NORTH PORT, Fla. — FBI agents and police Monday swarmed the home of the boyfriend wanted for questioning in the disappearance of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, whose body was apparently discovered over the weekend at a Wyoming national park months after the couple set out in a van on a cross-country trek.
The FBI’s Tampa office said in a tweet that it was serving a search warrant, and local media reported that 23-year-old Brian Laundrie’s parents were seen getting into a police vehicle outside the home. Agents would not comment further.
Video showed at least a dozen law enforcement officers pulling up to the Laundries’ house in North Port and rushing in. Later, a police officer could be seen taking a stack of cardboard boxes inside. Brian Laundrie and Petito had been living with his parents before making the trek on which she died.
Petito and Laundrie hit the road in July in a converted van to visit national parks in the West. They got into a fight along the way, and Laundrie was alone when he returned in the van to his parents’ home on Sept. 1, police said.
Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case, but his whereabouts in recent days were unknown.
In Wyoming, the FBI announced on Sunday that agents had discovered a body while searching campsites on the edge of Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited. No details on the cause of death were released. An autopsy was set for Tuesday.
“Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified,” FBI agent Charles Jones said. “This is an incredibly difficult time for (Petito’s) family and friends.”
Petito’s father, Joseph, posted on social media an image of a broken heart above a picture of his daughter, with the message: “She touched the world.”
An attorney who has been acting as a spokesman for Petito’s family asked in a statement that the family be given room to grieve.
Jones said investigators were seeking information from anyone who may have seen Petito or Laundrie around Grand Teton.
A weekend search of a Florida nature preserve failed to find Laundrie, North Port police said. They said in a statement that they “exhausted all avenues in searching the grounds” of the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County.
Investigators had focused intently on the area after Laundrie’s parents told police he may have gone there.
Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts who met while growing up on New York’s Long Island. His parents later moved to North Port, about 35 miles south of Sarasota.
Police video released by the Moab, Utah, department showed that an officer pulled the couple’s van over on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park. The body-camera footage showed an upset Petito.
Laundrie said on the video that the couple had gotten into a scuffle after he climbed into the van with dirty feet. He said he did not want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the aggressor.
Moab police separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the van.
Story by Curt Anderson, Associated Press