gabby petito

FBI Obtains Phone, Video of Campgrounds Laundries Visited Days Before Petito Missing Report

Brian Laundrie and his parents did go for an overnight camping trip at Florida's Fort De Soto Park in early September, but all three of them left the grounds together, the family's lawyer says

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What to Know

  • The FBI's prime person of interest in Gabby Petito's disappearance, her fiance Brian Laundrie, has been missing for more than two weeks
  • The 23-year-old vanished after allegedly telling his family he was going for a hike in a Florida nature preserve on Sept. 14
  • His parents recently released a statement saying that they did not help Brian leave their home or avoid arrest, calling such rumors they had any involvement in his disappearance "just wrong"

A Florida county sheriff's office has turned surveillance video of a campground Gabby Petito's fiancé, Brian Laundrie, and his parents visited overnight in early September to FBI agents investigating the young woman's death and disappearance, local officials confirm.

They didn't say what it showed, and the footage has not been released to the public.

The Laundrie family attorney, Steve Bertolino, confirmed the trio went to Fort De Soto Park, about a 64-mile drive from the vast nature reserve where the FBI and local law enforcement have been looking for Laundrie since he vanished 15 days ago, from Sept. 6 to Sept. 7. Bertolino says all three left the camp together.

However, Pinellas County records indicated that the family actually left on Sept. 8.

On Thursday, Bertolino also confirmed a new phone purchase on Sept. 4, shortly before the family went to Fort De Soto Park. The lawyer says Brian Laundrie opened an AT&T account for that phone but left it at home the day he supposedly went for that Carlton Reserve hike and never returned.

The FBI is also now in possession of that phone, Bertolino confirmed. He also said that the FBI went to the family's home on Thursday to collect more items belonging to Laundrie in order to help with their search for him.

The family's departure from the park was six days after Brian Laundrie returned to his Florida home alone in the white van he and Petito had taken on their cross-country road trip and a week before he disappeared.

That overnight camping trip was also four days before Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, reported her missing on Sept. 11, though investigators have said the young woman's cellphone had been turned off since about Aug. 27.

North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor clarified that officers were not at the Laundrie's home on Sept. 10, or any time before Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11.

"The first time the home was visited was the 11th. There are some redacted records floating around which appears to make it look like we visited the home (before then). That is wrong," Taylor said. "The home was discussed over the phone with Gabby's family and documented. We were all working to begin the process of a missing person report."

Police said that Petito's family had called "looking for info on reporting someone missing," and were unsure of her status but growing concerned. The Florida police told the family that she couldn't be reported missing there, as the state law requires individuals be reported missing from where their last known location was.

Protesters picketed outside the home of Brian Laundrie's parents as the search for him continues in Gabby Petito's disappearance. Samantha Serbin reports.

Bertolino's brief comment came a day after he said Laundrie's' parents described any rumor that they helped their son get out of the house or evade arrest as "just wrong," amid mounting, and thus far unfounded, speculation about their potential involvement in Brian Laundrie's vanishing act.

The message was aimed at crowds that once again lined up outside the family's home in North Port, using a bullhorn to voice their frustration with the family, implying that the parents know more than what they are letting on. Police have said that Laundrie's parents are still not cooperating with the investigation.

An attorney for the Petito family said as much at a Long Island press conference Tuesday, where they launched a new foundation to help families with missing children as they continue the insurmountable task of grieving their own loss.

"The Laundries did not help us find Gabby. They're sure as not gonna help us find Brian," family attorney Richard Stafford said. "For Brian, we're asking you to turn yourself in to the FBI or the nearest law enforcement agency."

Petito's remains were found earlier this month in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, where she and Laundrie visited. They were discovered more than a week after her mother first reported her missing and days after Laundrie went off the grid.

The young woman's death has been ruled a homicide, meaning she was killed by another person, but medical examiners in Wyoming haven’t disclosed how she died pending further autopsy results. As of the latest update, Petito's remains were still with the county coroner's office hundreds of miles away from her hometown.

Her family said Tuesday they would retrieve Petito's remains as soon as the coroner's office and the FBI are ready to release them. It's not clear when that'll be.

Laundrie is the FBI's prime person of interest in Petito's disappearance, officials have said, but he has not been charged with crimes relating to it at this point.

Last week, federal officials charged Laundrie with a single count of unauthorized debit card use, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make non-permitted withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000. Officials have said they now believe those transactions were likely made during a time period after Petito was already dead.

They have not said whose debit card Laundrie is accused of using illegally.

That outstanding arrest warrant, while not connecting Laundrie to Petito's death, gives law enforcement the grounds to at least hold Laundrie if they find him.

Officials urged anyone with information on Laundrie -- whether about his current whereabouts or any potential involvement in Petito's death -- to contact the FBI. With online sleuths and theories multiplying by the day, the FBI and police have been deluged with tips about possible Laundrie sightings from as far off as Canada.

None have panned out so far.

Relevant information may be submitted to the FBI here or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or 303-629-7171. Photos & videos may be uploaded to:      

The search for Brian Laundrie, the fiance and person of interest in the death of Gabby Petito, is intensifying. Sarah Wallace reports.
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