Entertainment

Police slammed for letting ‘person of interest’ slip away after likely remains of Gabby Petito found


Investigators in Florida are being criticized for allowing ‘person of interest’ Brian Laundrie to go into hiding without ever being questioned in the disappearance of his fiance, Gabby Petito, after the FBI announced it found the body of a person ‘consistent with the description.’ 

The FBI announced that it had used ‘ground surveys’ to locate a body that is likely that of Petito on Sunday. Investigators warn, however, that they are in a race against time as the long exposure to the elements could cause the body to decompose, making it more difficult to determine exactly how she died.

‘We don’t know when she died,’ Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic scientist and professor emeritus of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Daily Beast

‘But we do know that she’s in an environment that’s very hot. You can get decomposition in a matter of a week.’ 

Kobilinsky added: ‘It leaves you wondering what the state of the body is.

‘If it is Gabby, and if she’s been deceased since around August 24, the body could be in really bad shape.’ 

High temperatures at Grand Teton National Park regularly exceeded 80 degrees Fahrenheit and even approached 90 degrees during the weeks that Petito went missing.

Meanwhile, a Wisconsin-based TikToker who was driving through Wyoming days after Petito is believed to have last made contact with her family says she picked up Laundrie as he was hitchhiking through the state alone.

Search and rescue teams are seen above over the weekend at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where a body was found in the area near where Gabby Petito was last seen

Law enforcement officials in Florida are being criticized for allowing the 'person of interest' - Petito's fiance Brian Laundrie (seen right with Petito) - to go missing

Law enforcement officials in Florida are being criticized for allowing the ‘person of interest’ – Petito’s fiance Brian Laundrie (seen right with Petito) – to go missing

FBI and other agencies are seen above searching for Brian Laundrie at a site near the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which is part of the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, on Sunday

FBI and other agencies are seen above searching for Brian Laundrie at a site near the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which is part of the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, on Sunday

Investigators comb the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Sarasota County, Florida in search of Brian Laundrie on Sunday

Investigators comb the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Sarasota County, Florida in search of Brian Laundrie on Sunday

Baker told Good Morning America that she was informed by Laundrie that he had been camping alone while Petito stayed behind in their van and worked on their social media page. 

But Petito’s mother told MailOnline that she is ‘not entertaining’ Baker’s claims, saying: ‘The timeline seems way off.’

Baker said she and her boyfriend were at Grand Teton National Park in Colter Bay, Wyoming, on August 29 when Laundrie approached the couple and asked them for a ride at 5.30pm.  

‘He approached us asking for a ride because he needed to go to Jackson and we were going to Jackson that night. So I said, ya know, ‘hop in’ and he hopped in the back of my Jeep,’ Baker explained. ‘So that was kind of weird.’

She noted Laundrie, 23, was wearing ‘a backpack, a long sleeve, pants and hiking boots’ and said that before he got in the car he  offered to pay the couple $200 to give him a 10-mile ride.  

Missing van-life girl Gabby Petito's father, Joseph, shared a tribute to his daughter on social media Sunday with a photo of her adorned with angel wings (pictured) and the caption: 'she touched the world' as authorities confirmed that remains matching her description had been found in Wyoming

Missing van-life girl Gabby Petito’s father, Joseph, shared a tribute to his daughter on social media Sunday with a photo of her adorned with angel wings (pictured) and the caption: ‘she touched the world’ as authorities confirmed that remains matching her description had been found in Wyoming

The Teton County Coroner was seen leaving the campsite Sunday afternoon with what is believed to be Petito's remains

The Teton County Coroner was seen leaving the campsite Sunday afternoon with what is believed to be Petito’s remains 

FBI officials announced Sunday evening that they had found remains consistent with the description of Petito (left). The announcement came as authorities resumed their search for fiancé Brian Laundrie (right) in Florida. Laundrie is currently a person of interest in Petito's disappearance

FBI officials announced Sunday evening that they had found remains consistent with the description of Petito (left). The announcement came as authorities resumed their search for fiancé Brian Laundrie (right) in Florida. Laundrie is currently a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance

Petito's parents shared a video on their 'Find Gabby' Facebook page early Sunday morning from YouTuber Red, White & Bethune', that caught a Ford Transit Connect Van with Florida plates that the posters believe to be the vehicle that Petito and Laundrie had used to travel the country. The video was taken on August 27 at around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground, where police were searching for the missing girl, and where the remains were found Sunday

Petito’s parents shared a video on their ‘Find Gabby’ Facebook page early Sunday morning from YouTuber Red, White & Bethune’, that caught a Ford Transit Connect Van with Florida plates that the posters believe to be the vehicle that Petito and Laundrie had used to travel the country. The video was taken on August 27 at around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground, where police were searching for the missing girl, and where the remains were found Sunday 

Miranda Baker says that she picked up Laundrie as he was hitchhiking in Wyoming after the last time Petito is believed to have contacted her family. She made the remarks to Good Morning America on Monday

Miranda Baker says that she picked up Laundrie as he was hitchhiking in Wyoming after the last time Petito is believed to have contacted her family. She made the remarks to Good Morning America on Monday

The body was found at the Spread Creek campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sunday afternoon

The body was found at the Spread Creek campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sunday afternoon

As she started heading for Jackson Hole, she says Laundrie looked for another ride.

Police under fire from missing persons experts for alleged ‘missteps’ in Petito investigation 

Many experts argue that authorities let person-of-interest Brian Laundrie (pictured) 'slip through their fingers' because they didn't monitor him.

Many experts argue that authorities let person-of-interest Brian Laundrie (pictured) ‘slip through their fingers’ because they didn’t monitor him.

Outside investigators are criticizing law enforcement officers working on the Petito case for their handling of the investigation.

Many experts argue that authorities let person-of-interest Brian Laundrie ‘slip through their fingers’ because they didn’t monitor him.

‘They should’ve immediately placed him under surveillance. Immediately,’  Ed Gavin, an expert in missing person cases argued.

His claims were echoed by a retired New York City cop who stressed that while there was likely not enough evidence to bring Laundrie in for questioning or to obtain a search warrant, they could’ve surveilled him.

 ‘You always have to try to build a case and if it means surveillance to see where he’s going or what he’s doing … then you do that. You don’t need a search warrant to surveil somebody,’ the officer said.

North Port  Police Department spokesman Josh Taylor responded to the criticism, saying their department ‘has no authority to execute a possible federal search warrant on our own’.

He also stressed that his department is looking for Laundrie under a missing persons investigation, not as a suspect in Petito’s case. 

‘There is no information that a crime took place here in North Port. That is our jurisdiction,’ said Taylor. 

‘He got out, and you know, he was thankful and he was kind of in a hurry. He said he was going to go across the street into the parking lot and find someone else to give him a ride, but, when we looked back 10 or 15 seconds after he got out of the vehicle he was just gone,’ she said. 

‘The timeline seems way off,’ Gabby’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, told MailOnline. 

‘Maybe she thought it was him, but I just know the timeline is off. 

‘The van left there the night of the 27th or early on the 28th. 

‘The van was in Florida on the first. It’s not possible for it to have been there on the 29th.’ 

The body was found at the Spread Creek campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sunday afternoon.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday. Investigators hope to confirm Petito’s identity as well as nail down a cause of death. 

Meanwhile, law enforcement is drawing scrutiny for allowing Laundrie to go missing. The police department in North Port, Florida said on Monday it ‘currently has no plans to conduct a major search of the Carlton Reserve today,’ according to Fox News

North Port police were directed to the Carlton Reserve area by Laundrie’s parents, who reportedly told investigators that their son visited the area.

Police searched the area on Sunday. 

Charles Jones, supervisory senior resident agent for FBI Denver, delivered the tragic news on Sunday evening. It remains unclear how investigators were able to locate her body in such amount of short time. 

After Sunday’s announcement, the Laundrie family attorney released a statement, saying, ‘The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.’   

North Port police also released a statement. 

‘Saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased,’ they said. ‘Our focus from the start, along with the FBI, and national partners, has been to bring her home. We will continue to work with the FBI in the search for more answers.’  

Florida authorities called off the second day of their search for Laundrie – who has been named as a person-of-interest in Petito’s disappearance.

Law enforcement have been searching at an alligator-infested Florida refuge after he fled his parents’ home last week. He has refused to cooperate with police, and on Tuesday he disappeared from his family’s North Port, Florida home. 

His parents said Laundrie went for a hike and never returned home. However, they didn’t tell officials he was missing until three days later.

Now, investigators are facing criticism for their handling of the case with many saying authorities let him ‘slip through their fingers’ because they didn’t monitor him. 

‘They should’ve immediately placed him under surveillance,’ Ed Gavin, an expert in missing person cases told the New York Post. ‘Immediately.’ 

‘They should’ve been all over him. The fact that they let him out of their sight, that’s a no-no. Time is of the essence with these investigations.’

When asked why they didn’t immediately call Laundrie out for questioning, North Port Police Department spokesman Josh Taylor told Fox News: ‘The North Port Police Department has no authority to execute a possible federal search warrant on our own. 

‘I don’t see how anyone without all the facts in this case can come up with a reasonable conclusion and opinion on the matter.’

He added: ‘There is no information that a crime took place here in North Port. That is our jurisdiction.’ 

Missing persons experts also stressed that while there was likely not enough evidence to bring Laundrie in for questioning or to obtain a search warrant, investigators made several ‘missteps’ throughout the process.

‘You always have to try to build a case and if it means surveillance to see where he’s going or what he’s doing … then you do that,’ a retired New York City police officer commented. ‘You don’t need a search warrant to surveil somebody.’ 

Former veteran FBI agent Oliver Farache offered his opinion on the case topo, arguing that police should’ve asked for permission to look through Petito’s communications with her family.

‘I think what I would do if I was running the investigation is ask for permission to [look at Schmidt’s phone] because you don’t want to alienate the family, you want to do it in as cooperative a way as possible,’ Farache said. 

As a result of the search, Spread Creek campground is closed as National Park Rangers and the Teton County Sheriff search the area, and the area will remain closed to the public for the next few days

As a result of the search, Spread Creek campground is closed as National Park Rangers and the Teton County Sheriff search the area, and the area will remain closed to the public for the next few days

The pair had been travelling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11

The pair had been travelling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11 

Police show up at the scene of a protest outside of the Laundrie home after residents call the police on protesters that kept shouting "Where's Gabby" around 11pm Friday night

Police show up at the scene of a protest outside of the Laundrie home after residents call the police on protesters that kept shouting “Where’s Gabby” around 11pm Friday night

Police officers appear to be securing the area outside of the Laundrie family's North Port home on Friday

Police officers appear to be securing the area outside of the Laundrie family’s North Port home on Friday

Weeks-long exposure to heat could cause corpse to decompose, making it harder to pinpoint cause of death, experts say

A rescue team member combs the Spread Creek River and its tributaries for missing van-lifer Gabby Petito on Sunday

A rescue team member combs the Spread Creek River and its tributaries for missing van-lifer Gabby Petito on Sunday

Forensic investigators warn that authorities are in a race against time as the long exposure to the elements could cause the body believed be that of Gabby Petito to decompose, making it more difficult to determine exactly how she died.

‘We don’t know when she died,’ Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic scientist and professor emeritus of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Daily Beast

‘But we do know that she’s in an environment that’s very hot. You can get decomposition in a matter of a week.’ 

Kobilinsky added: ‘It leaves you wondering what the state of the body is.

‘If it is Gabby, and if she’s been deceased since around August 24, the body could be in really bad shape.’ 

The loss of skin tissue that occurs when the body decomposes denies medical examiners the ability to spot key markings, including bruises, lacerations, or tears.

Bones and organs could also be damaged due to animal activity, according to experts.

‘It’s one thing if it’s a gunshot wound, and they find a bullet,’ said Wisconsin-based forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Thomas.

‘If it’s anything else, and they just have skeletal remains, then they may ultimately never know.’ 

Investigators will initially look to positively identity the body using metrics such as height, weight, eye color, and hair color.

They may also seek out certain body marks like tattoos. Petito was known to have several tattoos, including one on her forearm that read ‘let it be.’

The most effective and fastest way to positively confirm identification would be through dental records and DNA technology, according to experts.

The coroner would then have to determine cause of death, choosing one of five possibilities: homicide, accident, suicide, natural causes, or undetermined.

‘The likelihood is high that he’ll declare it a homicide,’ Kobilinsky said. 

‘This is a healthy 22-year-old that went missing under mysterious circumstances.’

If the remains are mostly skeletal, coroners would looks for impressions on the skull or fracturing of the hyoid bone in the neck – key indicators of possible blunt force trauma or manual strangulation. 

The coroner would also have to take into account the possibility that Laundrie could surface and say that Petito’s death was an accident, according to Kobilinsky.

‘We simply don’t have all the facts yet,’ he said.

‘In fact, nobody has declared yet this is definitely Gabby – although, you know, I think people are thinking it’s 99.9 percent [her]. 

‘But you have to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. 

‘And the only way you can do that is with an absolute positive identification.’ 

‘You want to look at the phone, see if anything was deleted, see exactly what kind of conversation they were having and looking at the whole thing, not just the last few days. And the history of the texts that mom exchanged and dad as well will give you a clue into the missing person’s mental state as well.’

However, Taylor lashed out at the critics saying that the are investigating Laundrie as a missing person: ‘These guys are full of s**t. 

‘We have a missing person case and we don’t have anyone to talk to and we don’t have any evidence of a crime on a case that’s outside our jurisdiction.

‘This guy goes for a hike in a 25,000-acre nature reserve. How are we following him? I’m up for anybody’s idea.’ 

After the FBI’s announcement, Petito’s father, Joseph, shared a tribute to his daughter on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with a photo of her adorned with a pair of angel wings, and the caption: ‘she touched the world.’  

Jones told reporters: ‘As every parent can imagine this is an incredibly difficult time for the family, and friends, our thoughts and prayers are with them. We ask that you all respect their privacy as they mourn the loss of their daughter.’ 

Richard Benson, an attorney for the Petito and Schmidt family on her mother’s side, thanked law enforcement and search and rescue teams for their efforts in finding the girl. 

‘Your tireless work and determination helped bring Gabby home to her parents,’ he said in a statement. ‘The family and I will be forever grateful.’ 

Meanwhile, demonstrators have been gathering outside the Laundrie family’s home. 

Late Friday night authorities were called to the residence as protestors were heard shouting ‘where’s Gabby’ repeatedly.

Petito, who last spoke to her family on August 25, was reported missing on September 11 after Laundrie returned home alone from a cross-country trip the couple were taking. 

Police had been searching Spread Creek Campground, where the pair were parking their van during their stay at Grand Teton National Park, according to Petito’s thedyrt.com account. 

The Teton County Coroner could be seen leaving the campground Sunday afternoon with what was believed to be be Petito’s remains. 

Jones said the campground, where the remains were found, would remain closed for the foreseeable future as officials continued their investigation.

A short while after the body was found, a rainbow appeared in the same area of Grand Teton National Park.

On Sunday morning, Petito’s parents shared a video on their ‘Find Gabby’ Facebook page from YouTuber ‘Red, White & Bethune’ that caught a Ford Transit Van with Florida plates that the posters believe to be the vehicle that Petito and Laundrie had used to travel the country. 

The video was taken on August 27 at around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground.

‘We have this video, so does the FBI,’ wrote the family on the Sunday morning post. 

‘We believe this is the van for multiple reasons.’ 

‘It’s a very important piece of information as it pretty much starts the timeline,’ Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, told MailOnline. ‘This new video of the actual van being seen on the 27th appears legit. That was the last location the van might have been seen. It’s a huge piece of the puzzle.’

‘It’s essential and there might be more videos out there that people haven’t even realized they have yet,’ she added. ‘If people were recording videos or just taking pictures, they need to start looking through their stuff.’

Jen Bethune, who runs the ‘Red, White & Bethune’ channel, said that she was amazed at Schmidt’s resilience in the face of the tragedy. 

‘Even though it’s not the best outcome, I’m happy that Gabby is home,’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘Nicole is absolutely amazing. Her strength is so apparent.’

On August 25th or 26th, the couple chatted with the owner of a shop called ‘Rustic Row’ in Victor, Utah for about 20 minutes, East Idaho News reported on Friday. 

A rainbow appears over Spread Creek camping area where a body believed to be Petito was found Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, after a two-day search of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

A rainbow appears over Spread Creek camping area where a body believed to be Petito was found Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, after a two-day search of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Members of the Teton County search and rescue team could be seen combing Spread Creek River and its tributaries for much of Saturday and Sunday in a bid to find Petito

Members of the Teton County search and rescue team could be seen combing Spread Creek River and its tributaries for much of Saturday and Sunday in a bid to find Petito 

Petito and Laundrie had been parking their van at the Spread Creek Campground according to her thedyrt.com account

Petito and Laundrie had been parking their van at the Spread Creek Campground according to her thedyrt.com account

Petito's mother, Nicole Schmidt, (pictured last week at a press conference) has slammed Laundrie saying 'he's not missing, he's hiding' after Laundrie, who is a person of interest in her daughter's disappearance, vanished

Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, (pictured last week at a press conference) has slammed Laundrie saying ‘he’s not missing, he’s hiding’ after Laundrie, who is a person of interest in her daughter’s disappearance, vanished

‘They told me they were traveling from Florida. They had just been to Teton Park and they said they were interested in going to Yellowstone and I told them they could go to the west entrance,’ the owner, who was not identified, told the outlet.

‘They seemed happy and when they left, she hollered back from the door that they were engaged and then I said congratulations.’

The shop owner said that she contacted the FBI after seeing reports of Petito’s disappearance on the news. 

Laundrie’s parents told investigators on Friday that their son told them last Tuesday, when they last saw him, that he was headed to his frequent hiking spot Myakkahatchee Creek Environment Park, which is tied to the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve.

Laundrie’s attorney Steven P. Bertolino said the family went out to the reserve on Wednesday to look for him and found a note from the North Port Police Department on Brian’s mustang saying that it needed to be moved. 

The family left the car overnight ‘so he could drive back,’ Bertolino said, but when he didn’t come home Thursday, they retrieved the car, which was seen in the driveway on Friday.  

On Sunday, a team of 50 police officers from six different agencies ‘used to dealing with [the] elements’ of sprawling, alligator-infested Carlton Reserve, will search for Laundrie. 

The swathe of officers are using bloodhounds, drones and 4×4 vehicles in their search, said North Port Police information chief Josh Taylor.

Taylor told the New York Post that an experienced outdoorsman could hide out in the area for ‘months.’

They did not find anything Saturday, although police said they took some of Laundrie’s clothing from his parents’ home to provide a scent for search dogs.  



Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button