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The family of missing woman Gabrielle Petito are now starting to question when they even last spoke to her as the investigation into her disappearance continues — and her unobliging boyfriend becomes a person of interest.
As we covered, the aspiring YouTuber was reported missing by her family over the weekend. She was in the midst of a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, when she suddenly stopped responding to her family’s calls and texts. The family became even more worried when Brian returned home without the 22-year-old, lawyered up, and refused to cooperate with police. Not a good look…
Now, as new details from their trip emerge, authorities in North Port, Florida have revealed that Brian is officially a person of interest in their investigation. A statement from the department read:
“Several detectives are working around the clock to piece this complex and far reaching situation together. As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details.”
Police also revealed that Brian returned to North Port alone on September 1 — 10 days before Gabby’s family reported her missing on September 11. Gabby was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Brian in Salt Lake City, Utah; the two were reportedly on their way to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Her mother, Nichole Schmidt, said the last time she saw her daughter was a video chat on August 24 or 25. Although they exchanged text messages for a few days after that, Nichole is now questioning whether Gabby was really the one who sent those final messages.
The last text sent on August 30 suggested that Gabby was in Yosemite National Park in northern California, about 800 miles away from where she was last spotted. The text read, per DailyMail.com:
“No service in Yosemite.”
The distraught momma refused to share the contents of the other texts but told the outlet:
“That text was NOT from Gabby I know it!”
Nichole told the outlet she thinks Brian may have sent the message from Gabby’s phone in an effort to mislead the family and police as to where she was.
Explaining how that final round of texts didn’t sound like something her daughter would write, she said:
“It may not have been her… It was just a little bit weird, the things that she was saying.”
To make matters even more puzzling, it was revealed that police in Moab, Utah responded to an “incident” involving Brian and Gabby on August 12. It’s not clear what the incident was about, but Chief Bret Edge said there was not enough evidence for charges, telling press:
“Neither Brian or Gabrielle were the reporting party. Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges.”
So they had an argument so heated, witnesses called the police? That’s a red flag, damn.
Innerestingly, Gabby’s mom didn’t find this incident particularly curious. She told DM:
“It’s irrelevant. Two people traveling together with each other 24 hours a day, it’s not going to be perfect, it was an argument, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
Still, she’s now questioning everything about her daughter’s relationship. She added:
“Maybe the relationship wasn’t what I thought.”
As for why Brian chose to get a lawyer, Nichole said:
“You know I wish I knew that answer, why… I know that’s the reason this story is so sought after is because it’s odd. The police have said it’s very odd. We don’t know what’s going on, and where is my daughter. I just want to find her.”
While Brian has answers, including where and why he left his girlfriend before driving her van back to Florida, he’s refusing to share them with police. His lawyer, Steve Bertolino, issued the following statement on Tuesday:
“This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Naturally, the 23-year-old’s lack of cooperation isn’t sitting well with Gabby’s family. Their lawyer argued Brian was hindering the police investigation, saying in a statement:
“The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives. Their beautiful twenty-two year old daughter is missing and the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help. Brian Laundrie was traveling with Gabby in the Grand Teton – Yellowstone area. They were traveling together in Gabby’s 2012 Ford Transit van. That is where we believe Gabby was last seen. Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers. The Schmidt and Petito family beg the Laundrie family to not ‘remain in the background’ but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located? The Schmidt and Petito family implore Brian to come forward and at least tell us if we are looking in the right area.”
Although Brian might be staying silent now, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison made it clear authorities will get the answers eventually. He said in a statement:
“As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby’s family is going through. We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering the investigation. The answers will eventually come out.”
Meanwhile, Gabby’s stepfather Jim Schmidt has traveled to Wyoming to help coordinate the search.
Our hearts go out to Gabby and her loved ones as the search continues.
[Image via YouTube]
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