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FBI resumes search for Brian Laundrie in Florida nature reserve

Authorities: Tough terrain makes search difficult
Search for Brian Laundrie Florida
Posted at 9:11 AM, Sep 22, 2021

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Officials in Florida will resume the search for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie on Wednesday, a day after the FBI confirmed that remains found in Wyoming were those of his fiancée, 22-year-old Gabby Petito.

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

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

"At this time, we currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there (Carlton Reserve)," a spokesperson with NPPD said in a statement Monday. "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.

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

Close to a dozen agencies are aiding in the search for Laundrie, including the North Port Police Department, the FBI, the Florida Wildlife Commission, sheriff's offices in Sarasota, Lee and Charlotte counties and police departments in Sarasota and Venice. K9 search and rescue teams are also assisting in the search.

Law enforcement is well-equipped to conduct its search.

"ATVs, UTVs, 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, tough terrain and wet weather have hindered the investigation.

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

"Terrain is very difficult," Fussell said. "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."

Authorities are using bloodhound dogs in the search. However, a former FBI agent who has worked in finding people in extreme environments said the amount of water in the area makes the search difficult for the dogs.

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

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.

There have been reports that Laundrie was spotted in Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. However, authorities said that after further investigation, those claims did not hold true.

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

This story was originally published by Vanessa Araiza on Scripps station WFTS in Tampa, Florida.