Weather and environmental factors complicate Brian Laundrie’s research, experts say
By Amir Vera, CNN
The search for Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito’s fiancé, continues into another week and authorities don’t seem any closer to finding him.
Laundrie was accused of using two financial accounts that did not belong to him between August 30 and September 1. No charges have been brought against him in the death of Petito, whose body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.
Petito’s death was considered a homicide.
The search continues as investigators attempt to piece together what happened to Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, on their road trip across the West this summer. The couple had regularly posted their trips online using the hashtag #VanLife, but those posts abruptly ended in late August.
Laundrie returned to his parents’ home in North Port, Fla. On September 1 without Petito, police said, and stayed at home for about two weeks. His parents told authorities on September 17 that they had last seen him three days earlier.
Several experts told CNN on Thursday that time was of the essence in finding laundry. Conditions in South Florida make finding forensic evidence extremely difficult.
“Time is that thing we constantly fight against in law enforcement,” said Bryanna Fox, former FBI special agent and associate professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida.
Laundrie’s parents released a statement Monday night through their lawyer, Steven Bertolino, according to multiple media.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie don’t know where Brian is. They are worried about Brian and are hoping the FBI can locate him,” the statement read. “Speculation from the public and some in the press that the parents helped Brian to leaving the family home or avoiding arrest under a warrant issued after Brian had already been missing for several days are just plain wrong. “
Bertolino did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Here’s why experts say it took authorities so long to find Laundrie.
The more time passes, the less evidence there will be
The laundromat was essentially several days ahead of law enforcement. When his parents told the police that their son was missing, he had already been gone three days.
His parents said Laundrie told them he was heading to the Carlton Preserve, a 25,000-acre nature reserve located near the family home in North Port. A source close to Laundrie’s family told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Laundrie left their home without his cell phone and wallet.
Bertolino told CNN on Wednesday that Laundrie actually bought a new cell phone on September 4 from an AT&T store in North Port.
The fact that Laundrie left these two key pieces behind him may mean that there is very little digital or forensic evidence for authorities, said Fox, the USF professor. The cell phone would have helped investigators know who Laundrie was communicating with and where he was, while his wallet would have told them where he was spending the money.
“Unlike other fugitives or missing persons, we usually have reason to believe that they are in a populated area,” Fox said. “In this case, it looks like he tried to get out of the network and isn’t living in a society, so it’s even harder to find him.
Investigators have searched for Laundrie on the reservation, but conditions in South Florida make it difficult to search for evidence – or possible remains.
“In Florida, during the summer and the wet season, a body can begin to skeletonize in less than five to seven days,” said Chris Boyer, executive director of the National Nonprofit Association for Research and the rescue (NASAR). “And with predators, you can lose a lot of evidence that way.”
Fox told CNN the tropical conditions “are among the toughest in forensic evidence.”
“The chances of finding it are dwindling every day, so obviously time is really of the essence,” she said.
Another location, the Fort De Soto Campground in Pinellas County, has also become an area of interest, although no official law enforcement agency is investigating the campground. Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman was looking for laundry at the campsite Monday and Tuesday after receiving a tip, his spokesperson told CNN.
Authorities must balance tips and real evidence
Petito’s death and the search for Laundrie have become an obsession for many, prompting digital detectives to scour the couple’s online trail and try to solve the case.
“It’s very difficult to stay away when the world is looking for you, or just your family. It is really, really difficult today to remain intentionally missing, ”said Michelle Jeanis, assistant professor at the University of Louisiana in the Lafayette Department of Criminal Justice, specializing in missing persons.
Jeanis said that while the public is hungry for updates on this matter, “it appears we have limited information for very good reason.”
Fox said USF researchers have found media and social media to be powerful and positive tools for identifying missing persons. At the same time, this intense interest has highlighted the impact of race and gender on the nearly 90,000 unresolved missing persons cases that receive attention and those that do not.
But there is also a negative side to the onslaught of Internet sleuths and media coverage.
“Even well-meaning people could give advice to law enforcement and instead of law enforcement having to find a needle in a haystack, it now looks more like a grain of sand on a large beach.” Fox said, explaining that every tip needs to be investigated.
Another problem facing the authorities is the lack of resources. Boyer explained that the crime doesn’t stop just because there is a missing person, and that there are beaten cops who have yet to investigate and respond to other crimes in the community.
There is still hope to find the laundromat
Despite the time and resources allocated to find Laundrie, every expert who spoke to CNN said there was still a chance of finding him.
Fox said the only way Laundrie could continue to escape the police is if he is “absolutely perfect” in hiding.
“In other words, he has to be perfect and not make any mistakes. The police, to be able to find him, must either find a clue or detect a mistake he made and that could explode the whole affair, ”she said.
The public continues to be enthusiastic about the case, said Jeanis, a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but “law enforcement is surely trying to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure safe and secure scenes. and collect evidence “.
“The public has to be patient, and that can be difficult to do when we have feelings where we think we can be of more help,” she said. “We’re all just looking for red flags and they might be meaningless.”
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CNN’s Dan Shepherd, Gregory Lemos, Taylor Romine, Sara Weistfeldt, Rob Frehse and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.