was out there in nature camping. She lived her dream and I’m glad she got to do that.”
Unfortunately, despite continued media scrutiny on the search and case as a whole, Laundrie remains on the run.
On Wednesday, the family of Gabby Petito pleaded for him to turn himself in during an appearance they made on the Dr. Phil show.
“I want to look him in the eyes,” the Petito’s mom, Nichole Schmidt, said.
Her father, meanwhile, revealed his wishes for Laundrie if and when he is caught.
“I want to see him in a jail cell the rest of his life where — he’s an outdoorsman — being in that concrete cell that he can’t go see those trees and smell the fresh air like that,” Joe Petito said.
As for the ongoing hunt for justice, Joe added that he believed Gabby would be proud of the way her family has come together, quite literally under the same roof.
“She’d be excited that we’re working together,” Joe said. “We’re doing this together. This is what she wants… She always wanted us to live in a big house together, you know what I mean? She loved all of us.”
Petito’s family have also launched the Gabby Petito Foundation in a bid to help other missing persons and assist victims of domestic violence.
“If you gotta hashtag Gabby Petito to bring that story to the top, do it. Do it,” Joe said. “Do it now. There’s no reason not to. We’re not getting her back but maybe you can get someone back, and that would be awesome.
“And then let me know because that would make me feel better that there’s not a meaningless death for Gabby.”
I don’t know about you, but I hope Brian Laundrie is found soon. Each day that passes must be a fresh wave of agony for the family of Gabby Petito.
Our continued thoughts and prayers go out to Gabby’s friends and loved ones. Rest in peace, Gabby, a bright star taken away far too soon.
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