Brian Laundrie’s reclusive father broke cover Thursday and even cracked a smile – in exclusive photos obtained by DailyMail.com – as he joined federal investigators in their search for his fugitive son in a snake-and-alligator invested Florida preserve.
Christopher Laundrie, 62, seemingly didn’t have a care in the world as he was photographed assisting in the manhunt in the vast 24,565-acre Carlton Reserve, where officers found remnants of a ‘fresh campsite’ Wednesday and believe Laundrie could be hiding.
Christopher left his North Port home and arrived at the park near Venice before 10am, where he waited for officers and park rangers to open the gate so that he could search the wooded area along with the FBI, who have been on the hunt for the prime suspect in Gabby Petito’s death since September 14.
Oddly enough, he was spotted alongside a young officer who resembled Brian and the two shared a laugh as they walked along a trail.
Brian Laundrie’s father Christopher (pictured left alongside FBI officer), 62, joined in the search for his fugitive son on Thursday at Florida’s Carlton Reserve
The Laundrie family’s attorney has said that Christopher will continue to cooperate with law enforcement
Wearing a gray T-shirt, cargo pants and clutching a plastic carrier which appeared to contain documents, or perhaps a map and food, Laundrie spent hours in the park with about five FBI officers and was dripping sweat in the Florida heat.
He took breaks to drink water on the outskirts of the park along the road. A police helicopter was also flying overhead to assist in the search.
Investigators had brought in Christopher to help guide them along the trails Brian was known to frequent.
However, his guidance bore little fruit as officials made ‘no discoveries’ and Christopher returned home, where his wife Roberta, 55, was believed to have been waiting for him.
The couple have barely left their home since their son vanished.
Christopher and about five FBI officers spent hours searching the vast 24,565 acres located in Venice. He was pictured sweating and taking breaks to hydrate throughout the day
Christopher was pictured alongside an FBI officer who resembled his fugitive son, who has been on the run since he was reported missing by his parents on September 14
Earlier in the week officers found remnants of a ‘fresh campsite’ at the Carlton Reserve and have since believed it is where Laundrie is hiding
After spending hours at the reserve and making ‘no discoveries,’ Christopher returned to his North Port home
He returned with dry clothing, suggesting he remained in a vehicle while guiding officers in the swampy land
Meanwhile, an attorney for the family said that Laundrie’s parents believe ‘that is exactly where he is located,’ CNN’s Chris Cuomo reported.
Attorney Steven Bertolino said: ‘There were no discoveries [on Thursday] but the effort was helpful to all. It seems the water in the Preserve is receding and certain areas are more accessible to search.
‘The entire Laundrie family is grateful for the hard work of the dedicated members of law enforcement that have been searching the Preserve for Brian over the last few weeks. Hopefully Brian will be located soon.’
Christopher returned home earlier in the afternoon with dry shoes and clothing, suggesting he remained in a vehicle while guiding officers through the swampy land.
He will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as agents finish investigating the new campsite.
‘Chris Laundrie is assisting Law Enforcement today in the search for Brian,’ the family’s lawyer, Bertolino told DailyMail.com.
‘Chris was asked to point out any favorite trails or spots that Brian may have used in the preserve.
‘Although Chris and Roberta Laundrie provided this information verbally three weeks ago it is now thought that on-site assistance may be better.
‘The preserve has been closed to the public and the Laundries as well but the parents have been cooperating since the search began.’
Christopher’s wife Roberta, 55, was believed to have been waiting for him at the couple’s house. The duo have barely left their home since their son vanished
Christopher was pictured wearing a sweat-soaked grey shirt, cargo pants and a green baseball cap while holding a water bottle
A former FBI agent has claimed that Laundrie is secretly contacting his parents through their family attorney and that he will be found alive – just not soon
The search team on Thursday spent hours combing through the swampy area but made ‘no discoveries’
Chief spokesman of the North Port Police Department Josh Taylor told Fox News that his department did not ask for the father’s involvement
Bertolino told CNN: ”Unfortunately North Port police had to postpone Chris’ involvement but Chris and Roberta are hopeful there will be another opportunity to assist.’
But Josh Taylor, chief spokesman of the North Port Police Department which is assisting the FBI in their search, told Fox News that his department did not ask for Chris’s involvement – and that police did not ‘postpone’ it.
‘In no world would we be the agency asking the family to help search in an FBI led investigation,’ Taylor said, while declining to answer questions about whether North Port police had invited Chris Laundrie to join the search before the FBI took over the case.
North Port police said all questions should be referred to the FBI.
Pat Diaz, a former homicide detective in Miami-Dade who also worked on FBI task forces, said he questioned whether the FBI would bring in a suspect’s father to help with their search.
He said: ‘They may have found stuff in the reserve for the father to identify. Not a body, but belongings.’
It was also revealed that Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just 16 miles from the Carlton Reserve last month
Bertolino later said the request ‘perhaps’ came from ‘a liaison to FBI’, while adding: ‘My statement is correct.’
Former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer told News Nation Now journalist Brian Entin in a Twitter live video that she believes Laundrie will be found alive – just not soon.
She also claimed Laundrie could be ‘loosely’ contacting his parents through their family attorney.
When asked whether she thought Laundrie might still be communicating with his parents, Coffindaffer said: ‘Yes, although very loosely through the attorney.’
It is not known whether Laundrie has spoken to this parents since he was reported missing.
Speaking about why she believes Laundrie will be found alive, Coffindaffer said: ‘I believe he’s going to be able to hide in his surroundings. I think he’s a learned outdoorsman and survivalist and because of that I think he will be able to stay out of law enforcement’s grasp for a while.’
It was also revealed that Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just 16 miles from the Carlton Reserve last month.
A redacted abandoned vehicle report from September 14 reveals that the car was found at 6968 Reisterstown Road, North Port, in the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park in Florida. The park is an entrance to the Carlton Reserve.
An abandoned vehicle notice has been placed on the vehicle on September 14, North Port police said Wednesday.
Christopher Laundrie, father of the missing Brian Laundrie, was spotted leaving his house on Thursday for the first time this week as he joined the hunt for this son
He arrived later in the morning at the Mykkahatchee Creek Environmental Park as he guided law enforcement deeper into the Carlton Reserve where he and police believe his son is located
Christopher’s move to help law enforcement comes after the Laundries had previously distanced themselves from the search
Christopher has agreed to finally aid in the search for his son after police spotted a fresh campsite in the Carlton Reserves, where Brian is suspected to be hiding at
Officials found a fresh campsite at the T. Marbary Jr. Memorial Reservation. Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just at the outskirts of the area last month
He will continue to guide law enforcement through the area as they investigate a newly found campsite in the reserve
Christopher returned home later in the afternoon, about four hours after he joined investigators at the reserve
Laundrie’s family had told police on September 17 they had not seen him for days after he told them he was going to the reserve.
Attorney Bertolino told CNN that after speaking to the FBI: ‘We now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday September 13.’ His parents had originally told police he had left on September 14.
He added: ‘The Laundries were basing the date Brian left on their recollection of certain events.
‘After consulting with the FBI and confirming the day Brian’s Mustang was found and returned to the Laundries’ home, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday September 13.’
The FBI later searched Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang before towing it away for a deeper investigation after executing a search warrant on the home of his parents.
The development comes after Gabby Petito’s family have revealed that the 22-year-old’s body was found in a fairly isolated area, just ‘a five minute walk’ from where authorities found her and Brian Laundrie’s van.
In an emotional interview with Dr Phil, on Wednesday, Petito’s stepfather said: ‘Her body was found — I guess it would be in front of a tent, if that’s what was there — or just in front of the fire ring… there was definitely a fire ring there.’
‘It wasn’t far from the van. It was a five minute walk,’ Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt echoed.
Jim, who visited the location on the outskirts of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where Petito’s body was found, painted a vivid picture of the isolated area.
‘You would have to want to go out over into that area,’ he said.
It was also revealed that Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just 16 miles from the Carlton Reserve last month
A redacted abandoned vehicle report from September 14 reveals that the car was found at 6968 Reisterstown Road, North Port, in the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park in Florida
Jim said his stepdaughter’s remains were found in an area of dispersed campgrounds on the borderline of Bridger-Teton National Forest, about 40 feet away from where Grand Teton National Park begins.
He explained in order to get to that area, campers would have to cross over the creek bed that separated the campgrounds from the area where police found Petito and Laundrie’s van.
‘So you have to cross over this creek bed, this rock area, and go through these tributaries and once you get on the other side it’s just some trees sparsely placed throughout and a lot sage brush, a lot of low brush,’ he shared.
‘It was in an area where there was a few trees and there was the remnants of a fire ring there…There was a clearing where I would assume – knowing I have a similar tent, where I would place my tent – and that opening would face out overlooking the mountain range.’
Jim left a stone cross and flowers in the exact location where she was found.
Petito and her fiancé, Laundrie, 23, went on a cross-country trip in their van in August, but Petito never returned home.
The pair drew national attention after Petito was reported missing on September 11, ten days after Laundrie returned to Florida in their van without Petito and refused to answer her parents about what had happened to her.
Laundrie’s whereabouts are unknown since September 14, when his parents said he left the family home in North Port, Florida. The Laundries said that their son was heading to a nearby nature reserve and only had his backpack.
Investigators have chased down leads in multiple states since Laundrie went to ground three weeks ago but to date there has not been a confirmed sighting of the sole person of interest in 22-year-old Gabby’s homicide.
The FBI is currently investigating 11 alleged sightings of Laundrie along the Appalachian Trail close to the North Carolina-Tennessee border, DailyMail.com exclusively revealed Wednesday.
Jim (left) and Nichole Schmidt (right), appearing on Dr. Phil, revealed that Gabby Petito’s remains were found in an area of dispersed campgrounds on the borderline of Bridger-Teton National Forest, about 40 feet away from where Grand Teton National Park begins
Jim left a stone cross and flowers in the exact location where she was found
The pair had been traveling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11
Petito (pictured) was reported missing on September 11, ten days after boyfriend Brian Laundrie returned to Florida in their van without Petito and refused to answer her parents about what had happened to her