Police in North Port, Florida, are defending their work in the Gabby Petito missing persons investigation, as critics slam the police for failing to track Petito’s boyfriend Brian Laundrie.
A body believed to be that of the missing 22-year-old woman was found Sunday in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, where federal authorities had been searching for Petito since last week. Two days before Petito’s body was found, Laundrie’s parents admitted to police they had not seen him since Tuesday.
As previously reported, authorities believe Laundrie returned home to Florida from the couple’s cross-country road trip on September 1. Petito’s family reported her missing on September 11, after having been unable to reach her for two weeks. Laundrie was never questioned by police, and investigators are continuing to search for him in the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, where his parents said he was headed on Tuesday.
“[Police] should’ve immediately placed [Laundrie] under surveillance,” Ed Gavin, an expert in missing person cases and former acting chief of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, 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.”
According to multiple reports, a lawyer representing Laundrie’s family said his parents went to the 25,000-acre reserve on Wednesday and found their son’s car, with a note from police saying the vehicle needed to be removed. It is not known at this time if police ran the vehicle’s license plates or had any idea it was connected to Laundrie, who was named a person of interest in the investigation on Wednesday. The parents reportedly said they left the car for another day but brought it back home on Thursday.
A retired NYPD detective also weighed in, arguing that police should have been watching Laundrie even if they did not yet have physical evidence of a crime.
“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,” the unnamed former detective told the New York Post. “You don’t need a search warrant to surveil somebody.”
North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor defended his department from the critics.
“These guys are full of s–t,” Taylor told the New York Post. “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,” Taylor said, reportedly adding that the FBI should also be questioned about its handling of the investigation.
On Tuesday, a medical examiner is reportedly expected to perform an autopsy of the body found in Wyoming. As of this time, investigators have not commented on a possible cause or manner of death.
CrimeOnline will provide further updates when more information is available.
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