Gabby Petito’s missing fiance Brian Laundrie could have spent last weekend near the Tennessee border in North Carolina, according to tips received by the police from strangers who said they met a man fitting his description.
t least a dozen such tips and calls from the area have been received by police since last Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office said.
Petito’s death was confirmed last month after her remains were found in Wyoming’s Spread Creek, the same location where the couple’s campervan was parked. A manhunt was launched for Mr Laundrie, who had later gone missing.
An unidentified man, who claimed to have encountered Mr Laundrie in the early hours of Saturday, told the police he was “99.99pc” certain it was him.
“He was talking wild. He said that his girlfriend left him and he had to go out to California to see her,” he told a 911 dispatcher.
At first, the caller was not sure, but moments later he stepped aside to look up Mr Laundrie’s photos. “And I’m 99.99 per cent sure that was him,” he said.
The caller, whose name was not released, also told the dispatcher the man he spoke to was driving a white pick-up truck, which he believed could have been a new Ford F-150 model.
The man in the truck had signalled to the caller that he wanted to speak at a parking lot along the Appalachian Trail.
Authorities attempting to track Mr Laundrie’s whereabouts said they have thoroughly followed up on every tip, but could not find anything, said an earlier statement released by the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office.
Many other calls from people saying they spotted Mr Laundrie have been received by police across the country, while some calls have been received from Canada.
Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie, known to be in a troubled relationship, set out on a cross-country trip in early July in a campervan and covered a number of national parks in their 3,750km road trip.
The couple hit a rough patch along the way, and in August were seen arguing and fighting by police. They had to be physically separated during a row.
Named as a person of interest in Ms Petito’s death, Mr Laundrie was last seen by his parents in Florida on September 14, when he said he was going to the “unforgiving” Carlton reserve park.
This happened three weeks after communication between Ms Petito and her family became scarce, triggering panic about her whereabouts.
Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, said she last spoke with her daughter on August 25, following which she stopped hearing from her toward the first week of September, forcing the family to register a complaint with police.
Amid the search for Ms Petito, Mr Laundrie returned home on September 1 without her, raising concerns about what had happened between them.
An arrest warrant has been issued for him over financial discrepancies on the grounds of “knowingly and with intent to defraud, using” unauthorised devices, including a Capitol One debit card and personal identification numbers for two accounts, one believed to be Ms Petito’s.
Ms Schmidt has said Mr Laundrie’s parents, who claimed they did not help their son escape, know “a lot more than they’re putting out there”.