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Boyfriend named person of interest in woman's road-trip disappearance

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, as seen in a video posted to their YouTube channel. On Wednesday, Laundrie was named person of interest in Petito's disappearance.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, as seen in a video posted to their YouTube channel. On Wednesday, Laundrie was named person of interest in Petito's disappearance. (Nomadic Statik, YouTube)



SALT LAKE CITY — The boyfriend of a woman seen traveling through Utah and Wyoming has now been named a person of interest in her disappearance, police said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the search for 22-year-old Gabby Petito continues in the area around Grand Teton National Park.

"Several detectives are working around the clock to piece this complex and far-reaching situation together," authorities with the city of North Port in Florida — where Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie live with his parents — said in a news release.

Laundrie "has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details," police said.

On Tuesday, the Laundrie family issued a statement through their attorneys acknowledging that this is "an extremely difficult time" for both families but they declined to provide additional details.

"It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family. On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment," the statement says.

The Petito family issued a statement in response, pleading with Laundrie not to "remain in the background" and instead to help them find Gabby Petito, or "at least tell us if we are looking in the right area."

"Brian is refusing to tell Gabby's family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers," the family said.

Laundrie returned to his parents' home in North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1 in Petito's van. Her family reported her missing 10 days later. Petito's van was recovered and processed for evidence by police at Laundrie's home on Sept. 11. Police said Wednesday they can't talk about what they found in the van.

Moab police confirmed Tuesday that they responded to an incident involving Petito and Laundrie on Aug. 12, but no charges were filed. Another person had reported the incident.

"Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges," Moab Police Chief Bret Edge said without providing further details.

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Police said they do not have evidence that a crime occurred in North Port, either. A search warrant has not been served on the Laundrie home, North Port police said during a news conference Wednesday.

"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 in the statement.

The FBI, which is aiding in the investigation, established a national hotline to receive tips at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).

"So far, we have received hundreds of tips which are being vetted through multiple agencies. If anyone has seen the van photographed and information which might be helpful, please let us know," Florida police said in the statement.

Petito's family members said they last spoke to her during the last week of August. Before the last time her family heard from her, Petito is believed to have been seen in Grand Teton National Park, according to police.

The couple was traveling in a white 2012 Ford Transit van with various stickers on the back and Florida license plate number QFTG03.

Petito is white, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including flowers on a finger and another on her forearm that reads, "let it be."

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