Is Brian Laundrie Hiding Out on an Island at the Mouth of Tampa Bay?

Searchers keep a focus on Fort De Soto Park even as the FBI continues its search of the Carlton Refuge.

The president of a Florida K9 search and rescue group thinks Brian Laundrie could be hiding out at Fort DeSoto park or one of the other refuge islands at the mouth of Tampa Bay that can only be reached by boat.

“I wasn’t a big believer in the Fort De Soto when it first started, but after working out there, yesterday, I’m like, ‘Wow, we may be really into something,’ Michael Hadsell of Peace River K9 Search and Rescue told WSNN on Thursday.

Hadsell’s group went along with Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman to some of the Gulf islands near the Pinellas County park and said they found campsites and “evidence of kayaks near the campsites so it is possible Brian’s out there.”

Hadsell admitted, however, that they have no items from Brian Laundrie for their dogs to work from. “So we do what we call ‘general human scent,” he said.

“Our dogs are trained to work on odor from the boat,” Hadsell said. “And we can circle these smaller islands, if there is any human odor being produced from the island, the dogs will alert, and then we’ll send teams to go check it out.”

Fort De Soto Park sits on five keys south of St Petersburg, containing a little more than 1,000 acres, as CrimeOnline previously reported. It’s a popular destination in the the area, as are the nearby 1,800-acre Shell Key Preserve, the 328-acre Egmont Key State Park and National Wildlife Refuge, the 394-acre Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge, and other smaller islands, all of which are accessible only by boat. While the Pinellas refuge is closed to the public, the others are popular boating destinations, and Fort De Soto Park is the closest launch point to reach them.

Gabby Petito and boyfriend Brian Laundrie visited the park earlier in the year.

Investigators have checked surveillance footage at the park amid reports that the Laundrie family, possibly including Brian Laundrie, camped for a weekend at the park after Brian’s return alone from his cross-country van trip with Gabby Petito. Neighbors had previously reported the weekend camping trip, and reporters subsequently got information from the park saying that Roberta Laundrie had reserved a camping spot from September 6-8.

Petito was found murdered in a remote campsite in Wyoming on September 19, just days after Laundrie fled from his home under the noses of local police, who insisted they knew “exactly” where he was.

Since then, investigators, now led by the FBI have invested significant time and energy into their search of the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve  — where Laundrie’s parents told investigators he went — not far from the Laundries’ home in North Port. The scale of the search has made it the most visible activity of the investigation.

But investigators have said virtually nothing about any aspect of the investigation, including the search at Carlton Reserve. They’ve not said what they’re looking for or discussed any of their findings. Hadsell told WSNN that he’d heard the FBI was coming to search at De Soto Park.

See all CrimeOnline’s coverage of the Gabby Petito case.

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[Featured image: Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie at Fort De Soto Park/Instagram]