EXCLUSIVE: Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman is investigating a tip that alleges Brian Laundrie, the fugitive fiancé of Gabby Petito, went into a Florida campground 75 miles away with his parents in early September — but only two of them were seen leaving.
Chapman announced Saturday he was entering the search for Laundrie, and tips quickly poured in. He told Fox News he received a tip on Monday that Laundrie’s parents spent the night in Fort De Soto Park with their son twice in early September from Sept. 1-3 and Sept. 6-8.
“They were registered, went through the gate. They’re on camera. They were here,” he told Fox News exclusively on Monday evening. “We think at least if he’s not here right now, we are sure he was caught on camera as he went in the gate — that he was here for sure. Not over in the swamp.”
Online sleuths reported that a law enforcement helicopter could be heard in the area of the campground. A Pinellas County sheriff spokesperson told Fox News it was not conducting an investigation at Ft. DeSoto.
He later added: “Allegedly, what we’re hearing, is two people left on the 8th. Three people came in on the 6th, and two people left on the 8th. I think he’s been here for sure.”
Earlier on Monday, attorney Steven Bertolino, who represents Brian’s parents, Chris and Roberta, said his clients “do not know where Brian is.”
“They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him,” Bertolino wrote. “The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong.”
A Fox News Digital reporter overheard a park worker say investigators had checked surveillance video on the grounds.
Conditions within park are “much easier” than some others, namely the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve, where local police and sheriff’s deputies have spent days combing through the dense, swampy terrain, Chapman told Fox News.
Fort De Soto Park is located in Pinellas County and is about 75 miles away from the Laundries’ home on Wabasso Avenue. It spans more than 1,130 acres and consists of five keys.
The tip gives renewed hope that authorities might soon reach a conclusion to what has become a costly weeks-long search for Laundrie and a quest for answers that has extended from coast to coast. The exhaustive manhunt that has extended nationwide and garnered massive attention.
Laundrie and 22-year-old Petito embarked on a cross-country journey in mid-June in a converted white Ford Transit van with the plan to visit national parks along the way. They had begun dating years earlier after meeting at their local Long Island, N.Y. high school and had moved to North Port, Florida, to live with Laundrie’s parents.
On Sept. 1, months after they began their trip, Laundrie returned to the North Port home in the couple’s van, but without Petito, officials said. The young woman was not reported missing until 10 days later, on Sept. 11, when her mother filed a police report in Suffolk County, N.Y. Police seized the van from the Laundries’ home on Sept. 11.
Laundrie was subsequently named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance, and on Thursday, the FBI issued an arrest warrant for bank card fraud. Authorities alleged he used someone’s Capital One Bank card and the personal identification number during the time when Petito was missing. Neither investigators nor a spokesperson for Petito’s family have said whether the card belonged to Petito.
Fox News recently obtained the missing persons’ report for Petito, in which her mother, Nichole Schmidt, stated that her daughter was last seen at 7 a.m. on Aug. 30 at Grand Teton National Park. Schmidt wrote in the report that her Long Island home was a “probable destination.”
But Laundrie also subsequently went missing, his parents claimed through their attorney.
After the Petito’s missing persons’ report was filed on Sept. 11, Laundrie would not cooperate with the police investigation, officials said. The Laundries’ attorney released a statement on Sept. 14, in which he announced he had advised his clients to remain “in the background.” The family revealed three days later that they had not seen him since Sept. 14.
Charlene Guthrie, who lives directly across the street from the Laundrie family, told Fox News she saw Brian Laundrie mowing the lawn, riding his bike with his mother and appearing to go camping with his parents in the days after he arrived alone. Petito had previously been living with the family at their North Port, Florida, home.
Friends, family and the public paid their respects during a Sunday ceremony on Long Island.
Speaking during the service, Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, called his daughter “the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”
“I want you to take a look at these pictures, and I want you to be inspired by Gabby,” he said at the service. “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 you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now.”
Chapman has his own anonymous tip line at 833-TELL-DOG for people who are hesitant to call authorities directly – however anyone with information on Laundrie’s whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or 303-629-7171.
Fox News’ Paul Best contributed to this report.