Search underway at ‘vast’ Florida wildlife reserve for Gabby Petito’s fiancé, police say

Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County nearly 25K acres

Police: person of interest in woman's disappearance now also missing

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. – A search is underway at a Florida wildlife reserve spanning nearly 25,000 acres for Brian Laundrie, the fiancé of missing Gabby Petito, according to the North Port Police Department.

The department tweeted shortly after 10:30 a.m. Saturday that a multi-agency search effort is underway at Carlton Reserve, which is in Sarasota County. According to the reserve’s website, it is 24,565 acres.

“His family says they believe he entered the area earlier this week,” police said in the tweet.

Petito, 22, was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11 after losing contact with her while she was on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie. Laundrie was later named a person of interest in her disappearance.

Laundrie’s family told investigators Friday his whereabouts were unknown and they have not seen him since Tuesday.

“It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing person investigations,” the department wrote on Facebook.

[RELATED: Investigators speak with family of Gabby Petito’s fiancé, man’s whereabouts unknown]

The pair had been documenting their road trip on social media, including on a YouTube channel with a single video uploaded on Aug. 19. Police said the van the two were traveling in was found at her home on Sept. 11, but she was not with the vehicle. According to the department, the home is shared with her boyfriend and his parents.

Camper van located at 22-year-old Gabrielle Petito's home in North Port, Florida. (Image: North Port Police Department) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

The road trip began in Florida and the two were traveling around Utah when they were pulled over by Moab Police Department. The department released body camera video earlier this week shows that an officer pulled over the van on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding and hit a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park.

The body camera video shows Petito visibly upset when an officer approached them. Laundrie says on the video the couple got into a minor scuffle that began when he climbed into the van with dirty feet, and said he didn’t want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the aggressor.

Petito is described as being 5 feet and 5 inches tall and weighing 110 pounds. She has blonde hair, blue eyes and several tattoos, including one on her forearm that reads “let it be.”

Anyone who would like to submit a tip or has seen the camper van pictured above is asked to call the FBI’s national hotline at 1-800-225-5324.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.