US police to resume search of Florida wilderness for fiance of Gabby Petito

Case of missing travel blogger has captivated Americans

US police and FBI agents planned to resume their search of a swampy Florida wilderness for Gabby Petito's fiance on Wednesday, one day after the local coroner in Wyoming identified a body found there as the missing 22-year-old travel blogger.

Police have called Brian Laundrie, 23, a "person of interest" in the case, which has captivated Americans since Petito's family reported her missing on September 11.

Ten days earlier, Mr Laundrie had returned home to North Port, Florida, without her from a cross-country road trip.

He has not been seen since September 14, when he purportedly left the family home in North Port with plans to hike alone in the nearby Carlton Reserve wilderness area. North Port police say they learned from Mr Laundrie's family only on Friday that he had been gone for three days.

At nightfall on Tuesday police and FBI agents broke off their efforts to find Mr Laundrie in the vast, alligator-infested reserve, which has some 130 kilometres of hiking trails. Other sections are nearly impassable.

A North Port police spokesman said they would return there early on Wednesday to resume the effort.

Search teams found Petito's body on Sunday in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest, in western Wyoming, less than 300 metres from where, on the evening of August 27, a pair of travel bloggers recorded on video what appeared to be the couple's white Ford Transit van parked along a dirt road.

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

"The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms Petito's death is held accountable for their actions," FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a statement.

Petito and her fiancé left her home state of New York in late June or early July, heading west in the van with plans to visit US national parks and document the trip on social media.

Witnesses last 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 the park, near the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping area.

Updated: September 22nd 2021, 1:29 PM
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