Sep 22, 2021 - News

Swamp hunt intensifies as Petito's body is identified

A Sarasota county sheriff stands next to his car by the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve.

Authorities continue their search in the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve for Brian Laundrie. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

The body discovered Sunday in a primitive camping area near Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park is Gabby Petito, 22, the adventurer whose disappearance captured the nation's attention, the FBI in Denver confirmed yesterday.

  • The coroner ruled homicide, but cause of death is pending autopsy.

The local scene: Authorities continued fruitlessly searching a dense, swampy reserve in Sarasota County for Petito's fiancé Brian Laundrie, in what North Port police called for the first time a "criminal investigation."

  • Police used drones, dogs and ATVs to search the 25,000-acre slough for Laundrie.
  • The tract is the same parcel they searched this weekend on foot and Monday by air.

What they're saying: "Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI," said Michael Schneider, special agent in charge of the FBI Denver division.

Flashback: Police said Laundrie's parents last saw him a week ago — Tuesday, Sept. 14. He told them he was going on a hike and drove a Ford Mustang to Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, on the south side of Myakka River State Park.

Police have chased tips that Laundrie was seen in Mobile, Ala., and Baker, Fla., but their focus on the Carlton Reserve near North Port suggests evidence that Laundrie is still in that patch of wilderness.

Ben's thought bubble: A motivated hiker in moderate shape — with access to fresh water — could do 10 miles a day through that swamp. The reserve is adjacent to a state park, but the whole parcel is only 15 miles at its widest.

  • A hiker trying to, say, make it to the Florida Trail at Kissimmee Prairie could’ve been out of the reserve in a few hours, out of Myakka River State Park in a day, and connected with the Florida Trail by yesterday without crossing a busy road.

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