Missing NY woman: No criminality suspected, 'right now it's a missing person case'

Photo credit @gabspetito/Instagram
By , 1010 WINS Newsroom

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – Gabby Petito’s disappearance remains a missing person case, police in Florida said Thursday, as a search for the Long Island native continues after she vanished during a cross-country van trip with her fiancé.

Asked at a press conference if any criminality was suspected in the case, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said, “None at this time.”

“Right now, it’s a missing person case,” he said.

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Petito, 22, and fiancé Brian Laundrie, 23, started their trip in a Ford Transit van back in July from Long Island, where they both grew up, according to their social media accounts. They intended to reach Oregon by Halloween, but Petito disappeared after her last known contact with family in late August from Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, authorities said.

Laundrie drove the van back to Florida on Sept. 1 alone, police said. Petito's family filed a missing persons report last Saturday with police in Suffolk County. On Wednesday, Laundrie was named a “person of interest” in the case by North Port police; he has not been charged but is also not cooperating, despite pleas from Petito’s family.

Asked by a reporter Thursday if Laundrie could be “brought in” by police for not cooperating, Garrison said, “No.”

“Our focus is to find Gabby,” the police chief said. “My focus isn’t to bring Brian in right now. It’s to find Gabby. Brian is exercising his constitutional rights, and I have to respect that. But as of right now, the focus is finding Gabby.”

“We share the frustration of the world right now,” Garrison said of the fact Laundrie hasn't spoken with police. “Two people went on a trip, one person returned. And that person that returned isn’t providing us any information.”

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito. Photo credit @gabspetito/Instagram

Garrison said investigators are concentrating on Wyoming, where Petito was believed to have last been.

“Right now, that seems to be the area that we’re looking at,” he said, adding that authorities are still trying to narrow down an area to physically search as they continue to analyze and vet information and leads.

“We have no physical search teams on the ground, like doing grid search right now,” Garrison said. “We have resources and law enforcement partners that are out in the field following tips and leads, but as far as a grid search right now, we’re still trying to narrow down geographical areas.”

Petito’s father, Joe Petito, spoke at Thursday’s press conference, saying, “What I need from everybody here is help, because the goal is still not met, and that goal is to bring Gabby home safe.”

“I’m asking for help from everyone at home. I’m asking for help from the parents of Brian. And I’m asking for help of the family members and friends of the Laundrie family, as well,” Petito said.

“Whatever you can do to make sure my daughter comes home, I’m asking for that help,” he said. “There’s nothing else that matters to me now.”

Police are analyzing the van the couple was driving during their trip. Photo credit North Port Police Department

Petito urged people to contact a national tip line set up by the FBI if they have information. The number is 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).

The press conference comes hours after police in Moab, Utah, released bodycam video Thursday showing officers responding to a domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, about two weeks before she was last seen.

During the incident, Laundrie told police that the couple's months-long travels had created an "emotional strain" and "increased the number of arguments" between them, according to a police report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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