Manhunt for Brian Laundrie in alligator-infested Florida swampland has cost $1.2million so far


The hunt for wanted Brian Laundrie in alligator-infested Florida swampland has so far cost an estimated $1.2million – and with no trace of him, a search and rescue expert has exclusively told DailyMail.com.

Mike Hadsell – who knows the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve search area intimately – added that Laundrie’s parents could face the bill if it’s proven they deceived police by wrongly telling them it’s where he said he was heading last time they saw him.

More than 50 searchers from the FBI plus cops in Laundrie’s home town of North Port and several other law enforcement agencies are on their sixth day hunting for him in the highly dangerous and dense swampland.

The FBI has now issued a federal arrest warrant for Laundrie, 23, in connection with the death of van-life girlfriend Gabby Petito, 22, whose body was found in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming on Sunday after she was reported missing.

Brian Laundrie, who was reported missing last week, remains a person of interest in the disappearance and death of fiancée Gabby Petito

Brian Laundrie, 23, who was reported missing last week, remains a person of interest in the disappearance and death of fiancée Gabby Petito. The manhunt for Laundrie has cost about $1.2million as it enters its sixth day, DailyMail.com can reveal

Laundrie's parents could face the bill if it's proven they deceived police by wrongly telling them it's where he said he was heading last time they saw him. Christopher and Roberta Laundrie were spotted in Orlando, Florida on Thursday, hours after leaving their North Port home

Laundrie’s parents could face the bill if it’s proven they deceived police by wrongly telling them it’s where he said he was heading last time they saw him. Christopher and Roberta Laundrie were spotted in Orlando, Florida on Thursday, hours after leaving their North Port home   

Authorities are searching the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota, Florida, and have deployed the canine unit and police divers

Authorities are searching the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota, Florida, and have deployed the canine unit and police divers 

For five days of the Florida search he was classed a ‘person of interest’ and treated as a missing person himself.

Gabby Petitio's body was found in the Spread Creek campsite in Wyoming on Sunday and the next day her death was ruled a homicide

Gabby Petitio’s body was found in the Spread Creek campsite in Wyoming on Sunday and the next day her death was ruled a homicide 

Former LA County Sheriff’s deputy Hadsell, who runs the volunteer Peace River K9 Search and Rescue Association in Sarasota, said: ‘I can accurately estimate they are spending $200,000 a day on this search.

‘And if this thing turns out to be bogus and they can prove that the family misled law enforcement on this, the parents will get a bill.’

Hadsell, who has led 160 missions with his group and is not on this hunt, attacked the spending on the search for Laundrie as a missing person. ‘To see them blow more than a million bucks out here on this guy, is just like what the heck?’ he told DailyMail.com.

‘A lot of other people who end up missing need that money and need that help. And they just don’t get it. And that is chaffing me on this whole thing.’

He also revealed that insiders told him they have found no trace of Laundrie being there. ‘Any time he would move, especially in the Carlton, he would leave trails because you sink in the mud,’ he said.

‘There would be evidence that somebody has been moving through there. And any K9 will pick that up. So far I’ve heard they’ve found none of that. If that’s true, then Laundrie’s probably not there.’

Even if the wanted man is in the reserve 13 miles from his home, the expert believes Laundrie could not remain alive or undetected for more than a few days no matter what his amateur survival skills.

He said: ‘I’m very familiar with that reserve. It’s like searching in Jurassic Park. It is a hostile and challenging environment – utterly brutal. It’s full of alligators, aggressive and highly-poisonous snakes, just about everything.

‘There are lots of things in there that want to eat you or just kill you.’

‘Even if Laundrie was an experienced survivalist, the chances of him being able to stay out there this long are very slim.

‘It would be extremely hard to survive as long as this search has been going on. I doubt he would survive more than two to three days because of the dangers of the swamp, the alligators, the snakes and the bugs.’

Search teams from multiple law enforcement agencies gathered Wednesday for a briefing before heading out into the 25,000-acre swampland

Search teams from multiple law enforcement agencies gathered Wednesday for a briefing before heading out into the 25,000-acre swampland

Police divers joined the search for Brian Laundrie just before noon Wednesday with an airboat and dinghy

Police divers joined the search for Brian Laundrie just before noon Wednesday with an airboat and dinghy 

Hadsell added: ‘There are plenty of gators, but it’s the snakes that are an even bigger danger. There are so many Water Moccasins and they are particularly nasty. They just attack everything. If you’re on their turf they’re going to come after you and pick a fight.

‘That’s why you see most everybody in this search sticking to the swamp buggies. It’s because they don’t want to get out into the water as there’s too much danger.

Former LA County Sheriff's deputy Mike Hadsell, who runs the volunteer Peace River K9 Search and Rescue Association in Sarasota, said: 'I can accurately estimate they are spending $200,000 a day on this search

Former LA County Sheriff’s deputy Mike Hadsell, who runs the volunteer Peace River K9 Search and Rescue Association in Sarasota, said: ‘I can accurately estimate they are spending $200,000 a day on this search

‘For Laundrie to hide out even for a short time, he would have to set up some kind of shelter. And that would be detectable from the air. He’d need a lot of water. It’s not as if you can call an Uber guy to bring him a pizza once a day.’

North Port Police Commander Joe Fussell, who is helping coordinate the teams, countered criticism of the search.

‘We are not wasting our time out here,’ he said. ‘We are doing our due diligence to find Brian in an area that intelligence had led to us that he could possibly be in.

‘So it is upon us to make sure we search this area as best as we can, massive as it is, we the resources that we have to try to find Brian.’

Speaking inside the Carlton Reserve on a police video update of the hunt, he explained the pressures searchers are under.

‘The staff that are out there searching, the get home and they’re exhausted,’ he said. ‘They’re out here working as hard as they can. I tell you the only break they have during the day is when they come back to get a bite to eat. And then they go back into the wilderness and they hit it hard again.

‘When they get home, they shower, wash off the dirt from the day and that is probably about the amount of energy that they have before they have to wake up and come back out the next day.

‘This is wearing on everyone. Everyone has a level of stress, everybody has the drive. And that’s really what’s carrying us through.

It’s the drive to try to find Brian and try to bring closure to this investigation.’

‘We’re looking through wooded areas, we’re looking through bodies of water, we’re looking through swampy areas. We have air units, we have drones, we have the swamp buggies, air boats, multiple law enforcement agencies, we have ATVs, UTVs and we have officers on foot as well.

‘We are deploying every resource to get through any terrain we encounter in our search areas.’

Laundrie's whereabouts are still unknown, with the manhunt entering its sixth day at a vast nature reserve in Florida (pictured)

Laundrie’s whereabouts are still unknown, with the manhunt entering its sixth day at a vast nature reserve in Florida (pictured) 

Police and FBI agents resumed their search of the Carlton Reserve, sharing photos of search dogs (above)

Police and FBI agents resumed their search of the Carlton Reserve, sharing photos of search dogs (above)

If Laundrie is dead in the swamp, Hadsell said it probably won’t be the searchers who find him first – but large birds flocking around as they eye an easy meal.

‘You have a better chance of finding him if he’s dead,’ he said. ‘Not because the searchers would find him. It will usually be the buzzards that will find him.

‘I’m sure the Fisheries and Wildlife guys are monitoring the birds to see if there is any bird activity in certain locations. That’s one of the fastest ways to find a body.’

The search is relying heavily on swamp buggy vehicles – some at least 12ft high and with massive tires – bloodhounds, drones using infra-red detection technology and, it is understood, some helicopter activity.

It began after Laundrie’s parents Christopher, 62, and Roberta, 55, told police he said he was heading to the reserve when they say they last saw him at their home on September 14.

His silver Ford Mustang convertible – which was eventually seized in the FBI dramatic raid on the family house on Monday – was at an entrance to the reserve that night. It had a police note on it saying it should be removed from the area.

That was two weeks after Laundrie arrived back alone in Gabby’s white Ford Transit after the pair had been on a cross-country road trip that took them to Utah and Wyoming. Gabby was reported missing by her desperate mother Nichole Schmidt on September 11, ten days after Laundrie made it back to Florida.

After vanishing, Laundrie was reportedly sighted in north west Florida, his home town of North Port and Alabama – with all the sightings later discounted. There has also been speculation that he might have gone into the Carlton Reserve to commit suicide.

However, Hadsell believes a body would have been found fairly quickly because he would have killed himself soon after entering.

‘If Laundrie went to the reserve to commit suicide, he won’t be deep in the woods,’ said Hadsell. ‘Statistics and analysis we use show that would not be the case.

‘Generally if someone is going to the Carlton Reserve to commit suicide they are not going to go deep into the swamp to do that.

‘They go in a short distance, finds a nice private spot and do what they are going to do. They do not go wandering off trails deep into the swamps.’

Laundrie's parents were followed inside the Orlando Public Library by undercover agents who hovered in the aisles as they kept them under constant surveillance

Laundrie’s parents were followed inside the Orlando Public Library by undercover agents who hovered in the aisles as they kept them under constant surveillance 

There has been speculation that Laundrie might have gone into the Carlton Reserve to commit suicide

There has been speculation that Laundrie might have gone into the Carlton Reserve to commit suicide

The Laundrie’s were shadowed by undercover agents Thursday as they broke cover and drove 150 miles to Orlando to meet with an attorney, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal. 

Lawyer Steve Bertolino flew from New York to Florida specifically to meet with Brian’s parents after a federal arrest warrant was issued for the missing 23-year-old on Wednesday.

A convoy of unmarked vehicles first tailed Christopher and Roberta Laundrie as they left their North Port, Florida home and headed towards Orlando earlier this morning. 

In surreal scenes, undercover agents – believed to be with the FBI – followed the couple into the Orlando Public Library on Thursday and hovered in the aisles perusing 80s dance CDs and a Colombian art installation while keeping them under constant surveillance. 

Though it’s not clear what they were doing in the library, it’s now known that the couple met Bertolino in Orlando during their trip.

‘It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise,’ Bertolino told DailyMail.com.

‘The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum.’ 

Laundrie was last seen more than a week ago leaving his parents' home in North Port, Florida with a backpack and his whereabouts remain unknown

Laundrie was last seen more than a week ago leaving his parents’ home in North Port, Florida with a backpack and his whereabouts remain unknown

FBI agents seized Brian Laundrie's silver Ford Mustang convertible during a dramatic raid of the family home on Monday. It was returned to the house by a tow truck crew Thursday morning

FBI agents seized Brian Laundrie’s silver Ford Mustang convertible during a dramatic raid of the family home on Monday. It was returned to the house by a tow truck crew Thursday morning

Particularly deep water in the reserve at this time of year is adding to the danger for searchers. Huge areas are completely awash, with many sections waist-deep.

‘This time of year is probably the worst time to be out there because of the heavy rains,’ said Hadsell. ‘This area is part of the watershed for the Mayakka River. So as the water moves this way from mid-state down to the Gulf of Mexico, it goes through the Carlton Reserve.’

A special dive team from Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department was called in on Wednesday, sparking speculation that searchers had found something significant.

However, Hadsell explained: ‘Probably one of the dogs raised an alert along the shoreline of deep water. I know they have cadaver dogs out there.

‘If a dog alerts, they’re going to mark it and they’re probably going to decide if it’s a good enough alert to throw a diver in there and take a look.

‘The problem we have with areas like the Carlton is there is a lot of old pioneer and Indian graves out there. And the dogs will alert on those. So it could be an Indian grave out there that they found. The dogs will find stuff that is that old.’

The search started at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which is 160-acre section attached to Carlton Reserve. It then switched to the main entrance to Carlton Reserve, closer to Venice, Florida.

Hadsell said: ‘Searches always start at the last known position. So assuming that the intelligence they got on the Mustang is accurate, they would start from that location and work their way out of there.

‘All they are doing is expanding the search sectors from these certain areas that have been unproductive, so they will go further and see if they can find any trace of him out there.

‘Knowing where somebody isn’t is just as important as knowing where they are. And that’s what they’re doing right now, the process of elimination – working their way through the map.’

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