TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities searching for a North Port woman who went missing on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé have named her partner as a person of interest in the case.
The North Port Police Department, now the lead agency investigating the disappearance of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, confirmed Brian Laundrie was a person of interest in the case in a statement issued Wednesday.
“We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out,” said North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison.
Petito was last known to be in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. She is described as about 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds with blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos. One tattoo on her forearm says “let it be.”
Her family told police the couple set off on a cross-country van trip in July. According to a Facebook page dedicated to the search, the couple traveled through Colorado and Utah, visiting Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Arches national parks before visiting Moab.
The Moab City Police Department in Utah told News Nation they responded to an incident involving Petito and her fiancé on Aug. 12, but neither Petito nor her fiancé had reported the incident.
“Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” the department said, but did not disclose any further details. News Channel 8 has reached out to the department for more information.
Petito was last seen checking out of a hotel in Salt Lake City on Aug. 24. Her family said they last heard from her during the last week of August.
North Port Police Department spokesman Josh Taylor said police found the van they were traveling in at Laundrie’s parents home, where both Laundrie and Petito reside, and processed it for evidence with the FBI. Police have not obtained a warrant to search the family’s home, according to Taylor.
“We went to the door Saturday night, we asked to speak with Brian and his family and we were essentially handed the information for their attorney, and that is the extent of our conversation with them,” Taylor said. “We have had some conversations with his attorney, but certainly nothing to the level of providing us with the details we would like.”
“[He] is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. [He] is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida,” Petito’s family said in a statement Tuesday. “These are critical questions that require immediate answers.”
An attorney for Laundrie’s family released a statement Tuesday saying they would be “remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
“I don’t know about you but their child is home,” Gabby’s father Joseph Petito said during an interview with 8 On Your Side. “My child is somewhere in the continental United States with no phone, no car. It’s not as hard on them as it is on us.”
“He needs to talk to us. We need to know exactly where he was, where she was. Their last locations. The fact that he was back here for ten days. Again, the family reported her missing ten days later,” Taylor said.
The FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips about Petito’s disappearance. Those with information are being asked to call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).
This story is developing and will be updated.