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Friday, October 22, 2021

Boyfriend of slain Gabby Petito charged with bank card fraud

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BILLINGS, MONT. — The boyfriend of Gabby Petito, whose body was found at a national park in Wyoming after a cross-country trip with him, has been charged with unauthorized use of a debit card as searchers continue looking for him in Florida swampland, federal authorities announced Thursday.

A federal grand jury indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Wyoming alleges Brian Laundrie made unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Petito went missing. It does not say who the card issued by Capitol One Bank belonged to.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said an arrest warrant issued Wednesday for the alleged fraudulent use of the bank card will allow law enforcement across the country to continue pursuing Laundrie, while the investigation continues into Petito’s homicide.

Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case.

In Florida, searchers on Thursday spent a fifth unsuccessful day searching for Laundrie in the forbidding wilderness preserve near his parents’ home.

The search at the Carlton Reserve park was set to resume Friday. It began after Laundrie told his parents he was going there, several days after he returned alone Sept. 1 from his trip out west with Petito.

The indictment says the unauthorized use of the debit card occurred from about Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.

Schneider urged anyone with knowledge of Laundrie’s role in Petito’s death or his whereabouts to contact the FBI.

An attorney who has been acting as a spokesperson for the Laundrie family did not immediately respond to email and telephone requests for comment from The Associated Press.

An attorney who has represented the Petito family also did not immediately respond for comment.

Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited parks in the West. Her body was discovered Sunday in the vicinity of a remote, undeveloped campground along the border of Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue classified Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but did not disclose how she was killed pending further autopsy results. Laundrie, 23, is not charged with any crime but is considered a person of interest in the case.

With online sleuths and theories multiplying by the day, the FBI and police have been deluged with tips about possible Laundrie sightings.

Petito and Laundrie grew up together on Long Island, New York, but moved in recent years to North Port, Florida, where his parents live. Their home, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Sarasota, was searched by investigators earlier this week, and a Ford Mustang driven by Laundrie’s mother was towed from the driveway. Authorities believe Laundrie drove that car to the Carlton Reserve before disappearing.

The couple documented online their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper, but they got into a physical altercation Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah, that led to a police stop for a possible domestic violence case. Ultimately, police there decided to separate the quarreling couple for the night. But no charges were filed and no serious injuries were reported.

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Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Fla.

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