NORTH PORT, FL — Days after a coroner in Wyoming announced that Gabby Petito’s cause of death was homicide by strangulation, the city of North Port has revealed plans for a permanent memorial to her.
Petito lived in North Port for the past two years with her fiancée, Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in her death who is also wanted on federal fraud charges.
The two were traveling across the country visiting national parks this summer when Petito disappeared at the end of August. Her body was found near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming Sept. 19.
Laundrie, who returned to Florida without her Sept. 1, was reported missing Sept. 17 and authorities have been looking for him ever since.
As the search for Laundrie, 23, continues, Dog the Bounty Hunter returned to Florida to pay the fugitive’s older sister a visit and John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted” fame has shared his own theories about where he might be.
Meanwhile, protesters continue to target Laundrie’s parents’ home in North Port, and their neighbors are receiving mysterious letters with $20 bills.
In North Port, items from a makeshift memorial for Petito, including signs, stuffed animals and candles, were removed from the City Center Front Green Tuesday and given to her family.
Now, the city will install a permanent tribute to the 22-year-old, a bench created by Aaron Betzner, a steel fabricator in Indiana. He is donating the steel bench in her honor to the city, Fox News reported.
The bench will be placed a few feet from where the makeshift memorial was.
North Port Mayor Jill Luke told ABC 7 that the design will incorporate blue butterflies, as Petito was known to admire them.
The mayor also said that she has been touched by Petito’s story and that removing the temporary memorial was “a little emotional” for her.
Dog the Bounty Hunter Visits Laundrie’s Sister
Reality star Duane Chapman, known by many as Dog the Bounty Hunter, entered the search for Laundrie in Florida weeks ago after a Sept. 23 federal warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with the unauthorized use of another person’s debit card, but that individual was never named by authorities.
The attorneys for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family said the card in question belonged to Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie used it during his drive back to Florida.
The bounty hunter has chased down multiple leads since getting involved, confirming that Laundrie and his parents camped at Fort De Soto Park in Southern Pinellas County Sept. 6-8 and searching Egmont Key and Shell Key — secluded southern Pinellas County islands just southwest of Fort De Soto Park and only accessible by boat — with boat crews, ground teams, and K-9 search-and-rescue dogs.
Chapman recently left the search to nurse an ankle injury in Colorado, leaving his team behind in Florida.
He returned to Florida Wednesday, though, to visit the home of Laundrie’s older sister. He and his new wife, Francie, knocked on the door of their Lakewood Ranch home and rang the doorbell around 7:30 p.m., the New York Post said. Nobody answered.
Cassie Laundrie has been interviewed by “Good Morning America” and was also recorded while speaking to protesters outside her home for nearly 20 minutes.
She said she doesn’t know where her brother is or whether their parents, who haven’t spoken to her in weeks, helped him flee and encouraged him to turn himself in. She also said that there were details she couldn’t publicly share that she had told the FBI.
Chapman told the Post that she and her husband “absolutely” know more than they’re admitting to.
When he first joined the search for Brian Laundrie, he also knocked on the door of the Laundrie home in North Port. Laundrie’s mother called 911 on him.
WFLA also recently reported that Cassie Laundrie and her husband have received multiple threats about “killing (their) family and kidnapping (their) kids.”
John Walsh Thinks Brian Laundrie Is in Mexico
John Walsh, known for his work with “America’s Most Wanted,” aired a special report about the Petito case and the search for Laundrie on the Investigation Discovery network Wednesday night.
Walsh, who hosts “In Pursuit With John Walsh” for the network, has received numerous tips on possible Laundrie sightings – the Bahamas, the Appalachian Trail, areas of Florida among them – but he believes the fugitive is likely in Mexico, according to the New York Post.
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“We’ve had over a thousand solid tips to the ‘In Pursuit’ hotline. Most of them are about my theory of his father driving him to the Mexican border and letting him go through Mexico. It’s a great time to be heading south, because [there are] thousands of refugees … I mean, he could walk across the border naked with his hair on fire, and nobody would notice him,” Walsh said. “I think that’s maybe where he’s hiding — and somebody might be helping him.”
The Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, called out both Chapman and Walsh for their involvement in the case.
“Dusty relics like that Dog and John Walsh need a tragic situation like this so they can clear the cobwebs off their names and give their publicity hungry egos some food,” Bertolino told TMZ.
Laundrie’s Neighborhood Targeted By Protesters
Protesters, often with bullhorns, and media have gathered outside the Laundries’ Wabasso Avenue home in North Port since Petito was reported missing, even before Laundrie was declared a person of interest in her disappearance and death.
Hours after the coroner revealed Petito’s cause of death – homicide by strangulation – Tuesday, a pair of angry protesters were active outside the Laundrie home yet again. They even banged on the front door.
Fox News tweeted video footage of the protesters who yelled things like, “You guys like to strangle people!”
The Laundries’ neighbors have also received mysterious letters containing $20 bills lately, the Daily Mail reported. The letters asked them to use the money “to feed the media outside and keep this story going.”
North Port police reportedly collected the letters and went door-to-door asking neighbors if they had received one.