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Ex-host of America's Most Wanted alleges Brian Laundrie's parents lied he was at their Florida home to buy him more time to escape

Daily Mail
Daily Mail
 24 days ago

Brian Laundrie’s parents lied to authorities when they said their son returned home to Florida last week after the disappearance of his fiancée, Gabby Petito, according to former America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh.

Walsh accused Christopher Laundrie; his wife, Roberta Laundrie; and their attorney, Steven Bertolino, of staging a ‘ruse’ by refusing a police request to speak to Brian Laundrie last Tuesday when it was thought he had returned home.

DailyMail.com has reached out to Bertolino seeking comment on Walsh’s claims, which came hours after a body found in Wyoming was confirmed to be Gabby. An autopsy confirmed she'd died by homicide.

'Has anybody seen any confirmation that he was in that house?' Walsh asked during an appearance on Anderson Cooper's CNN primetime show on Tuesday.

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John Walsh, the citizen crimefighter and former America's Most Wanted host, thinks Brian Laundrie's parents and their attorney lied about his whereabouts to police in order to buy him time so that he could escape
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Brian Laundrie (left) is a person of interest in the disappearance and death of his fiancée, Gabby Petito (right), who was reported missing on September 11
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Walsh says there is no confirmation that Brian Laundrie returned to the family home in North Port, Florida (seen above on Tuesday)

'All this time, the FBI and the North Port police have been going on the word' of Laundrie’s parents and their lawyer 'that he's in the house,' according to Walsh.

'What if he came back with the van and was there for 10 days?' Walsh asked.

Petito was reported missing by her family on September 11. She and Brian Laundrie had set out for a cross-country 'van life' trip from her native Long Island on July 2.

The last time she communicated with her family was when she texted her mom 'No service in Yosemite' on August 30. They spoke to her over the phone for the final time on August 29.

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Walsh accused the Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino (pictured), of helping to concoct a 'ruse' to help Brian Laundrie escape

On September 1, it is believed that Brian Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida while driving the white Ford van registered to Petito. It was the same van that the couple traveled in during their trip.

Since Brian Laundrie was the last person to see Petito alive, he was declared a 'person of interest' in the investigation on September 15.

At the time, his lawyer advised Laundrie not to speak to authorities. On September 17, Laundrie's parents told police that they had not seen their son since three days earlier.

The next day, police start combing the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve just 13 miles from North Port.

Laundrie's parents told investigators they believe their son entered the area just days earlier.

Bertolino said the family went looking for Laundrie on Wednesday and found his silver Ford Mustang convertible at the reserve, which had a police note on it demanding that the vehicle be removed from the area.

The family initially left the car there so Laundrie could drive it back, but they returned on Thursday to retrieve it, he said.

Petito's remains were found in Grand Teton National Park on Sunday. A coroner confirmed her identity on Tuesday. The cause of death was homicide, according to the medical examiner.

Walsh told CNN that Brian Laundrie had ‘a great amount of time to prepare for an escape’ and to have ‘scrubbed the van’ before he became a focus of the investigation.

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Bertolino's business page featured a photo of Petito on the page earlier Tuesday (seen above). It is not clear who posted them
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Gabby Petito's family have sent a cease and desist letter to Brian Laundrie's lawyer after he used photos of their dead daughter on his business's Yelp page
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A warning was also displayed on the Yelp page reading that it was now 'monitored by Yelp's Support team for content related to media reports' and that the site had 'temporarily disabled the posting of content' to the page

Brian Laundrie mowed the lawn and went on family bike rides 'like nothing bothered him' after returning from cross-country trip alone, says neighbor

Brian Laundrie's neighbor has revealed that the 23-year-old mowed the lawn and went on family bike rides 'like nothing bothered him' after returning from the cross-country trip alone.

Charlene Guthrie, who lives across the street from the Laundrie family in North Port, Florida, told Fox News she saw Laundrie return to 'normal life' - all the while his girlfriend Gabby Petito was missing, possibly already dead.

'He mowed the lawn. Him and his mother went for a bicycle ride around the block,' Guthrie said.

'I mean, everything was just normal life once he came back.

'And I just can't get over the fact that they — it seemed like nothing bothered him. How can you do that?'

Laundrie returned to North Port without Petito in the couple's campervan on September 1. Authorities were then alerted to her disappearance on September 11.

Guthrie said the discovery of Petito's body and Laundrie's disappearance look 'really, really bad for him' and that she believes he 'should be a suspect.'

The neighbor also hit out at Laundrie's parents for not coming forward when their son went missing and that they 'let him go' in the first place.

'I have children, and I know that you do what you can to protect your child, but, you know, that can go so far, and you gotta do the right thing eventually. You have to,' Guthrie said.

'[The Laundries] should have absolutely come forward now. I mean, I just… can't believe they didn't do something. I'm really angry now that they… let this go.

'And that everything was so natural and they remained so normal through the whole thing, you know, while they were here, till he went on the run.'

He said that the assumption that Laundrie was missing in the reserve since September 14 - as his parents claim - was a ‘red herring’ and a ‘ruse.’

'My philosophy is, he never went to the swamp,' Walsh said.

'His parents and the lawyer … bought him four days to get out in front of this.'

Walsh slammed the North Port police for failing to put Brian Laundrie under surveillance and allowing him to go missing even after it became clear that he was a person of interest.

'How the hell did this boy get out of the house? I think the FBI and the Northport police have gotten a lot of questions to answer,' he said.

'How did he get out of that house and get away?'

Walsh said that he will discuss the Petito case in depth on his new show In Pursuit With John Walsh, which will air Wednesday night on Investigation Discovery.

‘It’s the public that will solve this case, and I believe the public will catch this guy,’ he said.

‘We need to see this creep brought in and pay for this.’

Earlier on Wednesday, Petito's family sent a cease and desist letter to Bertolino after his business's Yelp page used photos of their dead daughter.

Richard Benson Stafford, the attorney for the Petito family, is demanding Bertolino take down the photos by 2pm on Wednesday or face 'further action.'

The family initially tried to remove the photos themselves but were informed that only the business owner can add or remove photos, Stafford wrote in the letter dated September 22.

Bertolino has denied having control of the Yelp page and said any suggestion he would 'use this case to drum up any business' is 'disgusting'.

In the letter, Petito's family also demands Bertolino 'cease and desist posting pictures of Gabby Petito to any and all of your social media pages, web pages, or advertisements in an effort to gain business.'

'I am sure this will be taken care of by 2pm or I will take further action on behalf of Gabby's family,' it read.

Yelp is an online directory advertising local businesses where people can leave reviews and ratings.

Bertolino's business page featured a photo of Petito on the page earlier Tuesday.

As of 1pm ET, the only two photos on the webpage was a montage of two pictures of Laundrie and a screengrab of a short bio page.

A warning was also displayed on the Yelp page reading that it was now 'monitored by Yelp's Support team for content related to media reports' and that the site had 'temporarily disabled the posting of content' to the page.

Further details of who runs the page have not been shared. DailyMail.com has contacted Yelp and Bertolino for further information.

Bertolino hit back at the allegations he was using Petito to drum up business, telling ABC7 the suggestion is 'disgusting' and that he has not 'advertised or sought business in over 20 years.'

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Petito's grieving uncle Steve Petito lashed out at Laundrie's attorney Steven Bertoloni in an Instagram post late Tuesday saying we 'don't require nor want you empathy' and accusing him of being 'as guilty and complicit with this massive cover-up'
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Police divers joined the search for Brian Laundrie just before noon Wednesday with an airboat to join the manhunt for Brian Laundrie 
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A van from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Underwater Recovery Force, towing a small dingy, turned up about an hour after an airboat was seen for the first time at the 25,000-acre reserve
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Laundrie's whereabouts are still unknown, with the manhunt entering its fourth day at a nature reserve in Florida (pictured) 
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Police and FBI agents resumed their search of the Carlton Reserve early Wednesday, sharing photos of search dogs (above)

'That's disgusting. Just so you know, my website and any review sites that I do not control have been overrun by John Q. Public,' he said.

'Indeed yelp actually shut the site down due to the inordinate amount of fake commenting on it.

'I have not advertised or sought business in over 20 years and I would certainly not use this case to drum up any business.'

It is not clear who originally posted the photos on the Yelp page or who later removed them.

DailyMail.com has reached out to both Bertolino and Yelp for further information.

The legal action was taken hours after Petito's grieving uncle Steve Petito lashed out at Laundrie's attorney in an Instagram post late Tuesday, saying we 'don't require nor want you empathy' and saying his attempt to show 'compassion' are 'beyond disgusting'.

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Search teams from multiple law enforcement agencies gathered Wednesday for a briefing before heading out into the 25,000-acre swampland
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Search teams fan out at Carlton Reserve park near North Port, Florida, Wednesday as the manhunt for Laundrie continued
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Agents with K-9s are seen in Wednesday's search for the missing boyfriend of Gabby Petito - whose body was found Sunday
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Buggies are being used in the search across the 25,000-acre swampland much of which is barely passable by humans 
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A memorial cross of stones is arranged at the spot believed to be the final resting place of Petito at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite, close to Grand Teton National Park
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The undeveloped campground is popular with tourists though it has no water or trash service. Above, a sign points to the area
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Gabby Petito, 22, is pictured with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, in a YouTube video made to document their 'van life' trip
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The pair had been travelling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11

Laundrie's whereabouts are still unknown, with the manhunt entering its fourth day in Florida and law enforcement sources saying the 23-year-old boyfriend of Petito is the 'prime suspect' in her homicide.

Police and FBI agents resumed their search of the Carlton Reserve early Wednesday, sharing photos of search dogs heading out into the 25,000-acre swampland on social media.

Dive teams were later spotted heading into the nature reserve around midday.

Bertoloni had released a statement Tuesday after a preliminary autopsy confirmed the body found Sunday in a campsite near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming belongs to the 22-year-old Petito and that her manner of death was homicide.

'May Gabby Rest In Peace,' the attorney said in the statement.

Steve Petito took to social media Tuesday to blast Laundrie's attorney accusing him of being 'as guilty and complicit with this massive cover-up'

'As far as the law is concerned this law firm may be immune due to attorney/client privilege,' he wrote.

'But in the eyes of the public you are as guilty and complicit with this massive cover-up and stalling tactic.'

He added: 'We don't require nor want you empathy. By you trying to show compassion here at this moment is beyond disgusting.'

Steve told Fox News Wednesday the Petito family will release a statement when her remains are returned to them from Wyoming.

Police under fire from missing persons experts for alleged 'missteps' in Petito investigation

Outside investigators are criticizing law enforcement officers working on the Petito case for their handling of the investigation.

Many experts argue that authorities let person-of-interest Brian Laundrie 'slip through their fingers' because they didn't monitor him.

'They should've immediately placed him under surveillance. Immediately,' Ed Gavin, an expert in missing person cases argued.

His claims were echoed by a retired New York City cop who stressed that while there was likely not enough evidence to bring Laundrie in for questioning or to obtain a search warrant, they could've surveilled him.

'You always have to try to build a case and if it means surveillance to see where he's going or what he's doing … then you do that. You don't need a search warrant to surveil somebody,' the officer said.

North Port Police Department spokesman Josh Taylor responded to the criticism, saying their department 'has no authority to execute a possible federal search warrant on our own'.

He also stressed that his department is looking for Laundrie under a missing persons investigation, not as a suspect in Petito's case.

'There is no information that a crime took place here in North Port. That is our jurisdiction,' said Taylor.

The coroner is still carrying out tests on the 22-year-old's body to determine her cause of death.

Police named Laundrie a 'person of interest' in his girlfriend's disappearance last Wednesday.

At the time, the case was a missing person case with officials hopeful they would find the travel blogger alive.

Law enforcement sources told TMZ Laundrie is now their prime suspect in her death.

But prosecutors are said to be holding off from bringing charges or officially naming him a suspect until they can locate Laundrie.

Even then, this does not mean he will be charged with her murder.

The coroner ruled Petito's manner of death homicide but the cause of death is yet to be determined.

'Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999,' FBI Denver tweeted Tuesday.

'Coroner Blue's initial determination for the manner of death is homicide.

'The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results.'

In Colorado, homicide includes varying degrees of murder and manslaughter.

It is also unclear if Laundrie is even alive to face any possible charges.

His parents told law enforcement on Friday they last saw him over a week ago last Tuesday when he left their home with a backpack and told them he was heading to the Carlton Reserve.

A North Port police spokesman said early Wednesday that searchers have 'huddled up' and headed out again to look for Laundrie in the vast, alligator-infested reserve.

A van from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Underwater Recovery Force, towing a small dingy, turned up about an hour after an airboat was seen for the first time at the 25,000-acre reserve.

When asked if police divers were recovering anything significant, North Port Police information chief Josh Taylor said: 'We are looking. Nothing found. We have to work to rule it out though.'

'Area resources are looking at large bodies of water, including dive teams, boats, and sonar equipment. At this time, this does not mean anything has been found. It's a part of the overall search process,' Taylor said.

'Additionally, right now, NPPD is on scene of a possible self-inflicted death, roughly one mile from the Environmental Park. Nothing to do with this case.'

The terrain is particularly treacherous, with 80 miles of hiking trails and some sections nearly impassable to humans.

The Sarasota Police Department tweeted Wednesday that, despite rumors, Laundrie is not in custody and the search for him was continuing.

The search was called off for the night late Tuesday before agents from around eight different teams returned to continue with their efforts early Wednesday.

The search began on Saturday, starting at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park which is linked to the Carlton Reserve, a vast nature reserve about five miles from the North Port home Laundrie shared with his parents and Petito.

The search was then paused Monday when authorities said they had 'exhausted all avenues' before teams returned to the area Tuesday, where they focused their attention on the area closer to the city of Venice, along with adjoining lands.

On Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all state agencies to assist federal and local law enforcement in the search, saying 'we need justice for Gabby'.

More than 50 searchers from at least eight law enforcement agencies led by the FBI used huge swamp-busting amphibious vehicles, ATVs, bloodhounds, other K9s and drones to comb through the snake and alligator-infested swampland.

The FBI is asking anyone who may have had contact with Petito or Laundrie, may have seen their vehicle or who visited the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest between August 27 and 30 to contact authorities.

Several people have come forward with tips and to report seeing the couple's van or Laundrie during this timeframe.

TIMELINE OF VAN-LIFER GABBY PETITO'S DISAPPEARANCE

July 2 - Petito, 22, and her fiancee, Brian Laundrie, left New York for a four-month, cross country trip visiting national parks - during which they would document their adventures on social media

August 12 - Petito posted image of herself on Instagram that was taken on August 9. She is seen sitting under an arch in Arches National Park in Utah

Picture was posted the same day police in Moab, Utah responded to a report of a 'domestic problem' after Petito and Laundrie had 'some sort of argument.'

The couple told police they were in love, engaged, and 'desperately didn't wish to see anyone charged with a crime,' according to the police report

August 19 - Couple post eight-minute YouTube video titled 'Van Life: Beginning Our Van Life Journey.'

They are seen kissing, scaling rocks, and laughing about how the summer heat in Utah melted their chocolate granola bar

August 23-24 - Petito speaks to her parents on a FaceTime call. Her father says that the couple were planning to leave Utah and drive to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

August 30 - Petito's mother, Nicole Schmidt, said she received a text from her daughter's phone which read 'No service in Yosemite'

September 1 - Brian Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida in the white Ford van that the couple used for the trip. The van was registered to Petito

September 11 - Petito's family reported her missing, according to the North Port Police Department

September 15 - Brian Laundrie is considered a 'person of interest' as he was the last person known to have been with Petito before she went missing.

Laundrie's lawyer advised his client not to speak to authorities

September 16 - North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said that Laundrie was exercising his constitutional rights not to speak to investigators and that authorities were still treating the search as a missing persons case

Petito's father, Joseph Petito, holds a news conference and asks for tips and help from the community.

Petito's parents also plead with Laundrie's parents to tell them where 'Brian left Gabby'

September 17 - Laundrie's parents told police that they had not seen their son since three days earlier

September 18 - North Port police announce they are searching for Laundrie at the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve just 13 miles from North Port.

Laundrie's family told authorities they believed Brian Laundrie entered the area days earlier.

Meanwhile, federal and local investigators search Grand Teton National Park and Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in Wyoming for Petito

September 19 - The remains of someone believed to be Petito are found in Wyoming

September 20 - FBI raids home of Laundrie's parents Chris and Roberta

September 21 - Coroner confirms identity of Gabby Petito

September 22 - Police divers join manhunt for Brian Laundrie in Carlton Reserve

Comments / 336

Linda Hall
19d ago

I think it was all a set up with Brian's family to help Brian's escape. Not reporting Gabby missing was Brian's and his family's first mistake. Parking the car by the refuge was a throw off for more time. I think the family knows where he is thats why there's no concern on their part. This is just my opinion on the whole matter.

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Lori Hays
18d ago

he's not missing he ran away because he is a cold blooded murderer and his parents and lawyer gave him a 4 day head start and he is most likely not in that place they are all searching. If your not guilty why are you running

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Pam Riggsby
19d ago

I hope , if they find out the family lied to buy him time, that his parents get arrested for obstruction and that at the least they have to pay for the cost of the search for him

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