WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — Rumors have been circulating online that Gabby Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, could be hiding out in Watauga County.
Authorities have called Laundrie a “person of interest” in Petito’s murder, but no one has seen him in more than two weeks. Petito was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she didn’t respond to calls and texts for several days while she and Laundrie visited parks in the West.
Her body was then discovered in a remote area in northwestern Wyoming. Laundrie and Petito grew up on Long Island but in recent years moved to Florida.
Officials from the Watauga County and Avery County sheriff’s offices said Wednesday they’ve received more than a half dozen tips over the past 48 hours.
Watauga County deputies pulled over a car to investigate a possible lead but it led to nothing. The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office said it has been in contact with local, state, and federal partners.
The sheriff’s office’s threat assessment/social media detective is also monitoring posts online and there have been a lot of them on Facebook.
The sheriff told Channel 9 there is currently no reason to believe that Laundrie is in the mountains of North Carolina after Petito was found dead in the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
Petito’s death has been classified as homicide but medical examiners in Wyoming haven’t disclosed how she died, pending further autopsy results.
Watauga County and Avery County sheriff’s offices said the agencies received information that Laundrie may be familiar with the Appalachian Trail and that could be why the area has seen so much attention.
“We actually had a conversation with the FBI this morning and what you said is correct,” Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said. “If there’s something legitimate, we’ll check it out. And if there’s something more to it, then the FBI will be contacted -- but not on every call.”
Investigators have been searching for Laundrie in Florida, and searched his parents’ home in North Port, about 35 miles south of Sarasota.
On Thursday, federal officials in Wyoming charged Laundrie with unauthorized use of a debit card, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Petito went missing. They did not say who the card belonged to.
(Watch the video below: Gabby Petito disappearance: What you need to know)
©2021 Cox Media Group