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Brian Laundrie's parents don't know where he is, family attorney says

Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito in a photo

Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito in a photo released by North Port, Florida, Police Department. Credit: North Port Police Department

The attorney for Brian Laundrie, the 23-year-old man named a "person of interest" in the homicide of his fiancee, Blue Point native Gabrielle Petito, on Monday denied his parents know the whereabouts of their son, who is wanted on a federal arrest warrant.

"Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is," said Steven Bertolino, the East Islip-based attorney for Laundrie and his parents. "They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him."

Bertolino said the Laundries, of North Port, Florida, told police when they reported their son missing on Sept. 17 that he drove himself in his silver Ford Mustang convertible to the nearby Carlton Reserve, where he planned to go hiking. Bertolino added that their son, who has been the subject of extensive search efforts by law enforcement, left his wallet and cellphone at home.

What to know

  • Brian Laundrie’s parents say through family attorney they don't know where their son is.

  • The FBI is leading a "scaled-back" search of a vast Florida reserve for Laundrie.

  • The Petito and Schmidt family will be holding a news conference in Bohemia Tuesday afternoon.

"The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong," Bertolino added.

Richard Stafford, the Bohemia attorney for Petito's family, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Bertolino's statement. But Stafford announced the family's plans to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

The Laundrie attorney spoke out as North Port police said the FBI is now leading a "scaled-back" search of a vast Florida reserve for Laundrie.

Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the North Port police, said the search efforts at the Carlton Reserve will continue but be more targeted.

"I don’t think you’re going to see those large-scale types of efforts this week," Taylor said. "The FBI is now leading the search. I’m told it will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence. Hopefully, water will lower in areas hard to currently access."

The FBI field office in Denver, which is leading the investigation into Petito's homicide, has declined to answer reporters' questions.

Police in Florida last week had conducted extensive searches of the 25,000-acre reserve, using drones, K-9s and police dive teams in an effort to locate Laundrie, who is wanted by federal authorities on an arrest warrant for credit card fraud allegedly committed after Petito's homicide.

The body of Petito, 22, was found Sept. 19 at the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Her family reported her missing after she ceased communicating with them while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 people gathered in honor of Petito at a Holbrook funeral home to remember someone they described as an adventurous young woman with an affinity for travel.

The couple documented their trip on social media with smiling photos and videos of the couple against scenic backdrops. But the constant travel in Petito's white van had caused an "emotional strain" between the couple, according to police in Utah who investigated a physical altercation between Petito and Laundrie on Aug. 12.

Police pulled over Petito's van near Arches National Park in response to a 911 call reporting a man slapping a woman. No charges were filed and the two were told to spend the night apart.

Laundrie returned to their Florida home on Sept. 1 and refused to talk to police about Petito's whereabouts.

The FBI on Sunday retrieved some of Laundrie's personal items from the Laundrie home, which Bertolino confirmed were to assist the FBI with DNA analysis.

Authorities have not publicly released Petito's cause of death.

Also on Sunday, the Laundrie's parents called 911 when reality television personality Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman knocked on the door of their home, North Port police said Monday.

"Yes they called. The Dog left. Nothing more," said Taylor, the North Port police spokesman, in an email.

North Port officials denied a public records request for a recording of the 911 call, saying it was related to an active and open case.

Asked for comment, the Laundrie family lawyer said by text message: "It's not worth your time or mine."

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