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Fiance identified as person of interest in New York woman’s disappearance, police say

The fiance of the New York woman who went missing on a cross-country trip has been identified as a person of interest in the case, authorities said on Wednesday.

North Port, Fla., Police have confirmed Brian Laundrie’s status as a person of interest as authorities continue their search for Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, who was reported missing by her family over the weekend when she fell out of contact on a road trip to Wyoming.

“Gabrielle’s vehicle was recovered here in North Port from her home on September 11,” the police department said in a statement. “This vehicle was fully processed for proof with FBI agents on Tuesday evening.”

Police said Laundrie “did not make himself available for questioning by investigators” and “did not provide any useful details.”

“We know Brian returned here to North Port on September 1 – ten days before his family reported his disappearance on September 11. We have no information that a crime took place here in North Port,” said the police.

Lawyers for the Petito and Laundrie family did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The news comes a day after authorities in Utah said they investigated an “incident” involving the couple on Aug. 12 – about two weeks before Petito’s last visit.

Moab City Police Department chief Bret Edge told NBC News in a statement that “neither Brian nor Gabrielle was the reporter.”

“Officers investigated and determined that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges,” he said.

Petito’s family lawyer said on Tuesday that Laundrie would not help him find her.

“The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst times of their lives. Their twenty-two-year-old beautiful daughter is missing and the only person who can help find Gabby refuses to help her,” Stafford said. “Brian Laundrie was traveling with Gabby in the Grand Teton – Yellowstone area. They were traveling together in Gabby’s 2012 Ford Transit van. This is where we think Gabby was last seen.”

The groom’s family released a statement earlier Tuesday saying it was “an extremely difficult time for both the Peitto family and the Laundrie family.”

“We understand that a search has been arranged for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming,” the family said in a statement issued by their attorney, Steven P. Bertolino. “On behalf of the Laundrie family, we hope that the search for Miss Petito will be successful and that Miss Petito will be reunited with her family.”

They added: “On the advice of the lawyer, the Laundrie family remain in the background at this point and will have no further comment.”

Petito’s family lawyer responded directly to the statement on Tuesday evening.

“The Schmidt and Petito family are begging the Laundrie family not to ‘stand back’ but to help find who Brian called the love of his life,” Stafford said. “How does Brian stay in the background when he’s the only person who knows Gabby’s whereabouts?”

Petito and Laundrie had documented their trips, in a white 2012 Ford Transit van, on YouTube under the nicknames Nomadic Statik and Van Life. This Ford pickup truck, with Florida license plates, and the laundromat eventually returned to the town of North Port, south of Tampa, but without the woman, police said.

The FBI Field Office in Tampa is also actively assisting Suffolk County Police in New York with the investigation, North Port Police said.

Police know Laundrie is at the family’s home in North Port, but they had not contacted him as of Wednesday afternoon, officials said. Laundrie’s family have asked the police to speak to their lawyer if they have any questions.

“Brian refuses to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her,” Stafford said. “Brian also refuses to explain why he left Gabby alone and drove his van to Florida. These are critical questions that need immediate answers.”

North Port Police said they are also investigating why Gabrielle’s Instagram page was deleted.

“We implore anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on his whereabouts over the past few weeks,” Police Chief Todd Garrison said in a statement.

“Brian’s lack of information is hampering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help locate Gabby and help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance,” he said.

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