Friday, October 22, 2021

Manhunt for killer of woman in North Sarasota area scaled back as body is found

The massive manhunt for convicted murderer Brian Laundrie scaled back after a mother-of-three was buried in Sarasota on Monday.

Sarasota Sheriff’s Office issued an alert to patrol boats, dive teams and helicopters, announcing they had expanded the manhunt after 27-year-old Gabby Petito was killed in woods near a lodge in North Sarasota.

Petito had been missing since early Friday morning.

The pond Petito was found in was also searched after she was reported missing, Sarasota Police said.

Petito’s brother-in-law said in an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune she went missing Thursday night from her home. In the days since she was found dead Sunday, authorities have expanded their search area without finding her killer.

Petito’s body was discovered by a kayaker a little over a mile away from the tribal lodge where she was last seen, police said. She was killed by an assailant who took her cellphone and left the body in an isolated pond.

Animal control found Petito’s body hidden in the sinkhole behind a swampy area of the woods near the lodge, police said.

Petito’s body was found just a few days after her boyfriend, Zane Kosinski, was found not guilty of her murder.

Laundrie is a former basketball coach and father of three who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a 2007 rape and murder in Davie. He is considered a danger and law enforcement wants to find him, the sheriff’s office said in a tweet Monday.

Just moved on from graveside ceremonies. Now it’s time to go! #HelpBringBrianHome — Sarasota Sheriff (@SarasotaSheriff) May 28, 2018

Laundrie is a former coach at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, according to its website.

He started coaching middle school teams in September 2011, then led the senior girls’ team.

He resigned after the prosecutor said Laundrie was suspected of a past rape and murder.

Laundrie was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2009 and since released on parole in 2015, records show.

His parole was extended again in December 2017 for a period of 20 months.

Petito met Laundrie in 2015 while she was working as a summer camp counselor at Pine Crest, police said.

At the time of her disappearance, she was working on an internship at the schools’ summer camp, two weeks before she was supposed to start a graduate program at Florida Atlantic University, her brother-in-law told the Herald-Tribune.

Tributes poured in for Petito on social media and the school where she worked tweeted out condolences.

“We are shocked and saddened to hear of Gabby’s passing,” the school said in a tweet. “Our sincere condolences to her family and friends.”

You heard it here first! Laundrie is considered a danger to the community, the sheriff’s office said in a tweet. Find him NOW. #HelpBringBrianHome — Sarasota Sheriff (@SarasotaSheriff) May 28, 2018

For more coverage, visit the Herald-Tribune’s website.

(Reporting by Tania Torres, N and D, and Eduardo Munoz Gutierrez; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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