A Florida sheriff has criticized the North Port Police Department for letting Brian Laundrie slip away after returning from a road trip without Gabby Petito, his girlfriend and travel companion.
Petito was reported missing on September 11, and her remains were found in Bridger-Teton National Park in Wyoming on September 19.
As previously reported, North Police Police were in contact with Laundrie’s parents even before Petito was reported missing, but did not question the 23-year-old Laundrie or take him into custody. Laundrie was named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance and North Port Police said during the week that Petito was first reported missing that Laundrie had no obligation to speak to police.
On September 17, Laundrie’s parents reportedly told police that they hadn’t seen Laundrie since he went for a hike three days before, on September 14. Investigators searched the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County for several days before scaling back the search. Laundrie’s whereabouts remain unknown.
During a press conference about an unrelated investigation Thursday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd questioned the actions of police who did not take Laundrie in for questioning as soon as it was apparent that he had separated from Petito while they were traveling – and drove her vehicle back to Florida without her.
“At this sheriff’s office, when he showed up with her car and she was no place to be found, we would have never let him out of our custody that day,” Judd said, according to Fox 13.
Judd also appeared to criticize the Moab City Police in Utah, who responded to a call about a domestic incident between Petito and Laundrie on August 12. As CrimeOnline previously reported, the responding officers characterized Laundrie as the victim, even though both a witness and Petito herself said that Laundrie had struck her.
“I can tell you that according to Florida law, when she was the victim of domestic violence originally, he would’ve been arrested,” Judd told reporters.
The chief of the Moab City Police Department was granted family medical administrative leave early this week. It is unclear if that decision was related to the incident between Laundrie and Petito.
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