Meanwhile, in North Port, Florida, where Laundrie’s family lives, police are calling Laundrie a “person of interest” in the wrenching disappearance, and previously insisted: “He is not wanted for a crime.”
Yet in an ominous tweet Sunday, the same authorities appeared to have accepted an awful prospect.
“Saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased. Our focus from the start, along with the FBI, and national partners, has been to bring her home. We will continue to work with the FBI in the search for more answers.”
The anguish of the Petito family has since taken on a bitter turn toward Laundrie.
Richard Stafford, an attorney for the Petito family, said in a brief statement to CNN, “All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding.”
Earlier Sunday, dozens of Florida law enforcement officials began a second day of combing through a 24,000 square-acre wildlife park on the Gulf Coast in search of Laundrie, whose family said they last saw him Tuesday.
The search effort included the use of drones and bloodhounds who used articles of Laundrie’s clothing taken from his home to get his scent, authorities said on Saturday. Police initially focused their search in a nearby, 200-acre park before expanding to the rest of the reserve.
Petito’s relatives had unsuccessfully pleaded with the Laundrie family to tell them when and where their son last saw their adored Gabby.
The pair had packed into a 2012 Fort Transit Connect van in Long Island July 2, the childhood sweethearts aiming to drive to Oregon by the end of October, their social media accounts said.
On Sunday night, Gabby Petito’s dad shared a photo of his precious daughter in front of painted angel wings. Joseph Petito captioned the Instagram image, “she touched the world,” along with a broken heart emoji.
“As every parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for the family and friends,” Jones said at the Sunday news conference. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We ask that you all respect their privacy as they mourn the loss of their daughter.”
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