Investigators searching for Gabby Petito believe her fiancé and those around him are withholding critical information related to her disappearance and are refusing to come forward, police said Thursday night.
"I believe Brian has the information," said Police Chief Todd Garrison of North Port, Florida, referring to Brian Laundrie.
"I believe people around Brian may also have the information, and we are pleading to those people to come forward. Provide us the information that we need to find Gabby and reunite Gabby with her family because she deserves it and her family deserves it," he said.
Keep scrolling for a complete timeline of events surrounding Petito's disappearance
Petito, 22, was traveling with Laundrie in her white 2012 Ford Transit van with a Florida license plate, police said. When her family didn't hear from her since late August, they reported her missing on September 11. Police believe she was in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming before the last communication with her family, who lives in New York.
"We are conducting a missing person investigation. Two people went on a trip, and one person returned. And that person is Brian. And we're looking for Gabby, and he is not willing to provide us any information," Garrison told CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday night.
Authorities believe Laundrie was the last person to see Petito before she went missing.
On September 11, police found the van the couple was traveling in at the home Petito shared with Laundrie and his parents in North Port, Florida. Laundrie allegedly returned to North Port on September 1, police said in a news release.
Authorities are investigating some materials they found in the van after they processed it, though they didn't clarify what exactly they're looking into, Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the North Port police department, said in a news briefing.
Taylor also added that Laundrie and his family directed police to their attorney when investigators went to their home Saturday to question them.
"That is the extent of our conversation with them," Taylor said. "It's my understanding we have had some conversations with his attorney but certainly nothing to the level of providing us the details that we would like."
And the Laundries haven't been talking to Petito's family, who have been pleading people to come forward.
"We've had no communication between our family and theirs. It's absolutely absurd. We don't understand why," Petito's stepfather, James Schmidt, told CNN affiliate Court TV.
Schmidt explained that he is in Jackson, Wyoming, as a liaison between his family and law enforcement as investigators search for Petito. He said he believes Laundrie knows information about his stepdaughter's disappearance and is "hiding behind" his attorney.
"He grew up with Gabby; they went to school together. They're not strangers. They've known each other for a long time," Schmidt said.
Schmidt addressed Laundrie during the interview with Court TV, calling on him to come forward with information he may know.
"This is the love of your life. It's been out there on social media. You posted on your accounts. If that is true, then do the right thing. You need to do it now. Stop waiting," Schmidt said.
'We don't have a crime,' police say
Garrison told CNN that his department isn't working on obtaining a search warrant for Laundrie's home because they haven't concluded that a crime has occurred. "In order to get a search warrant, you have to be tied to a crime. Right now, we don't have a crime," Garrison explained.
He added that Laundrie has invoked his Fifth Amendment right, which generally means that a person cannot be forced to make statements that he or she feels might be negative or used against them. The amendment is usually invoked so a person can avoid answering specific questions. The right must be affirmatively waived.
"So I can't compel him to speak. All of our information has been directed through an attorney. That can change. The attorney can come forward and say, 'listen, Brian wants to provide a statement now,'" Garrison said.
The couple, though, did have a recent interaction with police in Moab, Utah.
Last month, officers with the Moab City Police Department responded to reports of disorderly conduct involving Petito and Laundrie, which ended with a report describing them as having "engaged in some sort of altercation."
The report, which was released by the police department, indicates that Laundrie and Petito had a physical fight following an argument, but "both the male and female reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn't wish to see anyone charged with a crime," according to the report from Officer Eric Pratt.
The officers who responded to the incident suggested that Laundrie and Petito should separate for the night, according to the report. Petito is described by one officer as "confused and emotional."
"After evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis," Officer Daniel Robbins wrote in the police report.
No charges were filed. Robbins wrote Laundrie said the pair had been traveling together for "the last 4 or 5 months."
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Here's what we know about the timeline in the case of the missing woman.
North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in a Thursday news briefing that Petito and Laundrie -- who Garrison described as the woman's fiancé -- embarked on a cross-country trip in June.
They planned to travel in Petito's white Ford van to the West Coast and visit state national parks across the Western United States, Garrison said.
She had been excited to share her journey with her family and others on social media, he said.
"She maintained regular contact with her family members during her travels, however that communication abruptly stopped around the end of August," the police chief added.
August 12, 2021
Moab, Utah, police had an encounter with the couple on August 12, where officers described them as having "engaged in some sort of altercation."
Although the two are described as getting into a physical fight following an argument, "both the male and female reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn't wish to see anyone charged with a crime," a report from officer Eric Pratt said.
At officers' suggestion, the couple separated for the night, the report said, which described Petito as "confused and emotional."
"After evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis," officer Daniel Robbins wrote in the police report. No charges were filed.
The couple each had their own cell phones in case of emergency, the report added.
Last week of August
Petito's family told police they were last in contact with her during the last week of August, North Port police said.
Before that last communication, Petito is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, police say.
In a Thursday news conference, Petito family attorney Richard Stafford said the family's last communication with Petito was August 30, but they do not believe the message they received was from Petito. He declined to share what the message said or why they did not believe it was her writing.
September 1, 2021
Laundrie returned to the couple's North Port home, where his parents also live, on September 1, according to police.
The white vehicle Petito and Laundrie had been traveling in was later recovered by police at the home. It was processed and "there was some material in there" that authorities will be going through, North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor said at a news briefing on Wednesday.
September 11, 2021
After not being able to get in touch with her, Petito's family -- who lives in New York -- reported her missing on Saturday evening to the Suffolk County, New York, Police Department.
North Port authorities went to Laundrie's home on Saturday night asking to speak to him and his family but "we were essentially handed the information for their attorney," Taylor, the police spokesperson, said.
"That is the extent of our conversation with them," Taylor said.
In a letter read by Stafford, the Petito family attorney, during police's Thursday news briefing, the missing woman's family begged for Laundrie's family to help in the investigation.
"Please, if you or your family have any decency left, please, tell us where Gabby is located," Stafford said. "Tell us if we are even looking in the right place. All we want is for Gabby to come home. Please help us make that happen."
He said Petito's family reached out to Laundrie's family earlier this month for any information on where Petito may be, but his family refused to answer.
"We haven't been able to sleep or eat, and our lives are falling apart," the Petito family's letter added.
CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian, Mirna Alsharif, Christina Maxouris, Jenn Selva, Ben Norbitz, Andy Rose, Claudia Dominguez and Halimah Abdullah contributed to this report.
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