NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — As family members of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito continue pushing for answers in the mysterious disappearance of the North Port woman, police say they are receiving hundreds of tips from the public amid their investigation.
While there was no major update on the investigation Friday, Public Information Officer Josh Taylor with the North Port Police Department did speak with reporters briefly to answer questions on the ongoing case.
Taylor confirmed during the news conference that police do not have Petito’s cell phone.
He said, however, that police are making progress in the investigation and that they’ve received an “enormous” amount of tips.
“It can be everything from ‘this van was in this location, at this gas station, at this time.’ And once that is solidified, I think that’s just one more piece in our timeline,” Taylor explained. “So certainly there’s been progress made throughout the last 24 hours and – I don’t know if we’re to the point where we’ve got it solved by any means but the goal right now is to bring Gabby home and that’s what we’re going to continue to promote.”
According to Taylor, more than a thousand tips have come in to the department regarding the Petito investigation.
“The vast majority of them are not helpful,” he admitted. “But it’s those nuggets, those little pieces in there that might be somebody who – obviously that vehicle drove a couple thousand miles to get back here to North Port. It didn’t do that on one tank of gas.”
Taylor was also asked on Friday about any potential on-the-ground grid searches out west, specifically in Teton County, Wyoming. Petito’s last known location was Grand Teton National Park, according to authorities.
“Certainly, the North Port Police Department is not going out there to do a ground search, that just doesn’t make any sense,” Taylor said. “Working with folks, I can’t even necessarily confirm what those authorities there are doing. We’re working closely with the FBI out of Tampa and they’re collaboratively working with the FBI out of the Denver area so that may or may not be happening.”
Taylor said he spoke with Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, and feels for the family. Gabby Petito has been missing officially since Sept. 11, but her last known contact with family members was at the end of August when she was on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie.
Laundrie, now a person of interest, returned home alone with the van the couple had been traveling with on Sept. 1 and has retained a lawyer, according to police. Petito’s family publicly called on Laundrie’s family this week to release any information they may have on Gabby Petito’s location.
“They’re being tortured right now by the potential of somebody having information and not relaying it,” Taylor said. “It’s just terrible. And speaking with him, you get a sense of what a man is going through looking for answers.”
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