Missing Gabby Petito: Police defend approach to questioning Brian Laundrie, who is now also missing

Gabby Petito missing: The search resumes for her fiancé Brian Laundrie

Fox News senior correspondent Laura Ingle reports on the latest.

JACKSON, Wyo. – When Gabby Petito went missing sometime in late August and her fiancé Brian Laundrie allegedly showed up alone at his parents’ home in Florida in her van – refusing to tell police where he last saw her – critics around the country wanted to know why authorities didn’t drag him in for questioning.

“The North Port Police Department has no authority to execute a possible federal search warrant on our own,” department spokesman Josh Taylor told Fox News Digital Sunday. “I don’t see how anyone without all the facts in this case can come up with a reasonable conclusion and opinion on the matter.”

He said investigators have still not established whether a crime even took place – in Florida or out West. And he noted that many details about the case have been kept secret to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

“There is no information that a crime took place here in North Port,” Taylor told Fox News. “That is our jurisdiction.”

North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said during a news conference earlier in the week that Laundrie had a constitutional right to decline to speak with police about the case.

North Port Police hold a press conference on Thursday asking the public to provide any information that might help bring Gabby Petito home safely. (Maciel/BACKGRID)
(Maciel/Backgrid)

Garrison’s investigators for days asked for Laundrie and his attorney to cooperate – only to learn during a visit to his home Friday that his parents hadn’t seen him for three days.

Pat Diaz, a former Miami-Dade homicide detective who played a leading role in cracking parts of the “Cocaine Cowboys,” said that police wouldn’t necessarily have needed to suspect a crime in order to get warrants for a missing person case.

“Why would you [try to] get consent from the guy, and not get a search warrant?” he asked Sunday. “You can get a search warrant for everything in that house, including his laptop.”

He said an examination of Laundrie’s electronics on the day Petito was reported missing could have given investigators an abundance of clues about her whereabouts. Even if Laundrie refused to talk and no crime was suspected.

And he questioned why the local sheriff’s department or state investigators didn’t take over early on.

Now searches for Petito and Laundrie are underway in Wyoming and Florida, respectively – and after Laundrie’s parents reported him missing, an attorney for Petito’s parents sent out a scathing statement.

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

Fox News Digital was barred from entering a road leading to a campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Moose, Wyoming, that the FBI was searching for Petito Sunday. A U.S. Park Ranger was turning vehicles away and declined to comment.

The search for Gabby Petito continued Sunday in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Moose, Wyoming.
(Audrey Conklin/Fox News Digital)

The FBI Denver Field Office confirmed Saturday that the agency, in coordination with the Grand Teton National Park Service, Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson Police Department, were searching areas in nearby Grand Teton National Park.

Taylor said officers were still searching for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve near his parents’ Florida home as well.

North Port police entered the Laundrie home Friday evening. Petito had also lived there before she went missing.

Police were shocked to learn that Brian Laundrie wasn’t there – and his parents told investigators that they hadn’t seen him since Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Laundrie allegedly returned to Florida on Sept. 1 – then said nothing to his would-be in-laws for days. Petito’s mother reported her missing on Sept. 11. She said the two had last spoken on Aug. 25, when Petito said she was headed toward Yellowstone National Park.

That same day, North Port police seized the couple’s van at Laundrie’s home. Investigators have not released details about the results of an FBI forensic examination of the vehicle.

Even without Laundrie’s other devices, experts said it’s possible that the van could have held location data about the road trip and provided clues to Petito’s whereabouts.

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