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FBI continues search for Brian Laundrie after Gabby Petito body identified

Authorities say tough terrain at Carlton Reserve make search difficult
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Posted at 7:36 AM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 08:44:12-04

NORTH PORT, Fla.  — The search for Gabby Petito's fiance, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie will resume Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, the FBI is the lead agency in the search for Laundrie, who remains a person of interest in the disappearance and death of Petito.

On Monday, North Port Police Department called off the search in the close to 25,000 acre stretch of Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County.

In a statement released Monday a spokesperson with NPPD said, "At this time, we currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there (Carlton Reserve). Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Brian Laundrie. More updates when available."

However, the FBI resumed the search on Tuesday when they took over the case.

RELATED: Body found in Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest is that of Gabby Petito

Authorities are now searching an area about 30 minutes from the initial ground of Carlton Reserve that was searched over the weekend.

Close to a dozen agencies are aiding in the search for Laundrie which include the North Port Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida Wildlife Commission, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota Police Department, Venice Police Department, and K9 search and rescue teams.

“ATV’s, UTV's, we have multiple drone operators that have been sent out in numerous teams, so we’ll mix the resources and deploy them out so if they encounter flooded areas or terrain they can’t access with these wheeled vehicles, we’ll deploy our drones directly out into the wooded areas," Officer Joe Fussell with North Port Police Department said.

While authorities have several tools to help them in the search, they said the tough terrain and wet weather have been a hindrance in the search.

RELATED: Crews resume search at Carlton Reserve for signs of Brian Laundrie

North Port Police said the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times, which is currently waist-deep in water in many areas. Crews are having to wade through gator and snake-infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails.

"Terrain is very difficult. Essentially 75% of it is underwater and other areas that are dry we're trying to clear. We are expecting to get wet by the end of the day and check the entire area for Brian Laundrie," Fussell said.

Bloodhound dogs are also being used, however, a former FBI agent who has worked in finding people in extreme environments said the large amount of water in the area makes the search difficult.

"They lose the sense that they're unable to continue tracking that scent. I understand a few days ago, law enforcement did pick up some clothing, pieces of apparel like that from Brian Laundrie's house for that very purpose before they started the search yesterday, I believe," former FBI Special Agent Brian Kensel said.

When asked why the search was called off on Monday, but resumed the very next day, Kensel had the same question.

"I saw that. I saw the announcement last night that we feel we've exhausted all methods so means to search. And then something obviously changed overnight in terms of the information that was developed," Kensel said.

RELATED: Retired FBI special agent gives insight on challenges authorities face at Carlton Reserve

There have been reports of Laundrie in Alabama and the panhandle of Florida, however, authorities said after further investigation those claims don't hold true.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office released a statement via Twitter addressing rumors that Laundrie had been taken into custody.