Brian Laundrie's parents can get charged with obstruction of justice, says expert
Brian Laundrie, the fiance of Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito, was charged on Thursday, September 23, with unauthorized use of a debit card. A federal grand jury in Wyoming indicted Laundrie after determining he used “one or more unauthorized devices” including a debit card and PIN numbers for two bank accounts, to fraudulently obtain more than $1,000. However, Laundrie alone might not be in trouble. A national security expert said his parents might be summoned as well.
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 disappearance and subsequent death.
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“While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances in Ms Petito’s homicide,” Michael Schneider, the FBI Denver special agent in charge, said. But even with a warrant in place, the search for Laundrie has remained altogether unsuccessful so far.
After Petito’s family reported her missing on September 11, Laundrie refused to cooperate with investigators on the advice of a lawyer. Days later he told his parents he was going for a hike in the Carlton Reserve, a roughly 25,000-acre wetlands area in Sarasota County and has not been seen since. In Florida, searchers on Thursday, September 23, reportedly spent a fifth unsuccessful day searching for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve park.
Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, speculated that Laundrie's parents would soon be summoned to a grand jury. "I would expect that to happen momentarily, see them in front of a grand jury, and then if they are not going to cooperate, they can get charged with contempt or obstruction," Figliuzzi told CNBC. "There is no parental-child privilege, and I actually thought, by now, we would see them summoned to the grand jury. We now have an indictment, it's a federal case."
Figliuzzi told CNBC that the usage of "unauthorized use" in the indictment was also revealing. "If it's her credit card, presumably, that means that authorities are convinced that Gabby was unable to give permission to use her card. That means they are closer to fixing the time of death… that's why you are seeing 'unauthorized use,' she was likely dead at that time," Figliuzzi said.
A source close to the Laundrie family told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Thursday that the missing man left his parents' Florida home without his cell phone and wallet. Laundrie's parents were concerned that he might hurt himself, the source said. Laundrie's family told police he left home with his backpack on September 14 and told them he was going to the reserve near their home. An attorney for Laundrie's family emphasized in a statement that the warrant was not for Petito's death but related to activities that took place afterward.
"It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise," Steve Bertolino said. "The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum."