By Dakin Andone, Madeline Holcombe and Jenn Selva, CNN
The US District Court of Wyoming has issued a federal detention warrant for Brian Laundrie, according to the Denver branch of the FBI, after a federal grand jury charged him with “unauthorized device use” following the death of Gabby Petito.
“While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country are continuing to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s murder,” FBI special agent Michael Schneider said in a statement posted on twitter.
According to the indictment, between August 30 and September 1, Laundrie used a debit card and PIN for accounts that did not belong to him.
The news comes when investigators again searched a 25,000-acre Florida wildlife sanctuary for evidence of Laundrie, who was returning home on September 1 from a road trip without Petito, his fiancée.
Laundrie’s family informed police that he left home with his backpack on September 14 and told them that he would go to the reservation near their home. The North Port Police announced on Thursday evening via a tweet that it had stopped searching for Laundrie on the reservation and that the search teams would be back on Friday.
Petito’s remains were found in an undeveloped campsite in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming, on Sunday, and her death was classified as homicide on Tuesday, according to preliminary results. She was reported missing by her family on September 11th.
“We urge people with knowledge of the role of Mr. Laundrie in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI,” said Schneider on Thursday. “No information is too small or inconsequential to support our efforts in this investigation.
A lawyer for Laundrie’s family said in a statement that the warrant was not directed to Petito’s death, but related to activities that took place afterwards.
“As I understand it, the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities after Gabby Petito’s death, not her actual death,” said Steve Bertolino. “The FBI is focused on tracking down Brian and when that happens the details of the charges will be dealt with on the appropriate forum.”
“We will not forget you”
Meanwhile, a small crowd gathered in Salt Lake City on Wednesday evening to mourn the 22-year-old, whose death has caught the attention of people across the country.
The couple had visited national parks in the west with their van and recorded their travels with the hashtag #VanLife on social media before Petito went missing. And while she has never lived in Utah, Petito’s love of the outdoors and her time there – including an encounter with Moab police on body cam – connected her to the community.
“We will not forget you. We will not let your light darken, ”said Serena Chavez, organizer of the vigil, in front of the group.
“We will remember other missing women or children,” Chavez continued, addressing a broader problem highlighted by Petito’s disappearance. “Their families are devastated and I can only imagine what Gabby’s family is going through.”
Before moving to Florida, Petito was a hostess at Smoke on the Water in Wilmington, North Carolina. According to CNN subsidiary WWAY, colleagues there say that she made everyone feel loved. It was another community in which the young woman made her mark.
“It’s not just a name. It’s not just a case. She was a person and she was something very special for many people and for many of us here, ”the restaurant’s manager, Lara Witschen, told WWAY. “She was a good soul, a good spirit, and touched so many lives. In return, we want it to be remembered. “
A small memorial now marks the spot in Wyoming where Petito’s remains were found this week. Petito’s stepfather Jim Schmidt left a memorial and sunflowers, “his daughter’s favorite flower,” family lawyer Rick Stafford told CNN.
Laundrie’s neighbor last saw him on the weekend of September 10th
A neighbor who lives directly across from the house Petito shared with Laundrie and her family told CNN that the last time she saw Laundrie was at the North Port, Florida home on the weekend of September 10th.
Karyn Aberts said she saw Laundrie and his family “in the neighborhood out in the front yard” and said it looked like “a normal one … they went for a walk like that” and that she “never thought about it”.
Outside her house, Aberts told CNN that she saw Petito and Laundrie remodel the van they eventually rode around the country. (Officials found this van, a white Ford, later at Laundrie’s house.)
“They seemed to be sitting in their car and laughing and then in the van they were working on,” Aberts said, noting that she had last seen Petito in early summer before the coupe went on her road trip.
When asked if she had ever seen anything strange between Petito and Laundrie that would have been a red flag, Aberts said no.
Overall, Aberts described the Laundrie family as “very nice people”.
“We saw them go for walks as a family,” she told CNN. “We saw them riding their bikes as a family and all that.”
Witness says she saw a “riot” in which the couple was involved
Petito’s story has become a national obsession for many, leading digital detectives to search the couple’s online trail in an attempt to solve the case. History has also further highlighted the nearly 90,000 missing persons cases that were active in late 2020, according to the National Crime Information Center. Few cases of missing persons are treated with such urgency and national attention as those of Petito.
It also got people posting reports on Petitos last few days.
Nina Angelo and her boyfriend Matt England saw a “riot” last month when Petito and Laundrie left Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming, she told CNN on Wednesday.
Petito was crying and Laundrie was visibly upset, going in and out of the restaurant several times and showing anger at the staff at the hostess booth, Angelo said. The couple’s waitress was also visibly shocked by the incident, said Angelo, who told CNN that she hadn’t seen any violence or physical altercation between Petito and Laundrie.
A Merry Piglets manager who refused to give her name saw an “incident” at the restaurant on Aug. 27 and called the FBI on Wednesday, she told CNN. The manager declined to describe what happened and said the restaurant had no surveillance video of the incident.
Regardless, on Aug. 26, Jessica Schultz saw Laundrie parked in a white van in Grand Teton National Park and no one appeared to be with him, she told the San Francisco Chronicle.
And in a series of videos on TikTok, Miranda Baker said that she and her boyfriend Laundrie died on Jan.
Baker said they picked up Laundrie while he was hitchhiking in Colter Bay, Wyoming, not far from Petito’s remains. He offered to pay $ 200 for the ride before he even got in the car, she said.
911 call of a domestic dispute
Petito’s mother received strange news on Aug. 27 and it was the last notice from her, Florida police said in a recent affidavit with a search warrant. Petito also stopped posting on social media around this time.
Evidence from an emergency call over a “household fight” between Petito and Laundrie shows that the couple’s volatile relationship wasn’t as ambitious as their sun-drenched Instagram and YouTube lives suggested.
A man who had seen Petito and Laundrie’s domestic argument in Utah last month said, “They talked aggressively and something seemed wrong.”
In a handwritten affidavit, the witness said it appeared the two were arguing over control of Petito’s phone. “At one point she slapped him in the arm and / or face and tried to get into the van.” The witness’s first name is Chris and the last name was blacked out on the document the Moab police sent to CNN.
The witness said he heard Petito say, “Why do you have to be so mean?” although Chris added that he couldn’t be sure the comment should be taken seriously.
Police later stopped the couple, and previously released police documents and body camera videos show what followed that day. Moab City officials have since announced that they will be investigating the Moab City Police’s handling of the Petito and Laundrie dispute.
Although the petito and laundry are described in a police report as having got into a physical fight after an argument, “both the man and the woman state that they are in love, engaged, and absolutely not wanting anyone to have one Crime is charged “. Officer Eric Pratt wrote on the report.
At the suggestion of police, the couple split for the night, the report said, which described Petito as “confused and emotional”.
A National Park Service ranger who also answered the call spent about 90 minutes with Petito warning her that her relationship with Laundrie showed signs of a “toxic” relationship, the ranger told Deseret News of Utah.
“I begged her to reevaluate the relationship, asked her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically said this was an opportunity for her to find another way to change her life,” Ranger Melissa Hulls told Desert News.
CNN asked for comment from Hulls.
The CNN Wire
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Contributors to this report are Sara Weisfeldt, Gregory Lemos, Randi Kaye, Kari Pricher, Leyla Santiago and Rebekah Riess, Amanda Watts and Joe Sutton from CNN.