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Officials return to search for Brian Laundrie in Florida reserve

Body camera footage from the Moab City, Utah

Body camera footage from the Moab City, Utah Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to police officers. Credit: Moab City Police Department

Police dogs trained to find human remains returned Thursday to a Florida wildlife reserve to search for Brian Laundrie, a month after the disappearance of the man named a "person of interest" in the strangulation homicide of his former fiancee, Gabrielle Petito.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office dispatched one of its K-9 units to the reserve in the search for Laundrie, who the FBI has labeled a "person of interest" in Petito's homicide. The dogs have participated in the search previously.

"The Pasco Sheriff’s office is one of the only agencies within Florida that has human remains detection K-9’s embedded within our agency; Most of the others are volunteers," said Amanda Hunter, the public information manager for the sheriff’s office. "We were requested by North Port PD and the FBI to assist. This is not the first time we’ve been down there."

Laundrie, 23, has been the subject of several searches of the sprawling Carlton Reserve since after he went missing on Sept. 13 during the police investigation into the then-missing Petito’s whereabouts. Laundrie is wanted on a federal arrest warrant for bank card fraud that allegedly took place after Petito's homicide.

Petito, 22, and Laundrie — graduates of Bayport-Blue Point High School — had left Long Island in July on a cross-country road trip in her white van. On Aug. 12, the couple had a physical altercation that was investigated by police in Utah, but no charges were filed.

Petito stopped communicating with her parents in late August and was reported missing Sept. 11. Laundrie had returned home alone to Florida 10 days earlier and refused to speak to authorities about Petito. Her body was found Sept. 19 in a Wyoming national forest.

Dr. Brent Blue, the Teton County, Wyoming, coroner, announced Tuesday that Petito died as a result of manual strangulation about three to four weeks before her body was found. Blue said her remains were released to a local mortuary in conjunction with her family.

Laundrie’s parents told authorities their son went hiking at the reserve near their home but never returned. The family had initially said he left on Sept. 14, but later clarified through their attorney that he actually left a day earlier, on Sept. 13.

Steven Bertolino, the Laundrie attorney, had no comment on Thursday’s search.

Last week, Laundrie's father, Chris Laundrie, accompanied police into the reserve to show investigators the trails where his son was known to hike.

North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor said by email Thursday: "Since the FBI is the lead, we will not be providing daily updates and details on the search. If and when something of substance is found, we will be a part of that conversation at that time."

The FBI has declined to comment on the case, citing the active investigation.

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