NEW YORK - Police in North Port, Florida are calling Brian Laundrie a person of interest in the case of Gabrielle Petito, a missing woman from Long Island who has not been seen for weeks.
Petito was on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie.
North Port Police say they are now the lead investigating agency in partnership with the FBI but will continue to work with the Suffolk County Police Department.
A van that the couple was believed to have been traveling in out west was found at a home she shared with her boyfriend and his parents in North Port. The FBI searched it on Tuesday evening.
Police say that Laundrie has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or provide any helpful details.
They say he returned home 10 days before Petito's family reported her missing.
"As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby's family is going through," North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said. "We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation."
The FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips. 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324). Hundreds of tips have come in and they are being checked out by several law enforcement organizations.
Police are also looking into Gabrielle's Instagram page being taken down this week.
East Islip lawyer Steven P. Bertolino released the following statement Tuesday on behalf of the Laundrie family.
It states: "This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito- in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family."
The statement ends with: "On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."
On Wednesday, police in Florida said "remaining in the background is not good enough."