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Brian Laundrie flew to Florida after Utah fight with Gabby Petito, his LI-based attorney says

Body camera footage from the Moab City Police

Body camera footage from the Moab City Police Department shows Brian Laundrie.  Credit: Moab City Police Department

Brian Laundrie, the FBI’s "person of interest" in the homicide of his then-fiancee Gabrielle Petito, went missing a day earlier than previously reported and flew home to Florida five days after the couple got into a physical altercation in Utah while on a cross-country road trip in August, Laundrie’s attorney revealed Tuesday.

Laundrie, who is wanted by the FBI for alleged credit card fraud, took a commercial airline flight on Aug. 17 from Salt Lake City to Tampa, said Laundrie attorney Steven Bertolino. Laundrie took a return flight to Salt Lake City on Aug. 23 "to rejoin Gabby," Bertolino said.

"Brian flew home to obtain some items and empty and close the storage unit to save money as they contemplated extending the road trip," Bertolino said by text message Tuesday, adding that "to my knowledge, Brian and Gabby paid for the flights as they were sharing expenses."

The major updates to the timeline in the case — including the revelation that Laundrie had been missing for four days before his parents reported him missing — came as Petito's parents spoke about losing her in a nationally syndicated talk show interview.

Petito's mother recalled getting a call from her husband, Jim Schmidt, who had gone to Wyoming to search for Petito, that their daughter's body had been found, in an interview that aired Tuesday on the "Dr. Phil" show. Petito was initially identified by a distinctive sweatshirt she was wearing.

"He said they found remains and we knew it was Gabby even though we were hoping it wasn't," said Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt. "It was the hardest thing I ever had to listen to, but I knew she was gone. As a mom, I knew she was gone."

Petito and Laundrie, who were on the cross-country camping trip in Petito's white van, were the subject of a police investigation by Moab City, Utah, police after they got a 911 call reporting a man slapping a woman on Aug. 12.

Petito told police that she struck Laundrie first and he grabbed her face, leaving a cut from his fingernail on her cheek.

"He, like, grabbed my face … he, like, grabbed me, like with his nail, and I guess that’s why I definitely have a cut right here because I can feel it," Petito said, according to police body camera footage of the interaction. "When I touch it, it burns."

Police labeled Petito as the "aggressor" but didn’t file charges.

Laundrie, who returned home to North Port, Florida, alone in Petito’s van on Sept. 1, was reported missing by his parents Sept. 17 after refusing to talk to police looking for Petito.

Police and Bertolino had previously said Laundrie left home on Sept. 14 in his silver Ford Mustang to go hiking in a local reserve, but on Tuesday said Laundrie left a day earlier.

"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, September 15, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13."

Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 at the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Petito, whose manner of death was ruled homicide, was reported missing on Sept. 11 after she ceased communication with her family in late August.

In the "Dr. Phil" interview, Petito's father also detailed how he and Nichole Schmidt called and texted Laundrie's mother, Roberta Laundrie, after not hearing from their daughter.

"I'm going to call the police, just letting you know," Joe Petito said he wrote to Roberta Laundrie. "No response. A normal parent, when you text someone that you're going to call the cops because you can't find your child, they would reply."

The family said they believe Laundrie is now purposely evading law enforcement and possibly using his survivalist skills to hide in the wilderness.

Richard Stafford, a lawyer for the Petito family, also accused Laundrie of stealing Petito's debit card, saying, "He ran, he stole her credit card, he used her credit card to get home and then ran from police."

Also Tuesday, Laundrie's sister Cassie Laundrie appeared on "Good Morning America."

"I worry about him," she said of her brother. "I hope he’s OK. And then I’m angry and I don’t know what to think. I would tell my brother to just come forward and get us out of this horrible mess."

Bertolino declined to comment on the television interviews.

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