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NORTH PORT, FL – A Florida woman who disappeared while on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend – who North Port Police have identified on Wednesday as a “person of interest” in the case – is now the subject of a nationwide search into her whereabouts.
The family of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, 22, last heard from her via text messages in late August as she and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie were sightseeing at Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Petito had been chronicling the trip she was taking with Laundrie in her 2012 white Ford Transit van on Instagram and her family became concerned when her updates suddenly ceased without explanation.
Laundrie returned to the home they shared in Florida in Petito’s van on September 1; ten days later, her family reported her missing. Authorities say that Laundrie has not been cooperative with their investigation and is now considered a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance but has not yet been charged with any crime, according to North Port police Chief Todd Garrison.
“We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks,” he said in a statement. “The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out.”
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In addition to the North Port Police Department, the FBI and the Suffolk County Police Department in New York are involved in the search as well.
Petito and Laundrie, both originally from Suffolk County, moved together from Blue Point, New York, in 2019 to live with his parents in North Port, Florida. The couple set out on their trip in July, driving from Florida to New York and then heading west, stopping at national parks along the way.
On August 19, Petito posted a YouTube video entitled “VAN LIFE – Beginning Our Van Life Journey” that showed her and Laundrie having fun while traveling on their trip.
Despite the cheerful video, authorities say something was clearly amiss during the couples’ trip; police in Moab, Utah responded to an incident involving the two on August 12, after witnesses said they saw Laundrie and Petito in a physical altercation over a phone.
When officers arrived, Petito was reportedly sobbing frantically and said that she had mental health issues; Laundrie told police that they had been arguing frequently after having been in such close proximity while traveling for several months.
No charges were filed at the time, and it is currently unknown what transpired next.
Petito is white, has blonde hair and blue eyes, stands 5-foot, 5 inches tall, weighs approximately 110 pounds, and has several tattoos.
Anyone with information about her whereabouts can contact the Suffolk County Police Department at 1-800-220-8477, the North Port Police Department at 941-429-7382, or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.