(ABC4) – Authorities in Florida may have a new area to search for Brian Laundrie, thanks to a reality TV star.
The FBI and North Port Police have been searching for Laundrie since learning of the disappearance, and later death, of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito. Laundrie has been identified as a person of interest in Petito’s death, which has been ruled a homicide. Late last week, the FBI even issued a federal arrest warrant for Laundrie, accusing him of “use of unauthorized access devices” following Petito’s death.
It has been two weeks since Laundrie’s parents say they saw their son. They reported him missing to the police on Sept. 17. Since then, authorities have been searching the Carlton Reserve in Florida, a 25,000-acre nature preserve where Laundrie is said to frequent. Two parties – a Tampa Bay law firm and a man claiming to be the neighbor of the Petito family – have put forth rewards amounting to $30,000 for information leading to Laundrie’s arrest.
The recipient of those rewards may be Duane Chapman, better known by the name of his TV show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” who says he believes Laundrie may be in a different nature area roughly 65 miles away from the Carlton Reserve.
Chapman visited the Florida home of Laundrie on Saturday, knocking on the front door and receiving no answer. When asked why he was there, Chapman told a NewsNation reporter “come on, you know,” and implored the public to share tips by calling 833-TELL-DOG. On Monday, Chapman spoke with a NewsNation reporter, saying he has information that Laundrie may be in Fort De Soto State Park in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Chapman says he learned the Laundrie family had reserved a campground at Fort De Soto from September 1-3, staying at site 1. Laundrie is believed to have returned to Florida from the road trip on September 1. A few days later, from September 6-8, Chapman says the Laundrie family again camped at the state park, staying at site 15. He continues, saying he has learned three people were in the vehicle when the Laundrie family arrived at the campground on Sept. 6.
“You have to fill out a piece of paper,” Chapman says, describing the process of checking into the campground. “And whoever filled it out said Brian, his mom, and his dad.”
According to Chapman, witnesses saw the vehicle leave on Sept. 8 with just two people in it. When asked if he had seen any surveillance video of the Laundrie family coming into or leaving the park, Chapman says, “No, but I’ve got information that they got it, this is for sure. I wouldn’t bust this loose without it being for sure.”
Authorities have confirmed to ABC4 affiliate WFLA that Laundrie’s mother did check into the campground on Sept. 6.
When asked if Chapman had called the FBI with this information, he says federal authorities “don’t work on weekends, who do I call?” Chapman says he called “some of his friends” when asked if he had called authorities with the information.
“There is a huge possibility that yes, [Laundrie] could be there,” Chapman explains. “There’s also a possibility that he was there and left, but for one thing we’re absolutely sure he was there in September. For positive.”
Chapman tells NewsNation he believes Laundrie could be in a canoe or on any of the islands within Fort De Soto State Park. On Tuesday, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced they are not conducting an investigation at Fort De Soto, and say they are unaware of any confirmed sightings of Laundrie.
The state park, located about 15 miles south-southwest of St. Petersburg, is the largest park within Pinellas County Park System, stretching 1,136 acres. According to Pinellas County, Fort De Soto Park is made up of five interconnected islands, or keys, which are home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, and other native plants. There are over seven miles of waterfront in the park, seven miles of paved trails connecting beaches, and the Fort De Soto campground with 236 sites.
The Laundrie family attorney released a statement Monday saying, “Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him. The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong.”
The Petito family will hold a press conference in New York on Tuesday at 11 a.m. MT Tuesday.