Gabby Petito’s partner has vanished into sprawling wilderness, now police have a bleak theory about him.

Police say there is a “possibility” the partner of Gabby Petito has “hurt himself” in a sprawling Florida wildlife reserve as the search for him continues.

The case has taken a big step forward overnight as remains police believe belong to Ms Petito have been recovered in the Wyoming forest where authorities were searching for the missing New York woman.

Her fiance Brian Laundrie, 23, has also gone missing. He was last seen Tuesday after telling his family he was going for a hike, the kin told police on Friday, sparking a massive manhunt in the nearly 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida.

“As far as hurting himself in there, we don’t know that one way or another. I think it’s a possibility certainly,” North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor told the New York Post.

“Does anyone not think it’s possible he went out there and shot himself in the head? Sure,” Mr Taylor said, adding, “We don’t have any information about where he’s at.”

The search for Mr Laundrie by the FBI and about 50 law enforcement personnel got underway on Saturday, with no sign of the missing man.

Meanwhile, police said Mr Laundrie’s parents picked up their Ford Mustang that was left at the reserve — and the car was spotted parked in the driveway of their North Port home over the last few days.

Mr Laundrie was identified as a person of interest in Ms Petito’s disappearance last week after he returned home Sept. 1 from their cross-country road trip.

Ms Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 by her family, who has not heard from her since late last month.

Mr Laundrie returned home in her van on September 1, but without Ms Petito. He refused to help police with the search.

Laundrie ‘is not missing, he is hiding’

As the search for Mr Laundrie continues, a lawyer for the Petito family says they believe he is in hiding.

“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing,” he said in a brief statement on Friday.

Police in North Port spoke on Friday in a statement that expressed frustration that Laundrie’s family did not speak with investigators for nearly a week about Ms Petito’s disappearance.

“We understand the community’s frustration, we are frustrated too. For six days, the North Port Police Department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian’s fiancé Gabby Petito. Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail,” the statement said.

“We’ve been trying all week to talk to his family, to talk to Brian, and now they’ve called us here on Friday, we’ve gone to the home, and they’re saying now they have not seen their son,” North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor told CNN on Friday. “So we are working through those details as we speak. It is another twist in this story.”

In a statement Friday night, Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino said Brian’s whereabouts “are currently unknown.”

Wild scenes outside Laundrie’s family home

It’s currently evening in the US, and police are heavily guarding the family home of Mr Laundrie and they have shut down the street — following the discovery of Ms Petito’s body overnight.

Images from the scene show reporters gathered on the street. They say Mr Laundrie’s family are inside the home.

The blockade is an attempt to stop demonstrators gathering at the home after wild scenes played out here on Friday night.

Police were called to the Laundrie’s North Port Florida home at his family’s request to talk with them Friday evening.

One of the officers entered the home with what appeared to be an evidence bag as protesters surrounding the property yelled “bring him out!”

Police said it was “fair to say” that Laundrie could potentially pose a threat to himself or others.

Highlighting the fact the 23-year-old was a skilled outdoorsman, they said he “could be out there for months.”

Police said Laundrie was able to disappear because he is not a suspect, had not been charged with a crime and they were not tracking his movements.

After hearing the news about a body being discovered — understood to be Ms Petito’s — overnight, Laundrie’s released a statement through their family attorney.

“The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking,” the statement reads.

The brief statement also said that “The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.”

Police looking into blurry picture

Police in Florida are looking into whether a photo of a man who “sure as heck looks” like Laundrie is actually him.

The photo, taken on a phone, shows a bald man in flip flops who resembles Brian walking about two blocks from the Laundrie home in North Port, Florida.

It was taken on Friday – days after Laundrie’s parents reported last seeing him before he went missing.

North Port Police Department spokesman Josh Taylor told the New York Post they are aware of the photo and are investigating it, but that while it looks like Brian, the man in the photo has a tattoo on his left arm, unlike Gabby’s fiancé.

“Not looking like him. Tattoo on left arm … but we are going to make sure,” said Mr Taylor. “Other than that, sure as heck looks like him.”

Why Laundrie isn’t talking

Critics have slammed Laundrie for staying mum in the wake of her puzzling disappearance — but legal experts say it may be the right call.

“I am never confident my client had nothing to do with anything,” lawyer Ron Kuby said. “I don’t believe my clients when they say they’re guilty. I don’t believe my clients when they say they’re innocent. The best legal advice is to say nothing.”

Laundrie returned to Florida in the couple’s van without Petito on September 1. He didn’t report her missing and refused to speak to her family or the police.

He has maintained that silence even as Petito’s distraught parents have publicly pleaded with him to co-operate with authorities.

Even though there are several scenarios that would potentially absolve Laundrie of foul play, Kuby said he’d still be cautious about letting him open his mouth.

She could have accidentally fallen to her death and Laundrie feared he’d be blamed for it. Or perhaps Petito disappeared to create a social media frenzy that would enhance her blogger profile, and he was sworn to secrecy.

“These are possibilities consistent with innocence, but no one ever talked themselves out of trouble in talking to the police,” he said.

He conceded that this guidance can be a PR nightmare, but that public condemnation is preferable to disclosing information that gets a suspect convicted.

“From a moral standpoint, from an ethical standpoint, from a duty to treat others in a kind way, it’s a gross violation of society norms,” Kuby said of Laundrie’s silence. “This is of course is why people hate lawyers.”

Former Manhattan prosecutor-turned-defence lawyer Mark Bederow said there are a lot of good reasons for Laundrie not to talk — especially if he’s “guilty of something horrible.”

Bederow said Laundrie’s lawyer has to balance bad optics with the risk of self-incrimination.

“There’s no question that his behaviour is extraordinarily suspicious and his decision now to stand quiet, although permissible under the law, looks terrible,” added Bederow. “But he’s doing nothing unlawful or legally inappropriate and it may be in his best interest.”

Jeffrey Lichtman, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s lawyer, said he would only let his client open his mouth if he were 100 per cent certain he was innocent.

“If you have an alibi, and you know your client didn’t do it, of course, you’re going to let them talk because you want them to drop him as a target,” he said. But if you’re not sure, even though “the guy looks wildly guilty right now,” it’s safer to stay quiet, he said.

‘Nothing to report’ in search for partner

Mr Laundrie has still not been found by police and he is suspected to be somewhere in Florida’s wilderness.

Shortly after Mr Laundrie vanished, investigators spent two hours at the Laundrie home collecting things they say may help them find him and hopefully get answers.

Dozens of law enforcement officers from five agencies are invloved in the search for him.

The search will resume tomorrow, but so far there have been no clues found.

But just before 6pm local time police said the search had concluded for the day with “nothing to report.”

– With the New York Post

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