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Gabby Petito's family is 'being tortured' by lack of info; fiancé's family says he's missing: What we know

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 9/18/2021 Christine Fernando, USA TODAY
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As police continue the search for Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito, who didn't return home after a cross-country trip in August, investigators say her fiancé and those around him are withholding critical information.

Petito, 22, was last seen in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming Aug. 30, police in three states say. Her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, is being called a person of interest in the case after he drove back to the couple's primary residence in Florida on Sept. 1 without her. 

Laundrie refused to speak with authorities when the van was seized at their home in North Port, Florida, and instead hired a lawyer, hindering the Petito's family's search for answers, authorities say.

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"They're being tortured right now by the potential of someone having information and not relaying it," said Josh Taylor, North Port Police communications manager, in a live-streamed press conference on Friday

"I believe Brian has the information," Todd Garrison, chief of North Port Police Department in Florida, said at a Thursday news conference. 

Late Friday, Taylor said Laundrie's family has informed police they are unaware of his whereabouts.

"We've been trying all week to talk to his family, to talk to Brian, and now they've called us here on Friday, we've gone to the home, and they're saying now they have not seen their son," Taylor told CNN. "So we are working through those details as we speak. It is another twist in this story."

Laundrie's attorney, Steven Bertolino, told the outlet that the FBI is looking for him as well.

"I can't confirm where he's at," Taylor told Fox News Friday evening, "He's a private citizen that's not a suspect."

Attorney's for the Petito family released a statement saying "Brian is not missing."

"All of Gabby's family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing," the statement from the law office of Richard B. Stafford said.

No charges have been filed in the missing persons case.

More than 1,000 tips have come in, Taylor estimated Friday. "I don't know that we're to the point that we've got it solved by any means. But the goal right now is to bring Gabby home," Taylor said. 

The couple had been sharing photos and video of their trip on social media, and police body camera video showed an argument between the couple before Petito's disappearance.

Gabby Petito's father, Joe, on Thursday pleaded for information that could help find his daughter.

"I'm asking for help from everyone at home," he said at a news conference. "I'm asking for help from the parents of Brian, and I'm asking for the help of the family members and friends of the Laundrie family." 

Petito's stepfather James Schmidt told CNN affiliate Court TV that there has been no communication between the Petito and Laundrie families.

Here's what we know about the case. 

Bodycam footage: Aftermath of emotional fight between Gabby Petito and fiancé in Utah

Missing person: Woman reported missing after fiancé returns from trip without her

Who is Gabby Petito?

Petito, an aspiring blogger and YouTuber, has gained widespread media attention since her disappearance.

An idyllic viral video titled "Beginning Our Van Life Journey" on her YouTube channel called Nomadic Statik has been shared around the world, showing the young couple kissing, eating granola and yogurt breakfasts and doing cartwheels on the beach during their cross-country trip.

In the video's description, Petito wrote about how the two crafted a tiny van to help them on their quest to "living nomadically."

Petito is described as a white female, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads “Let it be.”

Who is Brian Laundrie?

Laundrie and Peitio are engaged to be married. They are childhood sweethearts and moved from Blue Point, New York, in 2019 to live with his parents in North Port.

Police say Laundrie is invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to speak.

Bertolino, said he advised Laundrie not to talk.

"Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence," Bertolino said in a statement. "In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that 'any statement made will be used against you' is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter."

Police had investigated fight between couple in Utah

In August, police investigated an argument between the couple after a witness reported a potential domestic violence situation.

Body camera footage released Thursday shows the officer in Moab, Utah, responding on the side of a highway near Arches National Park.

Laundrie told an officer that Petito slapped him and that friction had been building between them for several days. The officer wrote that the two had been traveling together for several months, and the closeness created an "emotional strain" and led to more arguments between them.

"It was just a squabble," Laundrie said in the video. "Sorry it had to get so public."

Laundrie told an officer that he and Petito both suffered from the same mental health problem. The police report redacted specific information on the condition. 

Officers in the video told the couple to sleep in separate places for the night so they could "reset their mental states without interference from one another."

"I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis," the officer concluded in the report.

Anyone with information can reach out through a national hotline to receive tips at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).

Contributing: Patricia McKnight, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Michael James, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gabby Petito's family is 'being tortured' by lack of info; fiancé's family says he's missing: What we know

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