ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A search of a Florida nature preserve failed to find the young man wanted for questioning in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito, police said Monday, a day after authorities announced the discovery of a body believed to be hers at a Wyoming national park.
North Port, Florida, police said in a statement that they “exhausted all avenues in searching the grounds” of the 24,000-acre (9,700-hectare) Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie.
Investigators focused intently on the area over the weekend after Laundrie’s parents told police he may have gone there.
Petito, 22, disappeared after she and her boyfriend left in July on a cross-country trek in a converted van to visit national parks in the West. They got into an argument during the trip, and Laundrie was alone when he returned in the van to his parents’ home in North Port on Sept. 1, police said.
In Wyoming, the FBI on Sunday announced the discovery of a body by agents searching campsites on the edge of Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited. The FBI said the cause of death had not been determined.
“Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100% that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified,” FBI agent Charles Jones said. “This is an incredibly difficult time for (Petito’s) family and friends.”
Jones and other law enforcement officials took no questions during the evening news conference.
Petito’s father, Joseph, posted on social media an image of a broken heart above a picture of his daughter, with the message: “She touched the world.”
An attorney who has been acting as a spokesman for Petito’s family asked in a statement that the family be given room to grieve.
Jones said investigators were still seeking information from anyone who may have seen Petito or Laundrie around Grand Teton.
Petito’s family on New York’s Long Island has been pleading for the Laundrie family to tell them where their son last saw her. Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts who met while growing up on Long Island. His parents later moved to North Port, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Sarasota.
Police video released by the Moab, Utah, department showed that an officer pulled the couple’s van over on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park. The body-camera video showed an upset Petito.
Laundrie said on the video the couple had gotten into a scuffle after he climbed into the van with dirty feet. He said he did not want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the aggressor.
Moab separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the van.