The FBI Issues Warrant Against Gabby Petito's Boyfriend Brian Laundrie

Published September 24th, 2021 - 07:18 GMT
FBI issues warrant for Brian Laundrie over Gabby Petito's death
FBI issues warrant for Brian Laundrie over Gabby Petito's death. (Instagram)
Highlights
A federal arrest warrant has now been issued for Brian Christopher Laundrie which states that he has been using a debit card that was not his between August 30 and September 1

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie following the death of Gabby Petito after he fraudulently used a Capitol One Bank debit card that was not his.

The FBI said Laundrie is wanted for 'use of unauthorized access device' related to his activities between August 30 and September 1, following Petito's death, and that he used the card to obtain items totaling $1,000 or more.

The statement was released today by the Bureau's Denver desk, reading: 'While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide.

'We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI.'

Authorities are continuing to search for Laundrie, 23, who was last seen by his parents and his attorney last week.

Steve Bertolino, Laundrie's attorney, issued a statement Thursday evening after the FBI's arrest warrant for his fugitive client was made public, emphasizing that the warrant was not for Petito's death but for related activities that took place after her demise . 

‘It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise,’ Bertolino told Dailymail.com

‘The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum.’  

Gabrielle Petito, 22, was reported missing on September 11, following a cross-country trip with Laundrie that they had been documenting on YouTube and social media. Her body was found in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area of Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming, last Sunday.

The Teton County Coroner's Office performed an autopsy on the body Tuesday, confirming it was Petito's and that the manner of death was homicide. On Monday, the FBI raided the North Port home where Laundrie and Petito lived with Laundrie's parents, who claim that their son initially told them that he was going on a hike before his disappearance. 

Petito was last seen alive on August 27 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming trying to defuse a heated argument between fiance Brian Laundrie and a hostess at a Tex-Mex restaurant, according to a witness - shifting the timeline of when the 22-year-old 'van lifer' was spotted.

Investigators were initially operating under the assumption that Petito, whose body was found at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sunday, was last seen alive on August 24 leaving a Salt Lake City hotel with Laundrie.

However, Nina Celie Angelo of New Orleans said she and her boyfriend were at the Merry Piglets restaurant in Jackson Hole on August 27 and saw the tragic Long Island woman try to calm down the hot-headed Laundrie, during an interview on Thursday with ABC's Good Morning America. 

'He was just very visibly angry. She was really upset. She was crying. He immediately went to the hostess stand and was going in on the hostess and the waitress and eventually the manager,' Angelo told GMA.

'It was almost like he was screaming. She was like 'I'm sorry, come on just let's just go.' But she was physically upset, she was crying. You could feel his temper. He was angry.'

The sighting at the Jackson Hole restaurant places Petito 300 miles north of Salt Lake City and just 45 miles from the Wyoming campground in the Grand Tetons where her remains were found.  

Petito was reported missing on September 11 after she and her 23-year-old fiancé set out from New York on a cross-country road trip in her white van two months earlier. They were documenting their travels on social media platforms, including Instagram and YouTube.

Angelo and her boyfriend, Matthew England, were traveling through Wyoming in late August to attend a friend's wedding.

England provided a credit card statement to Fox News which indicates that he spent $60.88 at the Tex-Mex joint on August 27.

According to Angelo, she and England stopped to have lunch at Merry Piglets sometime between 1 and 2pm.  

A restaurant employee told DailyMail.com on Wednesday: 'We have already talked to the authorities about the situation and we are not allowed to comment on it further.'

Merry Piglets officials later posted on Instagram: 'Yes, we can confirm Gabby and Brian were in Merry Piglets.

'We have already notified the FBI and they are aware. We are letting them do their jobs and we are respecting Gabby's family and have nothing further to comment.'

The FBI would comment on the validity of Angelo's claim.

But Angelo insists she and Matthew overheard a loud conversation in which another customer nearby, Laundrie, was heard screaming at waitstaff in what appeared to be an argument over the check.

Angelo said that the man involved in the dispute displayed 'aggressive' body language.

Laundrie left the restaurant and then returned around four times, she said. Afterward, Petito came into the restaurant and apologized to waitstaff for his behavior.

Angelo said she completely forgot about the incident when the couple returned to New Orleans to find the region ravaged by Hurricane Ida.

But coverage of Petito's disappearance aired daily on TV and the couple caught a story about police body cam footage showing Petito and Laundrie being interviewed by an officer after a domestic incident in Moab, Utah.

As England watched the images of Petito and Laundrie in the body cam footage, it began to dawn on him early on Wednesday morning that they looked familiar.

'He goes, 'Nina, that was the couple fighting at the restaurant',' Angelo said.

'And it stopped me in my tracks. I felt like the blood left my body.

'I was like, 'Oh my God, I completely forgot about that incident'.'

The memory of the argument is particularly powerful in light of the news that Petito's body was found nearby at Grand Teton National Park on Sunday. 

'I have chills right now,' Angelo told Fox News.

'It's crazy because it wasn't just like we passed them on the street — it was a full blown incident.'

On Instagram, Angelo posted a story describing what she saw.

'Excuse my French, but I am freaking the f*** out,' Angelo said on her Instagram page.

'Matt and I just realized - I don't know cause I'm a dumb a** and I did not put two and two together - that we saw a blowout of a situation between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie in Wyoming when we were there.

'How I did not put two and two together that this happened? I don't know.'

Angelo said that she had contacted authorities about the incident.

She said that her boyfriend 'has an insane photographic memory.'

England has told her for days that he 'knows this guy, Brian' and that he had 'seen him before.' 

Angelo said England told her: 'They were the couple fighting in the restaurant.'

'We were sitting right next to them,' she said. 'They got kicked out of the restaurant and were fighting with the hostess.'

Angelo says Petito was 'hysterically crying' and 'walked out.'

'She was crying as she was standing on the sidewalk and I was watching the whole thing unfold,' according to Angelo.

'And he walked back in the restaurant and he's fighting with the hostess.'

Laundrie walked in and out of the restaurant 'four more times' to 'talk to the manager' and 'tell the hostess off,' according to Angelo. 

The encounter would jibe with the account of another witness, travel blogger Jenn Bethune, who said she  drove by Petito's van - hours after the restaurant incident

Bethune, who runs 'Red, White and Bethune' on YouTube, said she parsed over her footage from the national park after she was tagged in a post urging anyone who had filmed or photographed the area to search for clues. 

She turned over images she took that included the van to the FBI and Petito's family, and said the discovery of the footage gave her 'chills.'

The video was captured on August 27 at Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area near Grand Tetons National Park. 

'I got chills all over my body and ran straight back to my laptop, got my GoPro footage, and lo and behold Gabby's van was on there,' she told host Ainsley Earhardt on Fox & Friends on Monday.

Laundrie is considered a person of interest since he is believed to be the last person to see Petito alive. He returned home to Florida on September 1 without her, and refused to cooperate with authorities.

He was reported missing by his family last Friday. A massive search for Laundrie is underway in Carlton Reserve, a 25,000-acre swampy region just miles away from his North Port, Florida home.

The exhaustive search for Laundrie in a vast Florida wilderness entered a sixth day on Thursday as the mystery deepened around a case that has engrossed Americans.

A team of divers joined police and FBI agents using boats and helicopters looking for Laundrie in the alligator-infested Carlton Reserve on Wednesday, but a spokesman said at nightfall that they had found 'nothing' to show for their efforts.

Authorities have not said why they are convinced Laundrie, whom police call a 'person of interest' in the case, may still be somewhere inside the wilderness preserve near his home in North Port, Florida, more than a week after he told family members he was headed there to hike alone.

North Port police say Laundrie's parents did not report him missing until September 14, three days after the family last saw him.

The Carlton Reserve has more than 80 miles of hiking trails but is dominated by swampy water.

Many Americans have closely followed the case since Petito was reported missing on September 11.

Ten days earlier, Laundrie had returned home to North Port without her from a cross-country road trip the couple chronicled in social media posts.

In identifying her remains, Teton County medical examiners ruled Petito's death a homicide, but did not make the cause of her death public.

Petito and Laundrie left her home state of New York in July, heading west on what they called a 'van life' trip. They posted photos to social media as they traveled through Kansas, Colorado and Utah.

Witnesses saw Petito on August 24 as she left a Salt Lake City hotel. She posted her final photo the next day.

Petito's family believes she was headed to Grand Teton National Park when they last heard from her. Her body was found at the edge of that park near the Spread River.

Investigators searched the Laundrie family home in North Port last week and were seen loading cardboard boxes into a van and towing away a silver Ford Mustang.

In seeking search warrants, investigators cited text messages from Petito's phone to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, that struck Schmidt as suspicious.

The final text from Petito's phone came on August 30 and read only: 'No service in Yosemite,' a national park in California that she and Laundrie are not believed to have visited during their trip.

On August 12, a 911 caller reported to emergency dispatchers that Laundrie was slapping and hitting Petito in front of the Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab, Utah.

Moab police pulled the couple over in their van on a highway near Arches National Park.

Body camera footage of that encounter shows Petito sobbing as she describes a fight between the couple that she said escalated into her slapping Laundrie as he drove the van.

The officers did not detain Petito or Laundrie but told them to spend the night apart.      

 


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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