The boyfriend of Gabby Petito has been charged on Thursday with unauthorized use of a debit card as the search for him continued in a Florida swampland.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Brian Laundrie, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday for allegedly using a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Petito went missing. The indictment does not say who the card belonged to and the nature of the charges have not been disclosed.
Petito’s remains were found on the edge of Grand Teton national park in Wyoming and her death has been ruled a homicide. She disappeared while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in the 22-year-old woman’s death.
Michael Schneider, the FBI special agent in charge, said an arrest warrant will allow law enforcement across the country to continue pursuing Laundrie while the investigation continues into Petito’s homicide.
In Florida, searchers on Thursday spent a fifth unsuccessful day searching for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve park, a forbidding wilderness preserve. A dive team has also joined the manhunt.
Officials urged anyone with knowledge of Laundrie’s role in Petito’s death or his whereabouts to contact the FBI. With online sleuths and theories multiplying by the day, the FBI and police have been deluged with tips about possible Laundrie sightings.
“No piece of information is too small or inconsequential to support our efforts in this investigation,” Schneider said in a statement.
Petito and Laundrie grew up together on Long Island, New York, but they moved in recent years to North Port where his parents live. Their home, about 35 miles (55 km) south of Sarasota, was searched by investigators earlier this week.
The couple documented online their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper, but they got into a physical altercation on 12 August 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.
The case has garnered enormous public interest, but has also raised uncomfortable questions over the unequal attention given to the hundreds of cases of Native American and other minority women missing or murdered across the United States.
On Thursday, the interior secretary Deb Haaland told reporters that the extensive news media coverage of the case should be a reminder of missing or murdered Native American girls and women.
Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary, said that her heart goes out to Petito’s family, but that she also grieves for “so many Indigenous women whose families have endured similar heartache for the last 500 years”.