Brian Laundrie search: Gabby Petito's fugitive fiance 'likely fled Florida with help', missing persons experts say

THE manhunt for Gabby Petito’s fugitive fiancé Brian Laundrie in a massive Florida wildlife reserve has dragged on for weeks "without a trace" leading a former FBI agent to suspect he likely fled the state and has help.

The 23-year-old has remained in the wind for more than three weeks since law enforcement launched a search to nab him after his parents reported him missing.


"It seems unlikely that he's still in that reserve,” Bryanna Fox, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida and former FBI agent told NBC News.

She points to the lengthy time and lack of any reported clues to the wanted man’s whereabouts as authorities continue staging search parties at the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Venice, Florida that swarming with alligators, poisonous snakes and insects.

“They did not find any trace of him so far,” she said. “It's been weeks.”

Fox suspects it’s highly unlikely that the North Port, Florida native has hitched around or hopped a bus because of the risk of exposure and would be found out. 


She thinks Laundrie may have secured some financial backing from a trusted source to remain on the run this long from law enforcement clutches.

"The idea that nothing has been said reinforces to me that he was likely getting help," Fox said. 

"Obviously, that person would have to be very loyal and very close to him … to not compromise his identity."

Read our Brian Laundrie live blog for the very latest news and updates…


The former FBI agent isn’t convinced Brian could withstand weeks in the unforgiving conditions of the wildlife refuge. 

"These factors that are here in Florida, a subtropical environment, are known to degrade evidence," Fox said. 

"Imagine a massive landscape that's extremely dangerous. 

“There are snakes, gators and animals.”

She also said the weather was far from pleasant. 

“There is rain, torrential downpours that come down out of the blue. 

“It's hot."


Bounty hunters have also joined the search, with Dog the Bounty Hunter trying to find Brian further afield at the much smaller 1,136 acre Fort de Soto island campground.

It’s reported that the Laundrie family stayed at the campsite there on September 6 – days after Brian cut short his trip with Gabby by two months. 

But investigators using drones, hound dogs and all-terrain vehicles continue to utilize time and resources at the Carlton Reserve. 

The reguge was where his parents told police Brian said he was going to hike back on September 13. 

He never returned.

Initially, the Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino stated: “Brian left that phone at home the day he went for a hike in the preserve on September 14, 2021 and the FBI now has that phone.”

This week, that key date was amended to September 13. 

“The Laundries were basing the date Brian left on their recollection of certain events,” Bertolino said.

“Upon further communication with the FBI and confirmation of the Mustang being at the Laundrie residence on Wednesday Sept. 15, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday Sept. 13.“


The pursuit to bring Brian into custody hasn’t waned since a manhunt was launched last month. 

On Thursday, Brian's dad agreed to point out to law enforcement officers his son's favorite trails and hiking spots.

The father spent a little over three hours at the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Venice, Florida.

Brian was named a “person of interest” four days days before his 22-year-old ex-fiancee, Gabby, was found dead in Grand Teton Park in Wyoming. 

The van-life couple cut short their summer transatlantic road trip. 

Gabby was last heard from Aug. 27.

The Teton County coroner and FBI confirmed remains found on September 19 was Gabby. 

The coroner ruled her death a homicide but the cause of death hasn’t been released.

On September 23, the FBI Denver Field Office issued an arrest warrant for Brian. 

He stands accused of using an “unauthorized access device” related to his activities following Gabby’s death. 

The FBI issued an arrest warrant, accusing Brian of swiping a Capital One debit card between August 31 and September 1.

Brian remains at large but there have been a series of alleged sightings in multiple states as well as Mexico, Canada, and some believe he’s hiking the Appalachian Trail. 

So far, the possible leads haven’t panned out.

Brian remains a person of interest in Gabby's homicide but has yet to be officially named a suspect.

Brian Laundrie timeline

Brian Laundrie has not been seen since the morning of September 13. Here is a timeline of Laundrie’s latest whereabouts:

  • July 2021: Brian Laundrie and his fiancé Gabby Petito leave for a grip across the country. The couple visit numerous national parks across the way.
  • August 12: Police in Utah respond to an incident involving the couple. The bodycam footage is not released for another month but it shows a visibly upset Gabby talking to police after reports of a domestic violence incident outside a grocery store.
  • August 24: Gabby is seen leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Laundrie.
  • September 1: Laundrie returns to his home in North Port, Florida without Gabby.
  • September 6: Laundrie joins his family on a camping trip about 75 miles from their home in North Port.
  • September 11: Gabby's family reports her missing.
  • September 13: Laundrie leaves home to go hiking in Carlton Reserve, Florida. His family had initially said he departed on September 14, but revised their timeline weeks later.
  • September 15: Laundrie is named a person of interest in the case of Gabby.
  • September 16: Bodycam footage is released regarding the incident between Gabby and Laundrie.
  • September 19: The FBI announces a body found at a Wyoming national park is believed to be that of Gabby's.
  • September 23: The FBI issued a warrant for Laundrie's arrest claiming he "used unauthorized debit cards after Gabby Petito's death."
  • September 26: A funeral is held for Gabby in New York.
  • September 27: Dog the Bounty Hunter announces he will lend a hand and help search for Laundrie.
  • September 28: Gabby's family held an emotional press conference as the search for Laundrie continued.
  • October 5: Laundrie's sister, Cassie, appeared on Good Morning America and urged her brother to come forward.
  • October 7: Laundrie's father, Chris Laundrie, assisted law enforcement in the search to find his son.

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