NORTH PORT, Fla. - Nearly a week into the search for Brian Laundrie, the FBI has secured an indictment on interstate bank fraud charges and recovered the remains of his fiancée, Gabby Petito, in Wyoming.
But Laundrie remains at large after sneaking out of his family’s Florida home.
Police in North Port, Florida are conducting large-scale, daily searches of the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve near his home, where he may be hiding out.
"Our job right now is to continue to search in the Carlton," North Port Police spokesman Joshua Taylor told Fox News Thursday. "That’s what we’ll do."
But there’s also speculation that Laundrie may have fled to the reserve as cover, then traveled elsewhere. He could have taken advantage of the chaos at the southern border to slip into Mexico. Some internet sleuths think he’s in Puerto Rico. And he could have taken off in a number of other directions.
"I don't think he killed himself," said Pat Diaz, a retired Miami-Dade homicide detective who has worked alongside state and federal investigators on missing persons cases. "I think he's just going to disappear."
Dan Riemer, a West Palm-based private investigator, agreed.
"That search in the swamp is leading everyone to believe Brian is in the swamp, and no civilians are paying attention to who is around them," he said. "[The] focus needs to be on people being aware, [and] someone will see something, just like the campers who saw their van."
Riemer said there’s a possibility that Laundrie made it to South Florida, where he could try to hide in plain sight. He said he’s worked a number of runaway cases in the area.
"They send their kids down here for rehab, then the kids leave rehab, and they hire me to find them," he told Fox News Thursday. "It’s amazing how they survive. No credit card, no physical signs of income, and they just make do."
Diaz said he believes that Laundrie may have returned to the West because the swampy preserve is too inhospitable and because he likely doesn’t have enough money to bribe authorities abroad.
"He's not going to go to Mexico, because in Mexico there's a lot of Americans there that would recognize him," he said. "I don't believe he'll go to Costa Rica because … the only way you could survive in Costa Rica is if you have a lot of money. Otherwise, they’ll give you up."
He also said that he doesn't believe the FBI expects to find Laundrie in the swamp and noted that the bureau likely recovered location data from the Laundries’ Ford Mustang and is probably monitoring friends and relatives who could potentially aid him on the run.
"Who's in charge of the scene? Why not have the bureau out there in charge of the scene?" he said. "Because the bureau doesn't believe he's in the swamp."
Police named Laundrie a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance last Wednesday. Officers arrived at the family's home on Friday, and Laundrie's parents told them he slipped away Tuesday and was now missing.
Petito's family alleged that he went into hiding.
Then on Sunday, authorities found her body at a campsite north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the couple stayed in late August.
In what may have been one of the last public sightings of Petito, eyewitnesses said they saw her apologizing for Laundrie’s behavior after he berated female wait staff at Merry Piglets, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson Hole.
Roughly two weeks before that, police in Moab, Utah, responded to a 911 caller who claimed he witnessed Laundrie "slapping" Petito. They filed no charges after interviewing the couple and another witness, none of whom said he hit her.
The charges announced Thursday against Laundrie are for allegedly using a debit card and PIN numbers without authorization — not in connection to Petito’s death.
But Diaz said the warrant for his arrest on those charges will allow authorities to hold him in custody as they continue to investigate the case.
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