Florida police have deployed ATVs and drones to a snake and alligator-infested swampland as they resumed their search for van-life woman Gabby Petito’s now missing boyfriend Brian Laundrie.
North Port Police announced Tuesday its officers had returned to the ‘vast and unforgiving’ 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve to continue the search that morning in the waist-deep water and ‘dangerous’ terrain.
More than 50 searchers from at least eight law enforcement agencies led by the FBI are using huge swamp-busting amphibious vehicles, ATVs, bloodhounds, other K9s and drones as they ramp up efforts to track down the 23-year-old.
Cops released a video of the search today showing teams in tactical gear being briefed, K9 sniffer dogs in action, specialist vehicles traversing swampland and drone footage of the massive area being searched.
North Port Police also emphasized they are involved in a criminal probe now, which is being led by the FBI and they are ‘assisting out federal partner in any way we can to bring this investigation to a close’.
Commander Joe Fussell (correct), from the local department, said on the video: ‘The terrain is very difficult. Essentially 75 per cent of it is under water.
‘And other areas that are dry, we’re trying to clear. So we’re expecting to get wet by the end of the day and check the entire area for Brian Laundrie.’
He also revealed the searchers ‘have multiple drone operators that have been sent out in numerous teams.
‘We also have drones that operate as higher altitude that has more advanced technology to zoom in and to see areas that are difficult to access on foot or in wheeled vehicles as well.’
Florida police have deployed ATVs and drones to a snake and alligator-infested swampland as they resumed their search for van-life woman Gabby Petito’s boyfriend Brian Laundrie
Two huge high-water all-terrain vehicles came out of one area briefly and headed along a perimeter road to make for another location in the reserve. They carried at seven searchers.
Police had halted the large-scale operation Monday after a weekend of combing through the nature reserve, about five miles from the home Laundrie shared with his parents and Petito.
This came the same day the final resting place of the body believed to belong to Petito was revealed to be marked with a stone cross tribute at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite, close to the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
A body matching Petito, 22, was discovered there Sunday bringing her family’s hopes of finding her alive to an end.
An autopsy will be carried out Tuesday and is expected to confirm the remains belong to Petito – as well as cast light on how she died.
North Port Police shared these images showing officers sending drones operated by remote controls up in the air
Police announced Tuesday its officers had returned to the ‘vast and unforgiving’ Carlton Reserve to continue the search
More than 50 searchers from at least eight law enforcement agencies led by the FBI are using huge swamp-busting amphibious vehicles, ATVs, bloodhounds, other K9s and drones
Authorities are ramping up efforts to track down 23-year-old Laundrie after they halted the large-scale operation Monday
Petito was last seen alive August 24 leaving a motel in Salt Lake City in Utah with Laundrie during the cross-country campervan trip that she and Laundrie had set out on back in early July.
She was then last heard from the next day when she called her mom.
Laundrie arrived back in North Port alone on September 1 in their van and Petito was reported missing September 11 by her family.
Laundrie refused to cooperate with investigators or tell them when he had last seen his girlfriend and was named a person of interest in her disappearance last Wednesday – four days before a body was discovered.
Laundrie’s parents then made the stunning revelation Friday that he too had vanished and that they had not seen him since Tuesday – when he allegedly left their home with a backpack saying he was heading to the reserve.
On Monday, a dramatic FBI raid was executed on the Laundrie family home and the 23-year-old’s silver Ford Mustang convertible was seized by authorities.
Steven Berolino, an attorney for the family, told ABC7 the family went looking for Laundrie on Wednesday and found the Mustang, which had a police note on it demanding that the vehicle be removed from the area.
The family initially left the car there so Laundrie could drive it back, but they returned on Thursday to retrieve it, according to Bertolino.
North Port Police Public Information Officer Josh Taylor said Tuesday morning search teams were up against the elements as they returned to the nature reserve to continue the ‘dangerous work’ to track down Laundrie.
Taylor said heavy rains the day before has left much of the swampland ‘waist-deep in water’.
‘Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently waist-deep in water in many areas,’ he said.
‘This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails.’
As well as local police and the FBI, other agencies involved in the search include Florida Wildlife Commission, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota Police Department and Venice Police Department.
The search began on Saturday, starting at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park which is linked to the Carlton Reserve.
A memorial of stones arranged in a cross pattern was spotted Monday evening at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite east of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
The memorial is placed near to where authorities found a body believed to belong to Gabby Petito, 22
The undeveloped campground is popular with tourists though it has no water or trash service. Above, a sign points to the area
DailyMail.com exclusively found the location where Gabby’s transit van was filmed by a Youtuber on August 27th at the Spread Creek campsite
Gabby’s transit van was filmed by a Youtuber on August 27th at the Spread Creek campsite, and the remains were found not far from where the van was photographed
But the focus has now switched to covering the area closer to the city of Venice, along with adjoining lands, said Taylor.
It is not clear whether authorities have receive intel directing them to this part of the reserve.
‘A weekend ground search and aerial search Monday of the 25,000-acre preserve has yet to yield any answers, but we must press on,’ said Taylor.
North Port Police tweeted photos of searchers assembling for a briefing early Tuesday, announcing the efforts are: ‘By land. By air.’
Photos show teams driving buggies through dense foliage and police officers using remotes to operate drones going up into the air.
Dozens of law enforcement vehicles were also seen at the entrance to the nature reserve.
Gabby Petito, 22, is pictured with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, in a YouTube video made to document their ‘van life’ trip
Petito was last seen alive on August 24 leaving a hotel with Laundrie in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the couple’s cross-country campervan trip
The pair had been travelling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11
The reserve is currently closed until further notice while the search is ongoing.
Multiple sightings of Laundrie have been reported in recent days but it is not clear if any have been confirmed.
The renewed search follows the Laundrie’s home being busted by around 25 law enforcement officers Monday, the majority FBI agents wearing bullet-proof vests and wielding drawn weapons.
Dailymail.com was up close to the action, just feet away as the FBI swooped on the single-story house – with shouts of ‘search warrant, search warrant’ clearly heard and the area declared a crime scene.
An FBI team in tactical gear – carrying a battering ram, a blast shield and with weapons drawn – lined up along the wall close to the front door.
Seconds later other agents swiftly led Laundrie’s parents Christopher Laundrie, 62, and wife Roberta, 55, out of the home and into a waiting black Dodge Caravan minivan.
The FBI team outside then swarmed into the house, followed by other agents, some wielding rifles while other agents checked outside areas.
At one point, it appeared they might be looking for Laundrie. Five agents – one with a blast shield – surrounded a lid-topped storage before the lid was carefully lifted and an agent deliberately pointed his pistol down inside.
After 10 minutes the Laundries were allowed back in their home, looking solemn and with their heads down. They were not handcuffed.
The couple’s camper van top, which was sat on stilts on their driveway, was also searched – before Laundrie’s Ford Mustang was towed away for forensic examination.
Agents spent five hours meticulously going through the property before leaving with boxes and boxes of evidence.
Over in Wyoming, a makeshift memorial of white stones arranged in a cross was seen Monday evening in the spot where the human remains are thought to have been discovered at the weekend.
The spot with the stone crosses is just east of Grand Teton National Park where law enforcement had been searching for Petito. It is not clear when the memorial was arranged.
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Deputies and FBI Agents are seen at the Carlton Reserve Tuesday morning amid the search
The nature reserve is about five miles from the home in North Port that Laundrie shared with his parents and Petito
North Port Police Public Information Officer Josh Taylor said Tuesday morning search teams were up against the elements as they returned to the nature reserve to continue the ‘dangerous work’ to track down Laundrie
DailyMail.com exclusively found the location where Petito’s transit van was filmed by a Youtuber on August 27 at the Spread Creek campsite.
The remains were found about a quarter of a mile from where the van had been photographed.
The location was found Monday just minutes after law enforcement left the campground around 5:40 p.m. and opened it back up to the public.
The campground had been closed to the public since last Saturday.
A DailyMail reporter found a pink ribbon tied the bushes near where the van was parked on the side of the road.
Investigators left pink marker tape where the couple’s van was seen in a YouTube video and more pink marker tape by the cross.
There were also red markers in a large circle around the area where investigators had been working and markings with orange paint on several rocks and trees surrounding the cross.
The orange paint on the dead trees was still wet. Near the makeshift cross, a pink ribbon was tied to a dead tree. That pink ribbon was the same type found where Petito’s transit van was filmed by the YouTuber.
Forensic experts have been going over Petito’s computer hard drive for crucial clues after police in North Port, Florida, got a court warrant to search the device.
The computer was with Laundrie when he returned to Florida without Petito on September 1.
The warrant application also revealed the last text message sent from Petito’s phone to her mother Nichole Schmidt on August 27. The message sent alarm bells when it was received as her mom said it did not sound like her daughter.
The warrant reads: ‘On August 27th, 2021, the subject’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, received an ‘odd text’ from the subject. The text message read, ‘Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls’.’
In Spread Creek, Wyoming, a pink ribbon was found tied to the bushes near where the van was parked on the side of the road
Near the makeshift cross, a pink ribbon was tied to a dead tree. That pink ribbon was the same type found where Gabby’s transit van was filmed by the YouTuber
There were markings with orange paint on several rocks and trees surrounding the cross
The makeshift memorial was spotted Monday evening at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite in Wyoming
The document continues: ‘The reference to ‘Stan’ was referring to Gabby’s grandfather. But according to her mother, Gabby never calls him ‘Stan’. The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter.’
It added this was the ‘last communication anyone has with the subject. Her cell phone was no longer operational, and she stopped posting anything on social media about their trip. Per her family, this was not normal behavior for the subject and they became more worried about her.’
Gabby’s mother acknowledged receiving another text from her phone on Aug. 30 with the message, ‘No service in Yosemite.’
She was convinced her daughter didn’t sent that final message and that she believes Petito’s boyfriend may have sent the message from her phone, possibly to mislead her family and investigators as to her whereabouts.
Petito’s computer was in her white Ford Transit van that was taken away by police very late September 11 – some 10 days after Laundrie had already returned to Florida without her.
The vehicle was taken by North Port Police around five hours after Schmidt- who lives on Long Island, New York – reported her daughter missing. A warrant to search the vehicle was issued on September 14.
The warrant application explains that Petito and Laundrie ‘left from New York state sometime in mid-June 2021 for a vacation in Utah, traveling a variety of National Parks along the way. While they were on their trip, they documented some of the events on a YouTube video, ‘VAN LIFE: Beginning Our Van Life Journey’.
It added: ‘During the trip the subject sent multiple text messages and had many talks with her mother Nichole Schmidt … during these conversations there appeared to be more and more tension between her and Laundrie.’
Additionally, WFLA reported that the warrant gives police access to a wide range of content potentially found on the hard drive, and digital documents, notes, passwords, encryptions or data security devices which might keep them from accessing the contents.
The white van, which belonged to Petito, was tracked through a license plate reader at the Sumpter Boulevard exit of Interstate 75 towards North Port on September 1 at roughly 10.26am, the application reveals.
The warrant, issued by the office of the Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court, was executed on September 16.
A tearful Petito is seen in the back of the police car in Utah August 12 -13 days before she was last seen. Laundrie admits he ‘pushed her’ during the altercation and cops determine Petito was ‘the primary aggressor’
Laundrie is seen with scratches on his face which he tells an officer were caused when Petito ‘was trying to get the keys from me’ and ‘hit me with her phone’
On Monday, new details also emerged about the suspected ‘domestic abuse incident’ on August 12 – less than two weeks before Petito was last seen alive.
Police were called out to the incident involving the young couple in Moab, Utah.
Chilling 911 audio released Monday revealed how the caller reported seeing the ‘gentleman was slapping the girl’.
Police bodycam footage released last week of the encounter showed a sobbing Petito telling officers they had ‘been fighting all morning’ before cops determined she was the ‘primary aggressor.
In the audio, obtained by DailyMail.com, the male caller tells a Grant County sheriff that a ‘gentleman’ in a white van with a Florida license plate had slapped a girl in the vehicle before driving away.
The man also mentions the incident had happened ‘by Moonflower’ – likely referring to the Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab, where Laundrie and Petito stayed the night of August 11 and where they reportedly were seen having an explosive fight.
‘I’m right in the corner of Main Street by Moonflower and we are driving and I’d like to report a domestic dispute. Florida with a white van – Florida license plate, white van,’ the man says before being interrupted by the officer, who asks him what he saw exactly.
‘They just drove off. They’re going towards Main Street. They made a right onto Main Street from Moonflower. We drove by him, a gentleman was slapping the girl,’ the man continues.
‘He was slapping her?’ the sheriff asks.
‘Yes. And then we stopped. They ran down an up the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off,’ the man says as the audio ends.
Shortly after the call, Petito and Laundrie were filmed in police bodycam footage when they were stopped by Moab Police.
In the video, an emotional Petito with tears streaming down her face tells officers she ‘was trying to get him [Laundrie] to stop telling [her] to calm down’ and admitting the couple had ‘been fighting all morning.’
An FBI agent is pictured at the North Port home of Laundrie’s parents on September 20 to execute a search warrant
FBI agents are seen searching the family home of Brian Laundrie – one day after a body matching Petito was found while Laundrie is still missing
In the bodycam footage from Moab officers, Petito says she suffers from OCD and anxiety, with both her and Laundrie saying she was stressed because of the YouTube blog they were working on to document the doomed cross-country trip.
Laundrie is seen with scratches on his face and arm which he tells an officer were caused when Petito ‘was trying to get the keys from me’ and ‘hit me with her phone’.
He later said she was angry with him because of his dirty feet.
When an officer asks Petito if her boyfriend hit her, she replies ‘I guess’ and makes a grabbing motion on her chin. Laundrie admits he ‘pushed her’ during the altercation.
The couple had been traveling around the country in their camper van since early July and were visiting Moab, Utah when they got into an altercation, an incident report reveals.