Dog the Bounty Hunter may be sniffing in the right place, a Florida search and rescue expert says.
Michael Hadsell, president of Peace River K9 Search and Rescue, was among the searchers who joined the former reality star’s hunt for fugitive Brian Laundrie in Fort De Soto Park, where the Laundrie family camped in early September after Brian returned from a cross-country road tip without his fiancee, Gabby Petito.
“I wasn’t a big believer in the Fort De Soto when it first started,” Hadsell, who brought his K9 team to help in the search, told WSNN-TV News. “But after working out there, yesterday, I’m like, ‘Wow, we may be really into something.’
Petito’s body was found in a Wyoming campground on Sept, 19, five days after Laundrie, who remains the sole person of interest in the case, vanished from his parents’ home in North Port, Florida. The massive FBI-led manhunt for Laundrie has focused mainly on a park closer to his home, where his parents say he went for a hike. The hunt for Laundrie has so far be unsuccessful, but officials are also eyeing Fort De Soto.
Hadsell told the station they found signs Brian Laundrie may be dodging authorities by kayaking around the Florida park, a 1,136-acre oasis made up of five interconnected islands at the mouth of Tampa Bay.
“We did find some campsites, we did find some evidence of kayaks near the campsites so it is possible that Brian’s out there,” Hadsell said.
The K9 team had to rely on its experience of nearly 200 search and rescue missions because the Laundrie family did not supply anything with Brian’s scent on it, Hadsell said.
“The parents as you know are being uncooperative, so we don’t have any sent articles or anything from Brian to be able to use it as a target odor for our dogs to work on,” Hadsell said. “So, we do what we call, ‘general human scent.’
The dogs are trained to work on water from a boat, he explained.
“And we can circle these smaller islands, if there is any human odor being produced from the island, the dogs will alert, and then we’ll send teams to go check it out.”
The FBI’s search of the Carlton Reserve, a 25,000-acre, alligator-infested nature preserve near the Laundrie’s North Port home continues, though it has been scaled back.
Laundrie’s family has insisted they don’t know where he is.
“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.” their attorney, Steven Bertolino, said in a statement earlier in the week.
The length of time Laundrie has been missing is complicating the search as are the conditions in the wild areas Laundrie’s believed to be hiding.