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FBI cart away possible evidence from Gabby Petito’s fiancé’s home as the search for him continues

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By Madeline Holcombe and Leyla Santiago, CNN

After many hours spent and many items removed, the FBI’s search of the family home of Gabby Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, in Florida ended Monday. But authorities are continuing to look for the man who, according to his family, disappeared a week ago, three days after Petito was reported missing.

On Sunday, human remains that officials said are consistent with Petito’s description were found in an undeveloped camping area in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday to confirm the identity.

Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, had been road tripping in a white van from New York through the American West over the summer. Laundrie returned to his Florida home on September 1 in their van, but without Petito. Her family reported Petito missing on September 11.

Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta, were escorted from their home Monday morning so agents could execute a search warrant, North Port Public Information Officer Joshua Taylor told CNN. They were later brought back inside for questioning.

His parents had previously told police that they had not seen Laundrie since last Tuesday, which launched a search that initially centered on a nearby nature reserve. Investigators shifted their focus after they “exhausted all avenues in searching the grounds there,” Taylor said Monday.

An attorney for Laundrie’s family, Steven P. Bertolino, said he would also hold a press conference Tuesday, but later canceled the event. He said the FBI requested he not hold the conference.

A search warrant claims ‘more and more tension’ between the couple

Agents removed a number of items from the home, and a Ford Mustang convertible was also towed away.

Investigators have also obtained a search warrant for an external hard drive found in the van last week.

Petito sent multiple text messages and had many talks with her mother via cellphone, according to the stated probable cause for the search warrant. And during those conversations, there “appeared to be more and more tension between her and Laundrie,” it says.

On August 27, Petito’s mother received one last communication from her daughter, which she called an “odd text,” the probable cause affidavit says.

The message read: “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” Because the text message referred to Petito’s grandfather as Stan, her mother was concerned that something was wrong, the warrant states.

Following that text message, Petito’s phone was no longer operational and she stopped posting anything on social media about their trip, the warrant says

One more text came on August 30 that read, “No service in Yosemite,” but her family doubts she wrote it, Richard Stafford, an attorney representing Joseph Petito and her mother, Nicole Schmidt said.

There has been other evidence of tension between the two.

CNN obtained a 911 audio recording from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office in Moab, Utah, in which a caller reports what he called a “domestic dispute” between a couple.

The caller described a man slapping a woman and continuing to hit her until they got into their car and drove off in a white van with a Florida license plate, according to the audio.

Police later stopped the couple.

Although the Petito and Laundrie are described in a police report as getting into a physical fight following an argument, “both the male and female reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” Officer Eric Pratt wrote in the report.

At the suggestion by police, the couple separated for the night, the report said, which described Petito as “confused and emotional.”

‘She touched the world,’ father says

Pathologists will do a full forensic examination of the remains found Sunday to confirm the identity, said Charles Jones, FBI Denver’s supervisory senior resident agent in Wyoming. Authorities also need to identify the cause of death, he said.

Even so, Petito’s family has been notified of the discovery.

Her father, Joseph Petito, tweeted a picture of her Sunday evening, saying, “She touched the world.” Richard Stafford, an attorney representing Joseph Petito and her mother, Nicole Schmidt, issued a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WABC asking that the family be given space.

Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino called the news “heartbreaking,” adding: “The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.”

Laundrie’s sister also issued a statement to ABC News praising Petito for her relationship with Laundrie’s nephews.

“Gabby was a fun and loving influence to ‘the boys’ as she always referred to them. We will cherish the time we spent with her,” Cassie Laundrie said in the statement.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Leyla Santiago reported from North Port, Florida, and CNN’s Madeline Holcombe reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Eric Levenson, Travis Caldwell, Chris Cuomo, Aya Elamroussi, Rob Frehse, Deanna Hackney, Jennifer Henderson, Laura James, MiSeon Lee, Gregory Lemos, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Shawn Nottingham, Andy Rose, Jenn Selva, Alta Spells and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

CNN

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