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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Law enforcement agencies involved in the Gabby Petito disappearance investigation say they did everything they could to keep an eye on her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, before he disappeared himself.
According to police, Laundrie returned to North Port on Sept. 1 from a cross-country trip he and Petito had been on for several months. Petito was nowhere to be found when he came back, and was officially reported missing on Sept. 11.
At that time, police said Laundrie was not cooperating with the investigation, but noted that there was no criminality suspected in the case.
“Our focus is to find Gabby. My focus isn’t to bring Brian in right now, it’s to find Gabby,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said on Sept. 16, one day after Laundrie was officially labeled a person of interest in the investigation. “Brian is exercising his constitutional rights and I have to respect that. But as of right now, the focus is finding Gabby.”
During that news conference, Chief Garrison was also asked if he knew where Brian Laundrie was at the moment. He responded, “yes.”
One day after that news conference, Laundrie was reported missing by his family. At the time, they told police they had last seen him leave home to go to the Carlton Reserve area for a hike on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The family’s attorney, Steve Bertolino, confirmed earlier this week that, after further communication with the FBI, the Laundries now believe their son left home to go hiking on Sept. 13.
8 On Your Side reached out to North Port police on Friday to ask whether there was any surveillance on Laundrie from the start of the Petito investigation up until he was reported missing.
“NPPD, Suffolk County and the FBI were doing everything we could to keep an eye on Brian, within the law, based on the facts and evidence we had at the time,” Public Information Officer Josh Taylor said. “I cannot speak to specifics and a timeline or what exactly was taking place.”
Taylor confirmed in the email that police did not speak to or see Laundrie on Sept. 11 when they visited the home. According to Taylor, his family would not speak to police and only handed over information for their attorney.
“We had no legal authority to enter the home,” he said.
Friday officially marks three weeks since Laundrie was reported missing. The search for him scaled back recently, but activity picked up again on Wednesday. Brian Laundrie’s father, Chris Laundrie, then joined law enforcement in their search at the Carlton Reserve on Thursday.
Despite rumors circulating online about a campsite apparently being found in the reserve, Taylor said Friday that “there was never a campsite.”
He also reiterated that police do not have the phones that Laundrie and Petito were using during their cross-country trip. As 8 On Your Side previously reported, the FBI does have a new cell phone that Laundrie purchased on Sept. 4 after he came home.