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Gabby Petito case: Bounty hunter following leads in Appalachian Trail after reported sightings of Brian Laundrie

Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito left for a cross-country trip together in mid-June. He returned on Sept. 1 without her
Posted at 1:55 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 16:53:37-04

Investigators working with Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman are honing in on portions of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina as they continue their search for Brian Laundrie, who is wanted on federal bank fraud charges after his girlfriend, Gabby Petito, was found dead in Wyoming.

People have claimed to have seen the 23-year-old in Watauga County, North Carolina, according to multiple reports. Users in a private Facebook page, Appalachian Classifieds, described how people were "reporting seeing Brian Laundrie in Boone, NC," according to a report by Fox News.

The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office told local affiliate FOX 46, "We were looking into these claims, but nothing has been verified." Sheriff Len Hagaman told Fox News that the department was "only monitoring social media reposts – nothing validated."

It’s not the first time members of the public have reported seeing Laundrie since he allegedly went missing on Sept. 14. Earlier this month, people reported possible sightings in Mobile, Alabama, where a man was found dead near a local Walmart store, and in trail camera footage from Baker, in Okaloosa County, Florida.

Earlier this week, Lyssa Chapman, the daughter of Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman, tweeted that the team was "looking for experienced HIKING/SURVIVALIST near the Appalachian Hiking trail in North Carolina."

Bounty hunter says Brian Laundrie hid out in Florida campground 75 miles from parents' home

She later asked the public to share Laundrie’s photo with those who live in "backwoods" communities in North Carolina. She also urged hunters and people who lived near the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina to check their game cameras.

The Appalachian Trail as a whole is "the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, ranging from Maine to Georgia," according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It spans more than 2,193 miles and across 14 states. In North Carolina alone, the Appalachia Trail encompasses 96.4 miles and reaches elevations of up to 5,498 feet.

Both Laundrie and Petito have allegedly hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail. In March, Petito shared a photograph on Instagram with a geotag for the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

And a woman who says she was one of Petito’s best friends, Rose Davis, told PEOPLE Laundrie "lived in the Appalachians by himself for months."

"He is out in the wilderness, I promise you," 21-year-old David told the site. She later added that she believed if he was alive, he was "camping out." Davis did not respond to Fox News’ previous request seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman on Wednesday contracted a private search and rescue K-9 team to search an island called Egmont Key off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida, in his search for Brian Laundrie.

A crew of four people carrying backpacks and other supplies left on boats with three K-9s. Chapman confirmed to Fox News that he hired the team for help in looking for Laundrie, a fugitive person of interest in the disappearance and homicide of his fiancé, Gabby Petito.

"We're out here at the island," Chapman said in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday. "This would be and could be a perfect spot for him to hide, not too many people out here."

Egmont has a pilot house, a ranger station and a lighthouse that was built in 1858 but is primarily a wildlife refuge. The entire island is 450 acres and lies about two miles southwest of Fort De Soto Park – a distance easy to kayak under the right conditions.

Petito, 22, and 23-year-old Laundrie embarked on a cross-country road trip in mid-June with the plan to visit national parks and popular hiking trails in a white Ford Transit, which they had converted into a camper van.

Then, on Sept. 1, months after they began their trip, Laundrie returned to the North Port home in the couple's van, but without Petito, officials said. Her mother reported her missing 10 days later, on Sept. 11, to the police in Suffolk County, N.Y. Police seized the van from the Laundries' home that same day.

Laundrie was subsequently named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance, and on Thursday, the FBI issued an arrest warrant for bank card fraud. Authorities alleged he used someone’s Capital One Bank card and the personal identification number during the time when Petito was missing.

But Laundrie also subsequently went missing, his parents claimed through their attorney.

After Petito’s missing persons’ report was filed on Sept. 11, Laundrie would not cooperate with the police investigation, officials said. The Laundries’ attorney released a statement on Sept. 14, in which he announced he had advised his clients to remain "in the background." The family revealed three days later that they had not seen him since Sept. 14.

Florida lawyer puts $20K bounty on Brian Laundrie's head

Petito’s body was discovered near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sept. 19. A Teton County coroner ruled the death a homicide but has not yet announced the cause. Friends, family and the public paid their respects during a Sunday ceremony on Long Island.

In the days after Laundrie arrived home alone, Charlene Guthrie, who lives directly across the street from the Laundrie family, told Fox News she saw Laundrie mowing the lawn, riding his bike with his mother and appearing to go camping with his parents. Petito had previously been living with the family at their North Port, Florida, home.

"Dog" Chapman announced Saturday he was entering the search for Laundrie, and tips quickly poured in. He told Fox News he received a tip on Monday that Laundrie’s parents spent the night in Fort De Soto Park with their son twice in early September from Sept. 1-3 and Sept. 6-8.

Records obtained by Fox News’ Robert Sherman show Laundrie’s mother, Roberta Laundrie, registered at the park on Sept. 6 and indicated she would be staying until Sept. 8.

A Pinellas County Sheriff’s spokesperson confirmed to Fox News that the FBI is investigating surveillance footage from the park in connection with the Laundrie case.