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Gabby Petito case: FBI officially takes over search for Brian Laundrie in Florida nature preserve

An expert criminal profiler broke down Laundrie's documented behavior to Fox News on Monday
Brian Laundrie
Posted at 12:26 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 14:52:09-04

NORTH PORT, Fla. — North Port police had been the lead for the search for Brian Laundrie, with other agencies assisting. Now, the FBI is taking over as they continue to look for signs of the person of interest in Gabby Petito’s case in Carlton Reserve, the Fox News affiliate in Tampa reported Monday morning.

Search efforts at the Carlton Preserve for the only person of interest in Gabby Petito's case slowed over the weekend. North Port police said Sunday they searched on a smaller scale, and mostly by air.

"I don’t think you’re going to see those large scale types of efforts this week," Josh Taylor, spokesman for the North Port Police Department, told Fox News. "The FBI is now leading the search. I’m told, It will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence. Hopefully, water will lower in areas hard to currently access."

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

Meanwhile, an expert criminal profiler on Monday told Fox News that Brian Laundrie showed telltale signs of a domestic abuser and control freak in his erratic public behavior around fiancée Gabby Petito in the weeks before her death – and he may have had help evading authorities before investigators found her body.

"I think he’s a coward on the run," John Kelly, a longtime criminal profiler and psychotherapist, told Fox News. "Knowing that he’s a coward, where would we think he would go? Do we think he’s macho enough to go off to Mexico? I don’t know about that."

Laundrie's parents told police on Sept. 17 that they hadn't seen him for three days – so he had a potential head start to wherever he may be now. FBI search teams found Petito’s remains at the Spread Creek dispersed camping area, just north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Sunday, Sept. 19.

Dispatch audio indicates Moab officers were told Laundrie hit Petito before traffic stop

Kelly told Fox News, he believes Laundrie may have flipped the switch from "asocial" to "anti-social" before Petito died by homicide in Wyoming’s Teton Range.

"Asocial is pretty much somebody that likes to be alone…they’re not hurting anybody," John Kelly, a longtime criminal profiler and psychotherapist, told Fox News. "Antisocial is when you strike out at society and have a lot of anger and resentment."

And the ultimate antisocial act, he said, would be killing someone.

Laundrie's attorney, Steven Bertolino, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.

Laundrie has not been charged in connection with Petito’s disappearance or death. But investigators have named him a person of interest and questioned why he appeared at his parents’ Florida house in her van, without her, just days after they were last seen together in Wyoming.

Gabby Petito
This undated photo provided by the North Port, Fla., Police Department shows Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito. Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country trip in a converted camper van with her boyfriend. Investigators say she last contacted her family in late August 2021 when the couple was visiting Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Much of their trip was documented on social media accounts that abruptly ceased. (Courtesy of North Port Police Department via AP)

A string of alarming incidents preceded Petito’s disappearance. Police responded to an alleged domestic incident in which a caller reported seeing Laundrie slapping and hitting Petito in Moab. When they arrived, the couple and another witness said nothing about that allegation, and police eventually asked them to split up for the night and let them go. Two weeks later, in Jackson Hole, Laundrie was seen arguing with wait staff at the Merry Piglets restaurant.

911 call details Laundrie 'slapping' Petito during Moab altercation

Kelly told Fox News that documented fights involving Laundrie and Petito – a police-involved stop in Moab, Utah, and a spat with wait staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – illustrate that Laundrie couldn’t take criticism well, especially not from women.

"These guys cannot take criticism," he said. "And usually if their issues are with the female, they cannot take criticism from a female."

When Laundrie disappeared from his parents’ house last week, he left his phone and wallet behind when he vanished, leading Kelly to believe he’s on the run with no intention of being found. Often when people go off the harm themselves, he said, they bring their phones so their remains can be found. But for that same reason, a phone would be a liability for someone on the run.

"Usually, to me, that means somebody that wants to be on the run and travel under the radar and then if he’s stopped by the cops, he can give them a fake name," he said. "He has no ID on him, they can’t readily know who he is."

Kelly has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the Golden State Killer, the Long Island Serial Killer and the Green River Killer.

If you have any information on the case of Gabby Petito or the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie you are asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.