Missing Florida woman's boyfriend named person of interest
Police said Wednesday they are working around the clock on the case of a missing Florida woman with ties to Vero Beach.
Gabrielle Petito, 22, disappeared during a cross-country trip this summer with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.
The couple drove from Florida to New York and then headed west, visiting Kansas, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.
Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, said she last heard from her daughter on Aug. 25 when they spoke on the phone. At that time, Schmidt said her daughter was at Grand Teton National Park.
Petito had been posting videos of their van trip, which looked like a seemingly happy couple on vacation.
However, a police report from Moab, Utah, said officers responded on Aug. 12 when the couple was seen arguing near a store.
The report said Laundrie told police he and Petito had issues that were building after traveling together for four to five months, creating an emotional strain and a number of arguments.
The report said Petito was slapping Laundrie, and he grabbed her face and pushed her away while trying to lock her out of the van, but she got inside.
Officers found them later and said Petito was "crying uncontrollably," but they told police they were in love and didn't want anyone to be charged.
Police ended up getting Laundrie a hotel room, so they could spend some time apart for their mental health.
Laundrie returned on Sept. 1 to North Port, Florida, without his girlfriend, but still driving the van the couple was using to travel the country. Petito's parents later reported their daughter missing on Sept. 11.
Officials in North Port, Florida, said the van was fully processed for evidence Tuesday evening.
Police said Wednesday that Laundrie has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or provided any helpful details.
"We don't know what Brian knows, that's the bottom line. We're hoping to talk to him. He needs to talk to us," said North Port Police Spokesman Josh Taylor.
Investigators said they are classifying him as a person of interest in the case.
"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 this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance," North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said.
Police said they are also investigating why Petito's Instagram page was taken down.
The missing woman's father, Joseph Petito, who lives in Vero Beach, told WPTV on Monday that his daughter is a free spirit with a good heart.
The FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips. 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324). Police said so far they have received hundreds of tips, which are being vetted through multiple agencies.
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