Police in Florida are being heavily criticized for allowing Brian Laundrie to quietly disappear without obtaining search warrants as part of the investigation into the disappearance of his fiancée, Gabby Petito.
Pat Diaz, a former Florida homicide detective, said on Fox News that police should have obtained warrants to search Laundrie’s home and electronic devices on the same day Petito was reported missing.
“Why would you [try to] get consent from the guy, and not get a search warrant?” Diaz told the news outlet Sunday. “You can get a search warrant for everything in that house, including his laptop.”
But North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor told Fox that his department “has no authority to execute a possible federal search warrant on our own.”
“There is no information that a crime took place here in North Port. That is our jurisdiction,” he told the outlet.
The FBI on Sunday announced it had found a body using “ground surveys.” An autopsy is being conducted and will be completed Tuesday. It is not yet known if it is the body of Petito.
“We don’t know when she died,” Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic scientist and professor emeritus of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Daily Beast.
“But we do know that she’s in an environment that’s very hot. You can get decomposition in a matter of a week,” he said. “If it is Gabby, and if she’s been deceased since around August 24, the body could be in really bad shape.”
North Port police also released a statement. “Saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased,” they said. “Our focus from the start, along with the FBI, and national partners, has been to bring her home. We will continue to work with the FBI in the search for more answers.”
During the long search for Petito, Laundrie disappeared and was reportedly seen heading into a large nature preserve. But the North Port Police Department told Fox News on Monday that it “currently has no plans to conduct a major search of the Carlton Reserve today.”
“At this time, we currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there,” Public Information Officer Josh Taylor said. “Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Brian Laundrie.”
Petito family lawyer Richard Benson Stafford released a statement Sunday. “Due to today’s developments, we are asking the press and news media to have some decorum and sensitivity for Gabby’s family and allow them to grieve. I will be in contact with you when Gabby’s family is ready to make a public statement,” he said.
“I would also like to personally thank the FBI, the Suffolk County Police Department, the North Port Police Department and especially the Grant Teton Search and Rescue team,” the statement continued. “Your tireless work and determination helped bring Gabby home to her parents. The family and I will be forever grateful.”