Search intensifies for Brian Laundrie in dangerous reserve terrain

Published: September 22, 2021 7:45 AM EDT
Updated: September 29, 2021 2:23 PM EDT

While authorities have found nothing so far, they hope that Brian Laundrie is running out of room to hide with every passing moment.

On Tuesday, a Teton County, Wyoming coroner identified remains found on Sept. 19 as Gabrielle Venora Petito’s, Laundrie’s fiancée. The manner of death was also determined to be homicide, FBI Denver tweeted. The exact cause of death remains pending.

Petito was reported missing by her family on Aug. 31. Laundrie returned home to North Port without her and has refused to speak to law enforcement.

Crews used infrared cameras to keep an eye on the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County overnight, where Laundrie reportedly went last week before he was also reported missing by his family three days later.

Tuesday’s search equipment including airboats, ATVs and even the Sarasota mobile command unit. Members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office also came out to help in the search, using drones to access especially tough-to-reach places.

But if they don’t find Laundrie or any sign of him there, this will be just the beginning of their search.

“They’re going to use every trick they have, because we have wanted posters, tips, online billboards, and eventually that noose is going to get tighter and tighter on Brian,” said Rich Kolko, WINK News safety and security specialist. “And that tip is going to come in online or on the phone to the FBI, or law enforcement. That’s what it’s going to take to put handcuffs on him.”

The Carlton Reserve is 25,000 acres, roughly the area covered by Fort Myers, so they have a lot of ground to cover. And that ground is hard to get through; law enforcement has been wading through waist-deep waters that are infested with alligators and snakes. It is known that Laundrie was an avid camper, and some people might think that makes him an expert survivalist, but could someone survive that terrain for days on his own?

“He can’t hike on the trails, ’cause somebody’s gonna see him,” Kolko said. “He’s got to be off the trails. Now, we’re talking about walking through swamps, through snakes, through alligators at night. He’s got to move. You know, could he do that for six hours? No doubt. Could he do that for six days. I doubt it.”

The FBI is still calling Laundrie a person of interest, not a suspect, but it does call this a criminal investigation.

TIPS: If you have any information on the disappearance of Gabby Petito or Brian Laundrie, call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or you can submit a tip online at


Sept 1 – Brian Laundrie returned to North Port alone.

Sept 14 – Laundrie named a person of interest.

Sept 14 – Laundrie reportedly went to Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County for a hike.

Sept 14 – Last day Laundrie’s family reportedly saw him.

Sept 17 – Parents report Laundrie missing.

Sept 18-19 – Police search Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County.

Sept 19 – Human remains found in the Spread Creek area in Wyoming consistent with the description of Gabby Petito.

Sept 20 – FBI searches the home of Brian Laundrie.

Sept 21 – FBI, FWC, and police resume search for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve.

Sept 21 – Coroner confirms body found in Wyoming is Gabby Petito and manner of death is homicide.