On September 22, 2021, the U.S. District Court of Wyoming issued a federal arrest warrant for Brian Christopher Laundrie pursuant to a Federal Grand Jury indictment related to Mr. Laundrie’s activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito. pic.twitter.com/SSrBVbAeBs
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 23, 2021
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Our earlier story follows below.
Search teams planned to return for a fifth day at a enormous Florida wilderness park to look for the boyfriend of Gabby Petito, the young woman who authorities say was killed while on a cross-country trip with him.
Petito, 22, was reported missing on Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the associate visited parks in the West.
Her body was discovered Sunday at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A coroner ruled her death a homicide, meaning her death was caused by another person, but did not disclose how she was killed pending further autopsy results.
Boyfriend Brian Laundrie has been named by police as a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance and has not been seen since Tuesday, Sept. 14, according to law enforcement officials.
WATCH | Gabby Petito Special: Tragic cross-country adventure
associate reportedly involved in ‘commotion’ at Wyoming restaurant
A associate from Louisiana who were vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming, last month said Wednesday they saw an incident involving Petito and Laundrie in a restaurant in one of the last sightings of Petito before her death.
Nina Angelo told CNN on Wednesday that she and her boyfriend, Matt England, saw a “commotion” as Petito and Laundrie were leaving The Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant on Aug. 27.
Angelo said Petito was in tears and Laundrie was visibly angry, going into and out of the restaurant several times, continuing to show anger toward the staff around the hostess stand.
The couples’ waitress was also visibly shaken by the incident, according to Angelo, who told CNN she did not see any violence or physical altercation between Petito and Laundrie.
A manager at The Merry Piglets told CNN that she did see “an incident” at the restaurant and called the FBI on Wednesday. The manager declined to give CNN her name or describe what happened and said the restaurant did not have surveillance video of the incident.
When asked by CNN whether they had received a tip about Petito and Laundrie’s presence at The Merry Piglets, an FBI spokesperson responded, “To protect privacy, we do not comment on contacts that FBI has or has not had with any individuals.”
– By Madeline Holcombe, Eric Levenson, Amanda Watts, Randi Kaye and Kari Pricher, CNN
Underwater team joins the search
Meanwhile, divers joined in the search for 23-year-old Laundrie that’s centered around his family home in North Port, Florida,
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that it sent members of their Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force to the 24,000-acre Carlton save, where the search for Laundrie is focused. Investigators say his parents told them he had gone there after returning home without Petito on Sept. 1, already though he returned with her white Ford Transit van.
We continue to respond to requests for mutual aid from nearby law enforcement agencies & federal partners. To confirm, yes, members of our Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force have responded to Carlton save. This in addition to our Emergency Response Team, Air-1 & patrol. pic.twitter.com/LcagDcofLL
— SarasotaSheriff (@SarasotaSheriff) September 22, 2021
The sheriff’s office, one of multiple law enforcement agencies involved in the search, did not elaborate on why the team was needed at the search site.
The outdoors search includes thousands of acres of forbidding, swampy subtropical ground replete with alligators, snakes, bobcats, coyotes, turkey, deer and many other wild creatures. There are more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of hiking and horseback riding trails, plus numerous camping areas and rivers.
Laundrie has been named by police as a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance last week and had refused to speak to the police before he was reported missing.
Laundrie neighbor recalls seeing Brian after his return
A neighbor of the Laundrie’s in North Port, Florida, said she saw Brian Laundrie after his return home.
Karyn Aberts told our sister stop WABC-TV that she saw him walking with his parents but thought nothing of it. She described the Petito case as “very surreal.”
2nd observe corroborates domestic argument between associate in Utah
The Moab, Utah, police department has released a report from a second observe claiming he saw Petito and Laundrie engaged in a domestic argument in Moab on Aug. 12.
The observe told police he observed a man and a woman, later identified Petito and Laundrie, arguing over a cellphone about 4:30 in the afternoon outside a grocery store in Moab, according to a statement from police.
“They were talking aggressively @ each other & something seemed off. At one point they were sort of fighting over a phone — I think the male took the female’s phone. It appeared that he didn’t want her in the white van. He got into the driver’s seat & she followed him. At one point she was punching him in the arm and/or confront & trying to get into the van,” the observe wrote in the police report.
The observe, according to the statement, said the woman ultimately climbed over the driver to get into the passenger seat and that she was overheard saying, “Why do you have to be so average”?
“I wasn’t sure how serious this was — it was hard to tell if it was sort of play fighting, but from my point of view something definitely didn’t seem right. It was as if this guy was trying to leave her, and maybe take her phone? Not sure but wanted to help out,” the observe wrote.
Around the same time, a 911 caller told a Grand County, Utah, Sheriff’s Office dispatcher that he witnessed Laundrie allegedly “slapping” Petito and chasing her up and down a sidewalk hitting her, according to a recording released by the sheriff’s office.
– By Bill Hutchinson and Ivan Pereira, ABC News
Man seen on video in Panhandle was not Laundrie
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has positively identified the individual whose image was captured on a deer trail camera near Baker and shared on social media, sparking nationwide speculation that it was Laundrie.
The OCSO has confirmed the man is an Okaloosa County resident who acknowledged he was the one walking on the deer trail carrying his backpack. Several OCSO deputies familiar with the individual noticed the resemblance to the photo of the person spotted on the deer trail, in addition as the presence of a neck tattoo.
The private citizen was located and a positive identification has been made.
During its search and investigation, the OCSO found no indications that Brian Laundrie is, or was, in Okaloosa County.
Why isn’t there an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie?
Police have not issued an arrest warrant for Laudrie, and ABC News Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams said there’s a reason for that.
“They want to find him. Period. They are now devoting all of their resources as if there was an arrest warrant out for him. But there’s nevertheless not officially an arrest warrant,” Abrams said.
“Why not?” George Stephanopoulos asked on “Good Morning America” Thursday.
“I think that they want to gather all of the evidence so that they don’t get accused in a trial later of making mistakes,” Abrams said.
A warrant also potentially affects Laundrie’s parents, who reported him missing in a swampy preserve area near their North Port, Florida, last week. On Monday, the FBI went to Laundrie’s parents’ home in North Port and removed several boxes and towed away a car that neighbors said Laundrie’s mother typically used.
“Suddenly, if he’s a fugitive from justice, right now he’s just a person of interest. That just method they want to find him, right? The minute that arrest warrant comes down, then anyone who harbors him, anyone who helps him evade justice, now they’re committing a crime,” Abrams said. “And that’s the legal line that has to be crossed. That the minute that warrant is issued, now you assist, you help, you’re harboring a fugitive.”
“If the parents sent the investigators off into the wrong direction, that’s a problem?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Absolutely … If that park was a false flag, if truly there was not a car there, and that’s not where they found it, and it was all made up, the parents absolutely could be in legal trouble for that,” Abrams said
Growing memorial for Petito’s hometown
Neighbors draped teal ribbons around the Petito family home in Blue Point, New York, a show of sustain to remember and pay tribute to Gabby’s memory.
In Wyoming, passersby set up a makeshift cross with river rocks from the slowly disappearing Spread Creek. The location is where Petito’s remains are believed to have been found.
An attorney for the Petito family released a statement promising a statement from the family when “Gabby comes home.”
RELATED | Gabby Petito disappearance timeline: What we know so far
The FBI said investigators are nevertheless seeking information from anyone who may have seen the associate around Grand Teton.
ALSO READ: ABC Exclusive: complete interview with Brian Laundrie’s sister on Gabby Petito
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