He was the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. She was the girl almost next door, but from a more affluent world.
Brian Laundrie grew up less than two miles from Gabby Petito, whom he met when he was a junior and she was a sophomore at Bayport Blue Point High School in Long Island.
But the modest home he shared with his parents and older sister, Cassie, at 332 1st Avenue in Bayport — years before the Laundries moved to Florida — was markedly downmarket from the Petito family’s more luxe waterfront spread at 75 Ocean Avenue in Blue Point. The neighborhoods are, literally, separated by train tracks.
The two teens found each other, a friend of both families told The Post, because they were “loners” who didn’t always fit in with the crowd.
Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, has called her daughter a “free spirit” with a “dependent” side. Gabby’s close friend Rose Davis said that Brian “does not have friends” and instead “reads books.”
“They were different,” the friend said of Gabby and Brian. “Not necessarily bad, but not like everyone else. Because of that they sort of clicked.”
Until, apparently, they didn’t. Gabby was found Sept. 19 in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, strangled, and Brian’s body was found Wednesday at a Florida nature reserve after a massive manhunt. Whatever happened to the two of them, it has been confirmed that the engaged couple had a dispute that attracted the attention of Utah police while they were on a “van life” road trip in August.
The spotlight has turned squarely on Brian’s tight-lipped parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie. On Wednesday, they led police to what turned out to be their son’s decayed remains less than 90 minutes after entering Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park — even though state, local and federal law enforcement, not to mention Dog the Bounty Hunter, had been hot on Brian’s trail for five weeks.
Observers have been baffled by the couple’s seeming lack of emotion when seen on video Wednesday in the park preserve near where their son was found. Equally puzzling was their decision to take a spontaneous camping trip with their son after he returned from the road trip without his fiancée in early September.
The Laundries’ daughter, Cassie, gave a statement to ABC News after Gabby’s body was found expressing her condolences, but Cassie’s parents have said very little about Gabby — or anything else.
Joseph Laundrie, who’s reportedly Brian’s brother and works at the Long Island branch of the family juicing business, abruptly hung up when reached by a Post reporter Friday.
Chris, 62, and Roberta, 55, have not been charged in relation to the case but have weathered a barrage of accusations, mainly by the hundreds of “Internet sleuths” who have posted conspiracy theories about the parents — everything from covering up for Brian to hiding him in a bunker underneath their garden to planting evidence to make it seem that he was dead and throw off the hunt.
The Laundries’ lawyer insisted that the family are victims as much as anyone else.
“You couldn’t write this Greek tragedy,” Steven Bertolino told The Post Friday. “Brian is not a Ted Bundy. He’s not a demon. Not a serial killer. I’m not sure that the narrative that’s been pushed — that Brian was a mean killer and Gabby was an angel — is entirely true.”
He said that any speculation that the Laundries planted evidence is “ridiculous” and “nonsense,” adding that the area where Brian’s remains and belongings were found was the same location Chris and Roberta had told cops to search a month ago.
Bertolino said the couple have no plans to speak publicly.
It’s believed the Laundries, who run a juicing equipment business, left Bayport, L.I. to move to North Port, Fla., sometime in 2017. Brian and Gabby moved in with his parents at their 10,000-square-foot Florida property, which doubles as the family’s business headquarters, in 2019.
The pair both worked at a Publix supermarket prior to their road trip, which began July 2 and was supposed to last four months. Petito was reported missing 10 days after Laundrie returned home alone Sept. 1. Laundrie’s parents hired Bertolino, and based on his advice, remained silent, refusing to talk about the case until they reported him as a missing person on Sept. 17.
Chris and Roberta Laundrie eventually told cops Brian had left days earlier with a backpack, heading for the park. Bertolino said at the time that Brian’s parents had gone looking for him and found his car parked at the preserve, but they left it so he could drive home. They retrieved the car themselves a day later.
Bertolino said that Chris Laundrie felt helpless when Brian left their home for the last time, saying Brian appeared “very upset” but that he couldn’t prevent him from leaving.
“It’s been a nightmare for us so I can only imagine what it’s been like for them,” said a neighbor who lives several doors down from the Laundries. “It’s hard to believe it’s over.”