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Search for Brian Laundrie resumes in Florida reserve a day after authorities called it off

Despite having said Monday that investigators had “exhausted all avenues'' in the county park near Sarasota, North Port police on Tuesday announced they would return to the Carlton Reserve to look for Laundrie.
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A week after Brian Laundrie, the man named a person of interest in the disappearance of his fiancée, Gabby Petito, apparently vanished, police in Florida said Tuesday they will once again look for him in the 25,000-acre wildlife refuge where he reportedly went hiking before he disappeared.

The North Port Police Department said it returned to the Carlton Reserve to look for Laundrie, 23, despite having said Monday that investigators had “exhausted all avenues'' in the county park near Sarasota.

The department reported "nothing of note" after Tuesday's search, but said a similar search would occur Wednesday. Authorities had said that they planned to focus on a specific part of the reserve and adjoining lands. It's not clear what made officials return to the area.

"Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently waist-deep in water in many areas. This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails," North Port police said in a statement earlier Tuesday.

Laundrie’s parents told authorities that he went to that reserve last Tuesday, which was the last day they saw him, according to Steven Bertolino, an attorney for the family.

The FBI on Monday searched the Florida home where Laundrie and Petito were living with his parents.

The agency said it was "executing a court-authorized search warrant today at the Laundrie residence in North Port, FL relevant to the Gabrielle 'Gabby' Petito investigation," and later tweeted that it was concluded. No further details were released.

During the search Monday, Bertolino said he would hold a press conference Tuesday on behalf of the Laundrie family but later canceled it. “As per my conversation with the FBI this evening, there will be no press conference tomorrow," he said.

Laundrie last week was named a person of interest in connection with his fiancée's disappearance, but police emphasized Friday that he was not wanted for a crime.

Remains found Sunday in Wyoming were confirmed Tuesday to be those of Petito and the coroner's initial determination for manner of death is homicide, the FBI in Denver said. The cause of death is pending further autopsy results.

The remains were found at a campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest, near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the FBI has said.

Petito and Laundrie began a cross-country tour of national parks in July, documenting their journey on YouTube and Instagram using the hashtag #VanLife. Laundrie returned home to North Port, south of Tampa, in the couple's van Sept. 1 — 10 days before Petito's family reported her missing, police have said.

Petito’s mom, Nicole Schmidt, said she last heard from her daughter at the end of August. Petito's last text read: "No service in Yosemite." It is unclear whether Petito sent that text message.

A search warrant affidavit filed in Florida last week noted that Schmidt received another “odd text” Aug. 27 from Petito’s cellphone.

The text read, "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls," according to the affidavit, which noted that Stan is the name of Petito’s grandfather. Schmidt, however, told police she never called him Stan.

“The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter,” according to the affidavit. “This was the last communication anyone had with the subject. Her cellphone was no longer operational, and she stopped posting anything on social media about their trip. Per her family, this was not normal behavior for the subject, and they became more worried about her."

The affidavit also revealed that investigators discovered a hard drive inside the couple's van on the day Laundrie vanished. The affidavit referenced concerns for Petito's mental health.

"Based on the totality of the circumstances related to the subject's mental health, I believe there is probable cause to believe the subject is unable to care for herself due to her increased anxiety. Due to this behavior, our concerns for her welfare have reached an exigent level," the affidavit noted. "Her cellphone has been turned off for approximately 15 days and there have been no sightings of her since August 27th, 2021."

On Monday, the Grand County Sheriff's Office in Utah released 911 audio from a witness who said he saw a man slap a female and then saw a white Ford Transit van bearing a Florida license plate drive away.

The 911 call led Moab police to stop the van Aug. 12.

The witness told the dispatcher that he’d like to report a “domestic dispute.”

“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the witness said. “... And then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk, he proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and then drove off.”

Moab police said they responded to a "domestic problem" between Petito and Laundrie that afternoon.

The alleged dispute happened as Petito and Laundrie were driving toward Arches National Park, according to a police report.

The report indicated officers on scene had viewed Petito as the aggressor.