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Gabby Petito case: Hiker says he's '100%' sure he saw Brian Laundrie near Appalachian Trail

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Posted at 7:32 AM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 09:34:56-04

A Florida man hiking the Appalachian Trail told Fox News that he's confident he saw Brian Laundrie driving in a white pickup truck around 12:30 a.m. ET on Saturday in Tennessee near the North Carolina border.

Dennis Davis said it didn't at first register that the man he saw may have been Laundrie, but after the encounter, he looked up photos of the fugitive and felt convinced enough to call in the sighting to FBI and police in Tennessee and North Carolina.

"There is no doubt about it. That was Brian Laundrie I was just talking to. 100%. Not a doubt in my mind," Davis said about the encounter.

Laundrie's sister did see brother, contradicting previous comments

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Waterville Road in Hartford, Tenn.

Laundrie is wanted on a federal arrest warrant for bank fraud charges after his 22-year-old fiancée, Gabby Petito, was found dead in Wyoming last month.

According to Fox News, Davis and some other hikers were planning to visit the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and he was going to sleep at the trailhead Friday night. He accidentally passed a parking lot near the trail and was going to make a U-turn on Waterville Road near Hartford, Tennessee when "a vehicle approached" from behind him and flashed its headlights as if signaling to Davis that he could complete his U-turn.

After completing his U-turn, he told Fox News the man driving the pickup truck stuck his hand out of the vehicle.

"I pulled up alongside of the vehicle," Davis explained. "…I rolled my window down and I started talking with the gentleman. I could tell right away that something wasn't right with him."

He thought the driver was "on drugs at first," but after reflecting on it, Davis said he "looked mentally shot." Davis added that the driver "didn't look dirty at all."

Davis told Fox News the driver said he was lost and was trying to get to California after getting in a fight with his girlfriend.

"He said me and my girlfriend had a fight, and man, I love her, and she called me, and I need to go out to California to see her," Davis explained. Davis then told the driver to take I-40 West, but the driver said no and that he would rather stay on Waterville Road by the Pigeon River.

"He said, ‘No, I think this road that we're on — I'm going to take it to California,'" Davis said.

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Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

Davis thought about the encounter afterward as he started driving again and began to wonder whether it was Laundrie.

"So I got to the next spot where I was going to park and I pulled open my phone and I started looking through pictures. And the thing when I was talking to him which really stood out to me was: He had a very full but short, very thick, dark, black beard and mustache. And so when I parked my car and I pulled up the picture of him on the internet…and there was that beard and mustache," Davis said.

At that point, the hiker said he was 95% sure he had seen Laundrie and called the FBI. When he got off the phone with the FBI, he looked at another profile shot of Laundrie and then felt 100% convinced that he spotted the fugitive, at which point he called the FBI a second time, as well as Tennesee and North Carolina police.

The Haywood County, North Carolina, Sheriff's Office confirmed to Fox News that their dispatch received a call from Davis after 2 a.m. Saturday. The sheriff's office said they dispatched two to three deputies to the area who came across three idle vehicles, which they ran, but all came back as likely hikers' vehicles.

Moab police release second body cam video of Petito-Laundrie domestic violence investigation

As of Sunday morning, neither the FBI nor the police had contacted Davis, according to Fox News.

People have reported many potential Laundrie sightings across the country including 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. Both were debunked as Laundrie.

According to Fox News, investigators working with Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman are also honing in on portions of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina as they continue their search for Laundrie. Lyssa Chapman, Chapman's daughter, said her father's team is "working on confirming" several new leads in a Saturday tweet.

Both Laundrie and Petito have 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 that Laundrie "lived in the Appalachians by himself for months."