A rancher with more than 30 years' experience with the swampy conditions in the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, said Monday that he doubts that Brian Laundrie, slain Gabby Petito's fiance and now the prime suspect in her killing, would still be alive there two weeks after disappearing.
''There's no surviving out here, I don't know how to say it,'' cattle rancher Alan McEwen told Fox News in an interview, according to the Daily Mail. ''I've been in the woods in and out all my life. … I have learned a lot in my life, and one thing I know is no one is going to survive out there for two weeks on foot.''
McEwen has been using his knowledge to help North Port police and the FBI search for Laundrie, who left the home he shared with his parents and Petito on Sept. 14 after telling his parents he was going hiking.
Laundrie, 23, and Petito, 22, spent August crossing the country in a van and made it as far as Wyoming when Petito, an avid social media poster, stopped communicating with her family and posting online.
Laundrie returned to Florida without Petito, but with the van, which was registered to her, in early September, hired a lawyer and refused to help police or the Petito family search for the young woman.
Her remains were found Sept. 19 in a camping area of the Grand Teton National Park. An autopsy ruled the death a homicide, but authorities have not yet disclosed how Petito died.
Laundrie's parents told police and the FBI that they found the family Ford Mustang on Sept. 17 at the entrance of the Carlton Reserve, but without a trace of their son, and reported him missing.
Dozens of local and federal officers have spent the last 10 days scouring the preserve, dealing with its tough landscape, heat, and potentially dangerous wildlife, but have not found any evidence that Laundrie is there.
North Port police told a Tampa television news station that they would scale back the search in the coming days and would turn leadership of the investigation over to the FBI.
Some have speculated that Laundrie never went inside the preserve, and instead went to some other location, a view shared by TV personality Duane Chapman, aka ''Dog the Bounty Hunter,'' who showed up at the Laundrie home over the weekend.
In a televised interview, Chapman said it's more likely Laundrie went to the Appalachian Trail, a 2,100-mile public footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine, one of Laundrie's favorite trails to hike.
''He spent a couple of months there in the past, and he is an outdoorsman,'' Chapman said. ''He's been there before.''
As the search for Laundrie continued over the weekend, Petito's family held a memorial service for their daughter in Long Island, New York.
''I want you to take a look at these pictures, and I want you to be inspired by Gabby," said her father, Joseph Petito. "If there's a trip you guys want to take, take it now. Do it now while you have the time. If there is a relationship that you're in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now."
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