CARLTON RESERVE, FLORIDA: An “underwater recovery team” has now joined the Florida manhunt for Gabby Petito’s boyfriend Brian Laundrie in a 25,000-acre reserve. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office dive crew reportedly arrived at the Carlton Reserve on September 22 to join the search for Laundrie, who is a person of interest in Petito’s death. As the search ended in the evening, a swamp buggy, airboat, boat and and several pickup trucks were seen leaving the scene. “The ground search for Brian Laundrie has been halted for the evening,” the North Port Police Department tweeted. “Nothing found. We will be back out Thursday, similar operation.”
The sheriff’s website says that the Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force, or SURF, is a team of “highly trained underwater specialists”. “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 part of the overall search process,” said North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor. Earlier on September 22, a team of K-9s was also present at the scene being searched to look for Laundrie.
We continue to respond to requests for mutual aid from neighboring law enforcement agencies & federal partners. To confirm, yes, members of our Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force have responded to Carlton Reserve. This in addition to our Emergency Response Team, Air-1 & patrol. pic.twitter.com/LcagDcofLL
— SarasotaSheriff (@SarasotaSheriff) September 22, 2021
The ground search for Brian Laundrie has been halted for the evening. Nothing found.
We will be back out Thursday, similar operation.
— North Port Police (@NorthPortPolice) September 22, 2021
“We are trying to cover every acre of this preserve,” said North Port Police Commander Joe Fussell. “It’s rough out there. It’s hot, it’s wet.” Hours after Gabby Petito‘s body was discovered, police swarmed Laundrie‘s home which had been declared a “crime scene” on Monday morning, September 20. FBI agents removed Laundrie’s parents from the residence after announcing they had a search warrant.
Laundrie came back home from the trip, without Petito accompanying him. She was reported missing on September 11. Amid a nationwide search for the missing girl, Laundrie disappeared. Petito’s body was later discovered and police confirmed that her death was a homicide. The Denver office of the FBI said in a statement, “Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results.” Laundrie’s whereabouts are still unknown.
Meanwhile, Alfredo Garcia, a professor at St Thomas University College of Law and a former assistant state attorney in Florida, suggested that if Laundrie was captured and charged with Petito’s murder, he could “potentially face the death penalty”. Laundrie is reportedly in Florida and Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming, and both the places are among the few US states where death sentence is still legal. Garcia said: “If it [the crime] occurred in Wyoming, they would have jurisdiction” to process through the death penalty there.