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‘He’s in Hiding’: Family of Missing 22-Year-Old Gabby Petito Calls Out Fiancé; Search for Brian Laundrie Underway in Florida Wildlife Preserve

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito appear in an image released by the North Port, Fla. Police Department.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito appear in an image released by the North Port, Fla. Police Department.

State and federal law enforcement authorities are currently searching for Brian Laundrie, the fiancé of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito, after his family told authorities Friday evening that they have not seen him since Tuesday. However, Petito’s family called out the 23-year-old Laundrie — who police say is a “person of interest” in his fiancée’s disappearance — claiming he’s “in hiding” rather than missing.

“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding,” the Petito family told CNN through attorney Richard Stafford.

“Gabby is missing,” he added.

Gabby’s family reported her disappearance on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her for several days. She and Laundrie left from their hometown on Long Island on a cross country road trip on July 2. Laundrie returned home on Sept. 1 in the van the two took to destinations in Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Montana, and more, but he was no longer with Petito, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Though Laundrie and Petito grew up on Long Island, Laundrie moved with his parents to Florida, and Petito moved to join him.

The North Port, Fla. Police Department expressed frustration with Laundrie’s family, noting that they had refused to speak with investigators until Friday evening when they told police they wanted to report that Brian was missing.

“We understand the community’s frustration, we are frustrated too. For six days, the North Port Police Department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian’s Fiancé [sic] Gabby Petito. Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail,” the department said in a statement posted to Twitter. “It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, his is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing person investigation.”

Laundrie has revealed nothing publicly and his attorney recommended that he not speak with law enforcement.

“We’ve been trying all week to talk to his family, to talk to Brian, and now they’ve called us here on Friday, we’ve gone to the home, and they’re saying now they have not seen their son,” North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor told CNN. “So we are working through those details as we speak. It is another twist in this story.”

Petito’s disappearance garnered national attention after authorities in Moab, Utah released body camera footage showing the two in the immediate aftermath of a suspected domestic incident on Aug. 12.

Police said a witness in Utah claimed to see Petito striking Laundrie. Cops ultimately determined based on their statements that she hit her boyfriend and that he grabbed her face.

Bodycam video showed that the couple spoke separately to officers who responded to the scene. Neither requested the other be arrested. The police recommended that the two separate for the night.

Petito said the dispute resulted from Laundrie’s refusal to allow her to enter the van they were driving and from Laundrie telling her she needed to calm down. Petito described having OCD, said Laundrie stressed her out, and indicated that she became frustrated. She said she apologized for being mean to him.

Laundrie said that Petito gets worked up sometimes and that when she does, he tries to distance himself from her. He said they had been having relationship problems he described as minor.

“I didn’t get overtly physical,” Laundrie said on the recording. “I’m just trying to keep her away and not get hit.”

On Saturday morning, the North Port Police said search efforts for Laundrie were focused on a nearly 25,000-acre wildlife preserve in Sarasota County, Fla., known as the Carlton Reserve.

The FBI’s Denver field office tweeted Saturday afternoon that “ground surveys” for Petito were underway in portions of the Grand Teton National Park in neighboring Wyoming.

Aaron Keller contributed to this report.

[Editor’s note: this report has been updated to include additional information Saturday afternoon.]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.