Brian Laundrie, who is sought for questioning after returning home from a road trip without his missing girlfriend, has released a statement.
The Florida man sought for questioning in the mysterious disappearance of Gabby Petito broke his silence on Wednesday (AEST), saying it’s “an extremely difficult time” for both families.
Gabby Petito, 22, was last known to be in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park in late August after embarking on the tour with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, the month before.
Police have tried to speak to Laundrie after Petito disappeared under “odd” circumstances during their cross-country trip — but the man’s parents refused to allow them, according to a report.
Instead Laundrie released a short statement, per ABC News.
“I understand that a search has been organised for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming,” Laundrie said in the statement.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family.
“On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Laundrie retained a lawyer and has refused to co-operate with police since returning to his North Port home on Friday without Petito, 22, with whom he had been on a cross-country trip.
Authorities have reportedly said the vehicle the couple was travelling in — a white 2012 Ford Transit van with Florida plates — was recovered late Saturday and forensic experts are searching it for clues, the Daily Mail reported.
“We have the vehicle, we took it away very late Saturday night into Sunday,” North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor told the news outlet.
“We take it, we process it for evidence — fingerprints, any evidentiary value that we think is possible. We are continuing to try to piece the things together. The situation is obviously very fluid,” added Taylor, who confirmed that Laundrie has not talked with investigators yet.
“We have not talked with him, we would love to talk to him. He is under no obligation to talk to us — and he has not. And we don’t even know yet if a crime happened,” the spokesman told the outlet.
Taylor said police went to the home of Laundrie’s parents, who “did not want to make him available”.
In a statement, police said: “We currently have no definitive information that a crime took place here in North Port. With that said, the circumstances are odd.
“The vehicle she was travelling in was located here in North Port. So, we are actively gathering local details and any evidence to assist in finding needed answers. If you know anything about this case, please contact us at 941-429-7382,” police added.
This week Laundrie’s parents also turned away cops at the home, while police were spotted leaving a pink envelope at the home Tuesday.
“We talked to the parents, who did not make him available,” North Port city spokesman Josh Taylor told The New York Post.
On Tuesday, his mum and dad were seen returning to the Wabasso Ave house — still refusing to speak about the case.
North Port cops are working with Suffolk County police on the missing person case and have about a dozen detectives working for “anything that might give us clues,” the Sun North Port newspaper reported.
“Anywhere USA is what we’re working on,” Taylor told the outlet.
In a text message to The Post on Tuesday, Petito’s father, Joe, said that authorities were combing through data as part of their search for his daughter.
“I was told a lot of great work was done yesterday by the FBI, but they’re still going through a lot of data,” he said. “Everyone has been amazing in helping to try to find Gabby.”
Petito, originally from Long Island, left on the trip with Laundrie in July and was last heard from late last month — before Laundrie returned home in the van the two were travelling in.
Gabby’s family said they became concerned about Petito’s whereabouts after several days passed since she last contacted her mother on August 25.
She was reported missing Saturday to authorities in Suffolk County, New York, where her family still lives, and North Port police are assisting with the investigation.
“We’re hopeful that she’s out there somewhere, sometimes people just don’t want to communicate so that’s certainly still a viable option but we have to prepare for something more sinister,” Taylor told news station Fox 13.
Petito’s family on Monday declined to comment on her relationship with Laundrie.
“I want to keep the focus on finding [Gabby],” her father Joe told The Post amid questions about what happened to his daughter. “[Laundrie] doesn’t matter. The van [they were in] doesn’t matter.”
Nicole Schmidt, Petito’s distraught mother, on Monday told reporters she was convinced her daughter will come back home.
“I believe a mother’s instinct is the most powerful,” she said during a press conference at her attorney’s office. “I believe she’s going to come home.”
Schmidt said Laundrie and her daughter attended high school together and later “rekindled” their relationship — and had been living together in Florida for 2 1/2 years.
She would not confirm reports that the two were engaged.
“As a mom, I had concerns about a daughter going on a road trip in general, but I felt safe, they were together,” she said. “They had a plan, an itinerary, and we were excited for them. Everyone wanted to be doing what they were doing.”
Petito’s dad, Joe Petito, also sent his daughter a personal message.
“Gabby, we just want you to come home,” he said. “Call us. Let us know you’re OK. Come home, please.”
— New York Post