Fiancé now person of interest in disappearance of North Port woman

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Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. Credit: Shared with WINK News.

North Port Police Department is considering fiancé Brian Laundrie a person of interest Tuesday in the recent disappearance of 22-year-old Gabby Petito.

Petito has not been seen in weeks, and she was most recently traveling cross country with Laundrie, who returned from the trip without her.

Police have a lot of questions for Laundrie, but he is reportedly not cooperating. Instead, he and his family have hired a lawyer, who said his advice is for Laundrie to stay in the background while the search goes on for Gabby.

Police told us they will consider Laundrie a person of interest in her disappearance until he decides to tell his story.

The two left on a cross-country adventure in July. In late August, only Laundrie returned home to North Port.

We also learned Tuesday, Moab police responded to Petito and Laundrie in August when the couple was in Utah.

“Officers responded to an incident involving Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petitio on August 12, but they weren’t the reporting party,” the Moab sheriff shared in a statement. “Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges.”

Gabby’s dad is trying to think good thoughts.

“It’s heart-wrenching because you want to believe that everything is good,” father Joseph Petito said.

Joseph believes his daughter was last seen in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety & Security Specialist, says Laundrie’s silence can lead to speculation.

“The police need cooperation. They need information,” Kolko said. “These two are traveling together. He comes back from this trip. She’s not with him. First thing he does is hire a lawyer…”

Police confirm the van she and her fiancé traveled in made it back to the neighborhood they lived in.

“Right now, technically, we’re not even sure we have a crime,” said Joshua Taylor, public information officer for the City of North Port. “What we have is a missing person.”

Police took the van, and along with the FBI, are processing it for any clues. Police confirm Laundrie is not talking and not cooperating with the search for Gabby.

“I would say that he’s a person of interest at this point,” Taylor explained. “Again, just because we need to talk to him. We need to rule that out or move forward.”

Kolko said law enforcement is doing everything to find those answers.

“They will look for surveillance video at the places they went, and at some point, it’s going to go from two people on surveillance video to just one,” Kolko said. “And that’s going to be a critical point of interest for the police.”

We spoke to Laundrie’s parents, who provided us with a phone number for their family attorney. Attorney Steve Bertolino responded to us in a statement.

“It is our understanding that there is a search either at the moment, or commencing shortly out in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming,” Bertolino shared in a statement. “And on behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that Ms. Petito is located, and that she’s reunited with her family.”

“We want to find her,” Joseph Petito said. “We want to find her safe, and we want to bring her home.”

Gabby Petito’s family would not answer any questions about their daughter’s fiancé.

Anyone with tips can call North Port Police Department.

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