Brian Laundrie’s reclusive father broke cover Thursday and even cracked a smile – in exclusive photos obtained by DailyMail.com – as he joined federal investigators in their search for his fugitive son in a snake-and-alligator infested Florida nature reserve.
Christopher Laundrie, 62, appeared to not have a care in the world as he was spotted assisting in the manhunt in the vast 24,565-acre Carlton Reserve, which turned up no signs of the 23-year-old fiance of Gabby Petito.
While Petito’s grieving family are left waiting for answers about the homicide of the 22-year-old YouTuber, Laundrie’s father was spotted laughing and chatting away to an FBI agent who bizarrely bore some likeness to his fugitive son.
Thursday’s search proved fruitless with an initial report that a ‘fresh campsite’ had been found later denied by investigators.
The Laundrie family attorney said there are no plans for Christopher or his wife Roberta to join the FBI Friday – on what marks the three-week anniversary of when the manhunt first began – but said conditions in the swampland were improving, raising hopes the search could be smoother.
North Port Police in Florida revealed Thursday that the sole person of interest in Petito’s homicide had been placed under surveillance in the days before he went on the run.
Police spokesperson Josh Taylor told CNN Laundrie was being closely watched by authorities to the best of their abilities at a time when Petito was still classed as missing and not dead and when a warrant had not yet been issued for Laundrie’s arrest.
Taylor provided no further details about the extent of this surveillance or how Laundrie was then able to slip through the net.
It is not clear if investigators ever had proof of his presence at the Laundrie family home in North Port from when Petito was reported missing on September 11 to when his family revealed he was on the run on September 17.
Investigators have confirmed they never spoke to or saw Laundrie that day as his family lawyered up and denied police entry to their home to speak with him. Instead, the timeline of his disappearance appears to largely rest on accounts given by Laundrie’s parents Christopher and Roberta – accounts that have changed this week.
Brian Laundrie’s dad Christopher Laundrie is seen smiling away as he chats with an officer during the search for his son
Christopher didn’t seem too concerned about his son being missing – or his son’s fiancee’s homicide – as he appeared to be having a jolly time while joining the manhunt for Brian
The dad of the 23-year-old fugitive smiled and chatted to an FBI agent as he joined in Thursday’s search at the Carlton Reserve in Florida
The Laundrie family’s attorney said that Christopher will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in the hunt for his son
Christopher and about five FBI officers spent hours searching the vast 24,565 acres located in Venice. He was pictured sweating and taking breaks to hydrate throughout the day
Laundrie swigs on some water during the search which investigators asked him to join in the hope it will help turn a corner in the case
The father of Brian Laundrie was paired with an officer who looked somewhat like his fugitive son for Thursday’s search
The latest developments in the case are:
- The Laundrie family’s attorney said there are ‘no’ plans for Christopher or Roberta to join Friday’s search
- North Port Police poured cold water on reports a ‘fresh campsite’ was found in the Carlton Reserve Thursday
- The conditions in the swampland are said to be improving making the hunt easier to navigate
- FBI is also investigating 11 alleged sightings of Laundrie along the Appalachian Trail near the North Carolina-Tennessee border
- Police said they had Laundrie under surveillance in the days before he was reported missing
- Investigators confirmed neither Petito or Laundrie’s phones were found in the couple’s campervan
- It emerged that Laundrie’s Ford Mustang was found just 16 miles from the Carlton Reserve last month
- Petito’s family revealed her body was found ‘a five minute walk’ from where the van had been seen parked
- The family issued another plea to Laundrie to ‘turn himself in’ in an interview with Dr. Phil
Police also confirmed they have not recovered the phones Petito or Laundrie had with them on the doomed cross-country trip.
Neither phone was found in the couple’s white campervan when it was seized by authorities.
Last week, it emerged the FBI was investigating a line of inquiry that Laundrie had bought a burner from an AT&T store in North Port around September 14.
There has also been speculation that both Laundrie and his mom were in possession of burner phones.
The Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino said Laundrie bought a new phone in the days after he returned home to Florida without his fiancee.
He then left that phone when he went on lam and the FBI has taken it into their possession, he said.
On Friday, Bertolino said the conditions in the Carlton Reserve could become easier for search teams to navigate, raising hopes the net could be closing in on the fugitive.
‘It seems the water in the preserve is receding and certain areas are more accessible to search,’ said Bertolino.
‘The entire Laundrie family is grateful for the hard work of the dedicated members of law enforcement that have been searching the preserve for Brian over the last few weeks.
‘Hopefully, Brian will be located soon.’
Christopher was pictured alongside an FBI officer who resembled his fugitive son, who has been on the run since he was reported missing by his parents on September 14
The 62-year-old pauses for a break during the search for his son while the family of Gabby Petito still wait for answers
Earlier in the week officers found remnants of a ‘fresh campsite’ at the Carlton Reserve and have since believed it is where Laundrie is hiding
Christopher agreed to join in the search for Brian after questions have swirled about what he and his wife Roberta know about his disappearance
He returned with dry clothing, suggesting he remained in a vehicle while guiding officers in the swampy land
After spending hours at the reserve and making ‘no discoveries,’ Christopher returned to his North Port home
Several vehicles are seen parked up in the road at an entrance to the Carlton Reserve Thursday as the search for Laundrie neared the end of its third week
The Laundries changed their story this week about when they last saw their son, revealing he actually had another day’s head-start on authorities
Timeline of Gabby Petito case
- July 1: Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie left Blue Point, New York for a cross-country road trip
- August 12: Police in Moab, Utah respond to a domestic incident involving the couple
- Aug. 17: Laundrie allegedly flies back to Florida to ‘clear out a storage unit’
- Aug. 21: Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, has his last FaceTime video call with his daughter who was in Salt Lake City, Utah
- Aug. 23: Laundrie flies back to Utah to ‘rejoin Gabby’ on their trip
- Aug. 24: Petito is last seen at a hotel in Salt Lake City with Laundrie
- Aug. 25: Petito makes final call to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, saying she was in Grand Teton National Park
- Aug. 25 or 26: The couple chats with the owner of a shop called ‘Rustic Row’ in Victor, Utah for about 20 minutes
- Aug. 27: Video of Petito’s van was taken by blogger Jenn Bethune, of Red White & Bethune, around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground; Witnesses say they saw a ‘commotion’ with the couple at Merry Piglets Tex-mex restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming – if accurate, this appears to be the last known sighting of Petito
- Aug. 29: The day that Wisconsin TikToker Miranda Baker claimed that she and her boyfriend were approached by Laundrie at Grand Teton National Park and asked them for a ride at 5.30pm; Schmidt says she is not entertaining this claim and believes it possibly factual
- Aug. 30: Schmidt receives the last text from Petito: ‘No service in Yosemite’
- Sept. 1: Laundrie returns to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida in a van without Petito
- Sept. 6-7: Laundrie and his parents visit Fort De Soto campsite in Florida
- Sept. 11: Schmidt reports Petito missing to authorities in New York; Petito and Laundrie’s van was impounded by police in Florida that same day
- Sept. 12: Grand Teton National Park rangers search for Petito
- Sept. 13: Laundrie’s lawyer says on October 5 that his parents now ‘believe’ this was the day they last saw him heading for a hike
- Sept. 14: Laundrie issues a statement about Petito’s disappearance through his lawyer; Laundrie’s parents claim on September 17 that Laundrie left his parents’ home for a hike and they hadn’t seen from him since
- Sept. 15: Laundrie is officially named a person of interest in Petito’s case
- Sept. 17: Laundrie family attorney confirms his whereabouts are unknown
- Sept. 18: North Port police and the FBI start searching the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County for missing Brian Laundrie
- Sept. 19: Bethune realizes she has video of Petito’s van around 12am and submits the FBI with the footage 10 minutes later; Officials announce a body was found near Grand Teton National Park that matched Petito’s description in the afternoon
- Sept. 21: Coroner confirms remains found in Grand Tetons belong to Petito. Her death is ruled a homicide but her cause of death is still under invesetigation
- Sept. 20 – 22: FBI and North Port police continue search for Laundrie in Carton Reserve
- Sept. 22: Neighbors say they saw the Laudrie family pack up their detached camper on the day Gabby was reported missing. DailyMail.com photos show the camper was back in the driveway two days later, on September 13
- Sept. 23: FBI issues an arrest warrant for Laundrie for ‘use of unauthorized access device’ for fraudulently using a Capitol One Bank debit card that was not his between August 30 and September 1 to spend $1,000; A probe is launched into the police handling of the Utah police incident on Aug. 12; Laundrie’s parents visit their attorney in Orlando
- Sept. 25: Dog the Bounty Hunter joins the search for Laundrie
- Sept. 26: A funeral is held for Petito in Holbrook, New York, and her family launch a charity to help parents find missing children
- Sept. 27: Manhunt for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve is scaled back after 10 day search doesn’t find him. Dog the Bounty Hunter says Laundrie and his parents stayed at Fort De Soto Park from September 1-3 and September 6-8 – and that on the latter visit only the parents left
- Sept. 28: Laundrie’s mom is accused of using a burner phone to contact her son Sept. 29: Documents reveal Laundrie’s mom canceled a reservation for the Fort De Soto Park campsite for two from September 1 to 3 and booked for three from September 6 to 8; FBI seizes surveillance footage from site; FBI investigates lead Laundrie bought a burner phone on September 14; Dog the Bounty Hunter searches the area near Fort De Soto finding a recently drunk can of Monster Energy at a makeshift campsite deep in the woods
- Sept. 30: Bodycam footage from a second officer at the August 12 incident is released showing a distressed Petito admitting Laundrie hit her; FBI agents collect more evidence from the Laundrie home
- Oct. 1: It emerges Laundrie’s sister had contact with him after she said she did
- Oct. 2: A hiker along the Appalachian Trail claims to have seen Laundrie near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina
- Oct. 3: Investigators searched the area on the Appalachian trail for any signs that Laundrie had been there
- Oct. 4: Laundrie’s sister told protestors outside her home that her family has been ignoring her after they rebuked her story and that she does not know where her brother is
- Oct 5: Laundrie’s sister appeared on Good Morning America to say she would turn her brother in if she knew where he is; The Laundrie attorney says his parents now ‘believe’ he went on the run one day earlier than they first claimed (September 13 not 14) meaning he had a four-day headstart before they reported him missing to authorities; The attorney also says Laundrie flew from Utah to Florida on Aug. 17 without Petito to clear out a storage unit then returned on Aug. 23; A hiker reports a sighting of a person he believed to be Laundrie along the Appalachian Trail near the Tennessee border
- Oct 6: Petito’s parents and step-parents appear together on Dr. Phil to discuss their daughter’s death. Her family paints a vivid picture of the scene where her body was found and encourages Laundrie to turn himself in
- Oct. 7: Laundrie’s father Christopher joins FBI agents on the search for his son at the Carlton Reserve; Investigators find a ‘fresh campsite’ in the nature reserve
Christopher was asked to join the search Thursday just days after inconsistencies came to light in his and his wife Roberta’s version of events of when they last saw their son.
Their attorney this week said the couple now ‘believe’ Laundrie went missing on September 13 – one day earlier than they first claimed – meaning he had a four-day headstart on authorities as they failed to report him missing until September 17.
They claim he was heading into the Carlton Reserve and was carrying a backpack at the time.
The Carlton Reserve has been the focus of the FBI’s hunt for the sole person of interest in Petito’s death for the last three weeks.
Laundrie’s sister – who has also come under fire for initially claiming she hadn’t seen her brother when she had in the run-up to his fleeing – told Good Morning America she doesn’t think he is hiding out there.
The FBI is currently investigating 11 alleged sightings of Laundrie along the Appalachian Trail close to the North Carolina-Tennessee border, DailyMail.com exclusively revealed Wednesday.
Meanwhile Dog the Bounty Hunter has been focusing a separate search at the Fort De Soto Park where the Laundrie family are known to have camped out in the days before he went on the run.
‘I don’t think that he would have gone there to hide. I’d say Brian is a mediocre survivalist,’ she said.
‘He reads books about it and it wouldn’t surprise me if he could last out there a very long time.’
Christopher had left his North Port home and arrived at the park near Venice – close to the family’s home in North Port – before 10am Thursday.
There, he waited for officers and park rangers to open the gate for the reserve which is closed to the public while the manhunt is underway.
The 62-year-old then spent several hours joining FBI agents to point out any favorite trails or spots his son frequented in the reserve, which has been the focus of the manhunt for Laundrie for the last three weeks.
Wearing a gray T-shirt, cargo pants and clutching a plastic carrier which appeared to contain documents, or perhaps a map and food, Laundrie spent hours in the park with about five FBI officers and was dripping sweat in the Florida heat.
He took breaks to drink water on the outskirts of the park along the road.
A police helicopter was also flying overhead to assist in the search.
Investigators had brought in Christopher to help guide them along the trails Brian was known to frequent.
However, his guidance bore little fruit as officials made ‘no discoveries’ and Christopher returned home, where Roberta, 55, was believed to have been waiting for him.
The couple have barely left their home since their son vanished.
Meanwhile, an attorney for the family said that Laundrie’s parents believe ‘that is exactly where he is located,’ CNN’s Chris Cuomo reported.
Attorney Steven Bertolino said: ‘There were no discoveries [on Thursday] but the effort was helpful to all.’
Christopher returned home earlier in the afternoon with dry shoes and clothing, suggesting he remained in a vehicle while guiding officers through the swampy land.
He will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as agents finish investigating the new campsite, his attorney said.
‘Chris Laundrie is assisting Law Enforcement today in the search for Brian,’ Bertolino told DailyMail.com.
‘Chris was asked to point out any favorite trails or spots that Brian may have used in the preserve.
‘Although Chris and Roberta Laundrie provided this information verbally three weeks ago it is now thought that on-site assistance may be better.
‘The preserve has been closed to the public and the Laundries as well but the parents have been cooperating since the search began.’
Bertolino claimed police had to ‘postpone’ the parents’ earlier plans to join the search.
‘Unfortunately North Port police had to postpone Chris’ involvement but Chris and Roberta are hopeful there will be another opportunity to assist,’ he told CNN.
But North Port Police’s Taylor told Fox News that his department did not ask for Chris’s involvement – and that police did not ‘postpone’ it.
‘In no world would we be the agency asking the family to help search in an FBI led investigation,’ Taylor said, while declining to answer questions about whether North Port police had invited Chris Laundrie to join the search before the FBI took over the case.
North Port police said all questions should be referred to the FBI.
Pat Diaz, a former homicide detective in Miami-Dade who also worked on FBI task forces, said he questioned whether the FBI would bring in a suspect’s father to help with their search.
He said: ‘They may have found stuff in the reserve for the father to identify. Not a body, but belongings.’
Bertolino later said the request ‘perhaps’ came from ‘a liaison to FBI’, while adding: ‘My statement is correct.’
Former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer told News Nation Now journalist Brian Entin in a Twitter live video that she believes Laundrie will be found alive – just not soon.
She also claimed Laundrie could be ‘loosely’ contacting his parents through their family attorney.
When asked whether she thought Laundrie might still be communicating with his parents, Coffindaffer said: ‘Yes, although very loosely through the attorney.’
It is not known whether Laundrie has spoken to this parents since he was reported missing.
Speaking about why she believes Laundrie will be found alive, Coffindaffer said: ‘I believe he’s going to be able to hide in his surroundings.
‘I think he’s a learned outdoorsman and survivalist and because of that I think he will be able to stay out of law enforcement’s grasp for a while.’
It was also revealed that Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just 16 miles from the Carlton Reserve last month.
A redacted abandoned vehicle report from September 14 reveals that the car was found at 6968 Reisterstown Road, North Port, in the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park in Florida. The park is an entrance to the Carlton Reserve.
An abandoned vehicle notice has been placed on the vehicle on September 14, North Port police said Wednesday.
An attorney for Christopher and Roberta said they ‘believe’ he actually went missing on September 13 not 14. Days after the disclosure, Christopher joined Thursday’s search
Christopher is seen just beyond a fence searching in the nature reserve which has been the focus of the two-week-plus search
Christopher’s wife Roberta, 55, was believed to have been waiting for him at the couple’s house. The duo have barely left their home since their son vanished
Christopher was pictured wearing a sweat-soaked grey shirt, cargo pants and a green baseball cap while holding a water bottle
A former FBI agent has claimed that Laundrie is secretly contacting his parents through their family attorney and that he will be found alive – just not soon
The search team on Thursday spent hours combing through the swampy area but made ‘no discoveries’
Chief spokesman of the North Port Police Department Josh Taylor told Fox News that his department did not ask for the father’s involvement
Laundrie’s family had told police on September 17 they had not seen him for days after he told them he was going to the reserve.
Attorney Bertolino told CNN that after speaking to the FBI: ‘We now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday September 13.’ His parents had originally told police he had left on September 14.
He added: ‘The Laundries were basing the date Brian left on their recollection of certain events.
‘After consulting with the FBI and confirming the day Brian’s Mustang was found and returned to the Laundries’ home, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday September 13.’
The FBI later searched Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang before towing it away for a deeper investigation after executing a search warrant on the home of his parents.
The development comes after Gabby Petito’s family have revealed that the 22-year-old’s body was found in a fairly isolated area, just ‘a five minute walk’ from where the couple’s van had been seen parked.
It was also revealed that Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just 16 miles from the Carlton Reserve last month
Christopher spent hours joining the hunt for his son about five or six officers before emerging out onto the road (above) at the end of the day’s search
Christopher Laundrie’s vehicle is seen outside the park Thursday as he joined officers in looking for his fugitive son, 23
Christopher Laundrie is seen at the nature reserve Thursday after leaving his home around 10am and joining the search
Christopher is seen calmly chatting to the FBI agent during the search which authorities said turned up no evidence of Brian but did spot a ‘fresh campsite’
The 62-year-old was out in the Carlton Reserve nature park for several hours with FBI agents in the sweltering Florida heat
Laundrie is seen returning to his vehicle after the unsuccessful search – the same vehicle witnesses spotted the Laundries using during a camping trip days before Petito was reported missing
Christopher Laundrie, father of the missing Brian Laundrie, was spotted leaving his house on Thursday for the first time this week as he joined the hunt for this son
He arrived later in the morning at the Mykkahatchee Creek Environmental Park as he guided law enforcement deeper into the Carlton Reserve where he and police believe his son is located
In an emotional interview with Dr Phil, on Wednesday, Petito’s stepfather Jim said: ‘Her body was found — I guess it would be in front of a tent, if that’s what was there — or just in front of the fire ring… there was definitely a fire ring there.’
‘It wasn’t far from the van. It was a five minute walk,’ Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt echoed.
Jim, who visited the location on the outskirts of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where Petito’s body was found, painted a vivid picture of the isolated area.
‘You would have to want to go out over into that area,’ he said.
Jim said his stepdaughter’s remains were found in an area of dispersed campgrounds on the borderline of Bridger-Teton National Forest, about 40 feet away from where Grand Teton National Park begins.
He explained in order to get to that area, campers would have to cross over the creek bed that separated the campgrounds from the area where the van had been parked.
‘So you have to cross over this creek bed, this rock area, and go through these tributaries and once you get on the other side it’s just some trees sparsely placed throughout and a lot sage brush, a lot of low brush,’ he shared.
‘It was in an area where there was a few trees and there was the remnants of a fire ring there… There was a clearing where I would assume – knowing I have a similar tent, where I would place my tent – and that opening would face out overlooking the mountain range.’
Jim left a stone cross and flowers in the exact location where she was found.
Christopher’s move to help law enforcement comes after the Laundries had previously distanced themselves from the search
Christopher has agreed to finally aid in the search for his son after police spotted a fresh campsite in the Carlton Reserves, where Brian is suspected to be hiding at
Officials found a fresh campsite at the T. Marbary Jr. Memorial Reservation. Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just at the outskirts of the area last month
He will continue to guide law enforcement through the area as they investigate a newly found campsite in the reserve
Christopher returned home later in the afternoon, about four hours after he joined investigators at the reserve
It was also revealed that Laundrie’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found just 16 miles from the Carlton Reserve last month
A redacted abandoned vehicle report from September 14 reveals that the car was found at 6968 Reisterstown Road, North Port, in the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park in Florida
Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, set off on July 2 on the adventure of a lifetime traveling across America in their white campervan and chronicling their adventures on YouTube.
On September 1, Laundrie arrived back at his family’s home in North Port without his fiancée but driving their van.
Petito was reported missing on September 11 by her mom after not hearing from her daughter for multiple days and coming up against a wall of silence from Laundrie and his parents.
The Laundrie family lawyered up and refused to let cops speak to him about his fiancee’s whereabouts.
His parents then reported him as missing on September 17.
Petito’s body was discovered at a campsite near the Grand Teton National Park on September 19 and her death has been ruled a homicide. It is not clear how she died or when.
Local police and the FBI have now been searching for Laundrie for three weeks.
Jim (left) and Nichole Schmidt (right), appearing on Dr. Phil, revealed that Gabby Petito’s remains were found in an area of dispersed campgrounds on the borderline of Bridger-Teton National Forest, about 40 feet away from where Grand Teton National Park begins
Jim left a stone cross and flowers in the exact location where she was found
The pair had been traveling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11
Petito (pictured) was reported missing on September 11, ten days after boyfriend Brian Laundrie returned to Florida in their van without Petito and refused to answer her parents about what had happened to her
Several vehicles are seen parked on the road by the nature reserve where Laundrie’s parents claimed he was headed when they last saw him more than three weeks ago
A buggy is seen – to help FBI agents make their way through the tough terrain (right) – alongside several other vehicles (left) at the entrance to the reserve
Laundrie is seen collecting shopping from a Publix delivery person on Thursday – the same day he joined in the search
Christopher takes the delivery before returning back inside his home where he and Laundrie’s mom have been holing up