After a week of fruitless hunting in the Carlton Reserve, police are no longer concentrating the search for Brian Laundrie there.
“I don’t think you’re going to see those large scale types of efforts this week,” North Port Police Department spokesman Josh Taylor told. “The FBI is now leading the search. I’m told, It will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence. Hopefully, water will lower in areas hard to currently access.”
Meanwhile, a Florida rancher with more than 30-years experience in the reserve who has been assisting police with the search, insisted there is no way Laundrie survived this long in there — if indeed that’s where went.
“There’s no surviving out here, I don’t know how to say it,” Alan McEwen told the outlet. “I’ve been in the woods in and out all my life … I have learned a lot in my life, and one thing I know is no one is gonna survive out there for two weeks on foot.”
On top of the deadly alligators, panthers, black bears, wild boars and snakes prowling the reserve, there’s also the insects to contend with: “Unless he’s got a hide like a gator, the mosquitoes will carry him right off,” McEwen said.
Even the topography is potentially deadly, he warned, as the thick brush hides precipitous falls into ditches or off ledges. Not to mention the reserve has been flooded by weeks of torrential rain since Laundrie supposedly hiked in there.
“Unless he’s got a butt like a duck and can float, he’s not in there,” the rancher added.
While McEwen is skeptical Laundrie is alive and hiding around the swamp, he is equally skeptical he died in there. “Anything dead you find in the woods, you’re gonna look up, you’re gonna see buzzards flying like crazy,” he said. “No buzzards, no body is my theory. And I haven’t seen any buzzards flying.”
Laundrie’s parents told police their son hiked into the Carlton Reserve almost two weeks ago; considering the obvious dangers, McEwen is also puzzled as to why they aren’t also searching for him.
“I’d be out there right now looking for them – if that’s where I thought he was,” the father-of-five said. “I couldn’t imagine having a child missing like this. I would go nuts. I wouldn’t be out mowing my lawn, I could promise you that. That’s the last place I’d be.”
A second woman has come forward claiming she picked up a hitchhiking Brian Laundrie.
Norma Jean Jalovec told she only realized who she had in her car after watching the TikTok posted by Miranda Baker (pictured), who says she had dropped him off that same day, just minutes beforehand.
Jalovec said she spontaneously decided to visit the Chapel of the Sacred Heart for a 5 PM church service on August 29, which is just over a mile away from where Laundrie reportedly jumped out of Baker’s vehicle.
At around 6.15 PM, Jalovec was driving past the dam near Pacific Creek Landing in her Toyota 4Runner, when she said she spotted the man, walking backward and holding out his thumb. “I picked him up…” Jelovec said. “… Something just said, ‘Hey, ask him where he’s going.'”
Climbing into the passenger seat, he asked Jelovec if she was going to Jackson; she told him no, she lived in the opposite direction, but she agreed to drop him off at the Spread Creek dispersed camping area.
Amid small talk, he allegedly said he’d been hiking near Snake River, offered gas money, and mentioned he had a fiancé.
But as they approached the gate of the remote campground, at the top of the dirt road extending for miles to the various campsites, he asked to be let off there; when Jelovec offered to drive him inside, he tried to “get out of the moving car,” she said.
Jalovec said she joked that Laundrie was trying to impress his fiancé by claiming he hiked to the campsite rather than hitching a ride; he responded by once again insisting to be let out of the vehicle.
“I can’t explain why I was there,” she said of her decision to both visit the church and pick up a hitchhiker. “It was something I don’t typically do. I don’t pick up hitchhikers in Florida. I’ve gotten so much s— from family and friends for picking up a hitchhiker.”
Jelovec brought her story to the FBI, only realizing the significance of the interaction after watching the original TikTok posted by Baker, who claims she dropped him off right before Jelovec picked him up.
Baker told a similar story; however, she and her boyfriend were going to Jackson, yet she said Laundrie made a similarly abrupt exit after “freaking out” in the car:
“He approached us asking us for a ride because he needed to go to Jackson, which we were going to Jackson that night. I said hop in. He hops in the back of my Jeep. We then proceeded to make small talk,” she said.
“Before he came into the car he offered to pay us like, $200 to give him a ride, like 10 miles. So that was kind of weird. He then told us he’s been camping for multiple days without his fiancée. He did say he had a fiancée, and that she was working on their social media page back at their van.”
“In conversation, I brought up that we’re going to Jackson. He freaked out. He’s like ‘nope, I need to get out right now, you know, pull over.’ So we pulled over at the Jackson Dam. It’s not very far from Colter Bay.”
After her “hurried” out of the car at 6.09 PM, he told them he was going to find someone else to hitchhike with. “It was a weird situation,” she said.
Baker said that while Laundrie had beard scruff, he didn’t look or smell dirty for someone who claimed to have been camping for several days. “So that part was kind of weird,” she said.
On Thursday, the FBI finally issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie — not for fiancée’s homicide, but for Use of Unauthorized Access Devices.
Investigators claim he used a Capital One Bank debit card that did not belong to him between August 30 to September 1 to purchase items totaling at least $1,000. They did not say what he bought, or to whom the card belonged.
Despite the apparent pettiness of the crime, prosecutors requested Laundrie be held without bail before his trial, “because he’s a danger to the community”, according to News, suggesting they also suspect him of a crime far more serious.
Meanwhile, Moab City Police Department has announced it will launch an independent probe into how its officers handled Brian and Gabby’s now infamous August 12 domestic dispute, which ultimately saw both of them go free, just days before Gabby would be killed.