FUGITIVE Brian Laundrie “purposefully left his new cellphone at his parents’ home” as he hid from the law, online sleuths have speculated.
Laundrie reportedly purchased a phone at the AT&T store on September 14 with an “older woman” – the last day his parents, Chris and Roberta, say they saw their son when he left their Florida home to hike.
The FBI is reportedly investigating Laundrie’s burner phone after seizing the brand new device he left at the house in North Port and looking into CCTV footage from a cell phone store nearby in North Port.
Although agents would not confirm to The Sun they were looking into the surveillance footage, Reddit sleuths have weighed into the mystery of Brian’s new phone.
A screenshot of a Facebook status from a person called Allysun Paulson was shared in the r/Brian Laundrie sub-reddit that read: “I believe he purchased the new phone, with the intent to purposefully leave it behind.
“His old phone is now his ‘burner phone,”’ she added, claiming Brian would simply do a factory reset and use different SIM cards and could not be traced.
“He knows everything that is going on right now. Everything. Leaving the new phone behind was done to throw them off in the beginning to buy time.”
But the speculation was met with mixed reviews in the comments section.
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Other users noted that smartphones are easily tracked, ping at various cell towers, and have “Find My Device” and geolocation features that can be turned on without the users’ permission (e.g. 911 calls.)
Read our Brian Laundrie live blog for the very latest news and updates…
The Sun spoke exclusively to a private investigator Bill Warner, an expert sleuth based in Florida, who said Laundrie is a “mastermind” for leaving behind his wallet, ID, driver’s license, and credit cards behind.
“This is usually what people on the run do,” he told The Sun about Laundrie’s disappearance.
“They just go dark, hide everything. They don’t take a car, they don’t take a phone. They don’t take any ID, but they can’t be identified.”
Warner believes the expert hiker headed to the Appalachian Trail but noted there is the possibility that “he’s dead in the Carlton Reserve, that he went in there to kill himself.”
Meanwhile, Laundrie family’s attorney, Steven Bertolio, confirmed on Thursday that “a phone was purchased on September 4, 2021 and Brian opened an account with AT&T for that phone.”
‘LEFT IT AT HOME’
“Brian left that phone at home the day he went for a hike in the preserve on September 14, 2021 and the FBI now has that phone,” he told News Nation Now’s Brian Entin.
He was not aware of where Laundrie’s old phone was.
Earlier today, Bertolino confirmed: “The FBI is at the Laundrie home today to collect some personal items belonging to Brian that will assist the canines in their search for Brian. There is nothing more to this.”
In a statement to The Sun, the AT&T store in question said: “We’re not confirming or denying anything, and we’re not making any statements, thank you and have a great day.”
Bertolino said: “To my knowledge, they did purchase a new phone, and it’s the same phone that Brian left home and which the FBI is in possession of.”
Laundrie’s parents previously said they fear their son may hurt himself after leaving their Forth Port home without his personal belongings.
Chris and Roberta were slammed for their silence while Petito was missing and for not reporting that Brian had disappeared until September 17, three days after they claim they last saw him go for a hike in Carlton Reserve.
Online critics have now suggested that they could also disappear before Brian is found as the family faces mounting scrutiny.
It has not been suggested by any official source that Laundrie’s mom, Roberta, is using the burner phone to communicate with her son.
“We do not confirm or deny contact with any individual or entity in order to preserve their privacy, as such, we do not confirm or deny the receipt of any tip,” the FBI said, according to Tampa 10 reporter Shannon Clowe.
“We have no additional comment,” they added.
Since Laundrie’s disappearance, sleuths have closely monitored his social media pages, claiming the 23-year-old is active online, having unfollowed several people on Instagram.
Gabby Petito timeline
Gabby Petito, 22, was last seen on August 24, leaving a hotel in Utah. Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito's disappearance:
- June 2021 – Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie set off on a cross-country trip across the US.
- July 4 – Gabby posts photos of herself barefoot in Gove County, Kansas.
- July 8 – Gabby posts photos of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
- July 18 – Gabby and Brian post photos of themselves at Utah’s Zion National Park.
- August 12 – Body camera footage was released in September showing an encounter Brian and Gabby had with police in Utah. Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.
- August 19 – Gabby and Brian post a video on their YouTube channel chronicling their trip.
- August 24 – Gabby is spotted leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- August 25 – Gabby Facetimes her mom, Nichole Schmidt, for the final time. In a later police report, Schmidt said her conversations with her daughter revealed “more and more tension” between her and Brian.
- August 25 – Gabby also posts her last Instagram. No location is given.
- August 27 – Gabby is seen for what’s believed to be the final time. Witnesses claim they saw Brian in an explosive argument with staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, leaving Gabby in tears.
- August 27 – Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple’s van “abandoned” on a dirt road.
- September 1 – Brian returns home to Florida without Gabby.
- September 11 – Gabby’s parents report her missing to Suffolk County police.
- September 14 – Brian’s family issues a statement saying he has retained an attorney and will not be cooperating with investigators.
- September 14 – Brian is allegedly last seen by his family. He reportedly told them he was going hiking in Cartlon Reserve but failed to return.
- September 15 – Florida’s North Port police announce Brian is a person of interest in the case. He is not charged with any crime.
- September 16 – Utah police release body camera footage of the police encounter with Brian and Gabby.
- September 17 – Brian’s parents say they have not seen their son in a couple of days and report him missing.
- September 18 – Police announce they were searching Carlton Reserve in Florida for Brian. Police announce they have not found anything.
- September 19 – Authorities in Wyoming say they found a body in Grand Teton National Park. The FBI announces the body was believed to be Gabby’s but a full forensic identification needs to be completed first to confirm.
- September 20 – Police execute a search warrant on Laundrie’s home, seizing his silver Mustang and a hard drive that may contain “evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed.”
- September 21 – Officials announce they will be conducting an autopsy on the remains found in Wyoming to confirm whether or not they belong to Gabby. Police also resumed their search for Laundrie, this time on the Venice side of Carlton Reserve.
- September 21 – The FBI announced the body found in Wyoming was identified as Gabby’s. The cause of death was not yet revealed.
- September 21 – The Teton County Coroner’s office said Gabby’s official cause of death was still pending but the initial manner of death is homicide.
- September 22 – Police continue to scour Carlton Reserve for a trace of Laundrie but yield no leads. A specialist dive team is called in to assist with the hunt.
- September 23 – Officials announced a federal arrest warrant for Brian was issued.
- September 26 – Gabby’s funeral was held on Long Island, New York.