(Trends Wide) — A dive team arrived on Wednesday at a Florida nature reserve as part of the search for Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito’s fiancé who has been missing for several days.
A large truck and boat from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrived at noon Wednesday at the Carlton Preserve, a more than 10,000-acre swampy preserve in Venice, Florida, where Laundrie told his parents he was heading last week. .
The dive team, called the Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force (SURF), is made up of “highly trained underwater specialists” who are “called in to search for evidence of crimes and victims of drowning and water accidents.” says the Sheriff’s Office website.
North Port Police said the arrival of the dive team “does not mean that something has been found. It is part of the general search process.”
The team, made up of about 10 divers, was requested by North Port police Wednesday morning, Sarasota Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kaitlyn Perez said.
“These divers are specifically trained and are very talented in low visibility bodies of water,” explained Pérez. “They dive where you and I can’t see anything at all. They use technology and other special equipment to help them dive into really deep bodies of water, so they’re there right now to retrieve whatever it is they can find.”
The ongoing search comes as investigators try to piece together what happened to Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, on their road trip in a white Ford Transit truck across the American West this summer.
Petito’s remains were recovered in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest on Sunday, and a coroner determined Tuesday that his death was homicide.
The couple had regularly posted online about their travels using the hashtag #VanLife, but those posts were abruptly stopped in late August. Laundrie and the truck — but not Petito — returned to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, on September 1. Her family, unable to communicate with her, reported her missing 10 days later.
Laundrie, believed to be the last person to see Petito alive, declined to speak to authorities investigating his disappearance. His parents then reported him missing on September 17, saying that he had left home three days earlier and had not returned.
The FBI said the agency wants information on anyone who has had contact with Petito or Laundrie, anyone who visited the Spread Creek campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest between Aug. 27-30, or whatever. person who has seen your vehicle.
In the days since she was reported missing, Petito’s story has become a national obsession for many, prompting digital detectives to track the couple online and try to solve the case. History has also highlighted the tens of thousands of missing persons stories that do not arouse such intense interest from the public.
Given the national attention on the case, several people have come forward to say they interacted with the couple in late August. And evidence from a 911 call about a “domestic dispute” involving Petito and Laundrie shows that the couple’s volatile relationship was not as aspirational as their lives on Instagram and YouTube suggested.
Laundrie’s search focuses on the nature reserve
Investigators have used ATVs, dogs, drones and more as part of their ongoing search for Laundrie in the Florida nature preserve, where his parents allegedly said he said he would go last week.
Laundrie’s parents told investigators that he left his North Port home with a backpack on Sept. 14 to go to the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve near Venice.
“A weekend ground search and aerial search Monday of the 25,000-acre (over 10,000-hectare) reserve has yet to give any response, but we must move on,” North Port police said on Facebook. Police said the search was conducted in a different part of the reservation on Tuesday.
The wild and swampy landscape of the Carlton Preserve has made the search particularly difficult.
“Keep in mind that the Carlton Preserve is a vast and unforgiving place at times. Currently, it is submerged to the waist in many areas,” police said. “This is dangerous work for search teams as they are traversing alligator- and snake-infested swamps, and flooded walking and biking trails.”
Authorities also searched the family’s home on Monday after obtaining a search warrant for the property. FBI agents removed various items from the home and towed a convertible Ford Mustang.
In addition, Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, were questioned at their home by the FBI.
Witnesses tell police about their interactions with the couple
In a series of videos on TikTok, Miranda Baker said that she and her boyfriend offered Laundrie a ride on August 29 in Wyoming, and that he claimed he was camping alone for several days while Petito was in his truck working on publications for the social networks.
Baker said Laundrie was picked up while he was searching for transportation in Colter Bay, Wyoming, which is not far from where Petito’s remains were found. He offered to pay $ 200 for the ride before he even got in the car.
In her TikTok videos, Baker said that when Laundrie found out that she and her boyfriend were going to Jackson Hole instead of Jackson, he became agitated, asked the vehicle to stop, and got off near the Jackson Dam.
She said they dropped it off less than 30 minutes after picking it up.
Baker said he had already spoken to police about the interaction with Laundrie. North Port Police confirmed to Trends Wide that Baker spoke with the police department before posting the videos on TikTok.
“It appears his account is plausible,” North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor said.
Trends Wide has not been able to independently verify Baker’s claims. The FBI has not responded to requests for comment from Trends Wide.
Additionally, evidence has also emerged suggesting that tension was building between the couple.
A man who saw the domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie in Utah last month said: “They were talking aggressively to each other and something seemed wrong.”
In a handwritten affidavit, the witness named Chris – whose last name was redacted in the document provided by the Moab city police to Trends Wide – said the two appeared to be arguing over control of Petito’s phone. “At one point, she was hitting him on the arm and / or in the face and trying to get into the truck.”
The witness said he heard Petito say, “Why do you have to be so bad?” although Chris added that he couldn’t be sure if the comment should be taken seriously. Moab City Police responded to the incident and the couple agreed to spend the night apart.
There is also a 911 recording of the incident in Moab on August 12 when police confronted the couple. In the Grand County Sheriff’s Office recording, a caller reported what it called a “domestic dispute” between a couple.
“We drove by and the gentleman slapped the girl,” says the caller. “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, got in the car, and they drove off.”
Ultimately, Petito’s conversations with his mother appeared to reveal that he had “more and more tension” with Laundrie, according to a police affidavit of a search warrant for an external hard drive found in the couple’s truck.
Petito sent several text messages and had many conversations with his mother during their trip, Florida police wrote in a request filed last week. On August 27, Petito’s mother last communicated with her daughter in what she called a “strange text,” the affidavit said.
The message read, “Can you help Stan? I keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” Because the text message referred to Petito’s grandfather as Stan, his mother was concerned that something was wrong, the court order says.
After that text message, Petito’s phone was no longer working and the young woman stopped posting about her trip on social media, the order says.
On August 30, a text message arrived saying, “No service in Yosemite.” Her family doubts that she wrote it.
Trends Wide’s Jason Hanna, Steve Almasy, Gregory Lemos, Rebekah Riess, Jennifer Henderson and Andy Rose contributed to this report.