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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — The search for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie is back on in a massive Sarasota County nature reserve Tuesday as investigators continue their work trying to piece together what happened to Gabby Petito.
North Port police announced just before 7 p.m. the search of the Carlton Nature Reserve and nearby lands has concluded for the evening with nothing of note being found.
Police say the current plan is to return Wednesday with a similar operation.
“The terrain is very difficult,” North Port Police Department Commander Joe Fussell, who is leading the search, said. “About 75% of it is underwater. Other areas that are dry we’re trying to clear. We’re expecting to get wet by the end of the day and check the entire area for Brian Laundrie.”
Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in his fiancée Gabby Petito’s disappearance, was reported missing to police on Friday, Sept. 17. According to police, his parents reported last seeing him last Tuesday, Sept. 14, in hiking gear.
People who live and work in the area tell 8 On Your Side they’re staying alert.
“We have been told by our boss to just keep an eye out because there are people like this out in the world and we’ve just got to keep a close eye and protect each other and the rest of our community so I guess we are just on the lookout,” said Gerardo Gonzalez.
North Port police are working with several other law enforcement agencies – including the FBI, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota Police Department, Venice Police Department and K9 search and rescue teams – to find him.
“This is an FBI led criminal investigation and North Port Police are assisting our federal partner in any way we can to bring this investigation to a close,” Taylor said.
North Port officers and FBI agents spent much of the weekend searching the reserve for Laundrie. There were no plans for a “major search” of the Carlton Reserve Monday, as North Port police believed they “exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there.”
“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,” Taylor explained.
He added that law enforcement will move in from the Venice side of the area on Tuesday.
“Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently waist-deep in water in many areas,” Taylor 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 the search continues for Laundrie in Florida, an autopsy is scheduled to begin on the remains found over the weekend in Wyoming.
FBI Denver announced Tuesday the manner of death of Gabby Petito is a homicide. They also confirmed that the body found in Wyoming was, in fact, Petito.
“I feel for the family. I just can’t imagine what it’s like to have him running around out there just hope that he is caught soon,” said Punta Gorda resident Beth Gerken.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.