WATAUGA — Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said his office is looking into claims Brian Laundrie is near Boone, "but nothing has been verified" after social media posts claimed he was in spotted in the area during a national manhunt.
"We have been monitoring social media for alleged sightings or information of Brian Laundrie being in this area," Hagaman said. "In speaking and working with our local, state and federal partners, these posts have no validity."
Laundrie is a person of interest in the disappearance and homicide of Gabby Petito. A warrant is also out for his arrest. The warrant states "pursuant to a Federal Grand Jury indictment for violation of federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(i): ‘Use of Unauthorized Devices’ related to Mr. Laundrie's activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito."
"While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide," FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a Sept. 23 statement. "We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI."
Posts have been making rounds on the Facebook page Appalachian Classifieds that claim Laundrie is in the Boone area. The posts claim that people are "reporting seeing Brian Laundrie in Boone, NC."
Hagaman said his office has a threat assessment/social media investigator whose primary responsibilities are to monitor a variety of information. She also works with local, state, and federal agencies that rely on her expertise, Hagaman said.
One of the social media posts stated Laundrie was familiar "with the Appalachian Trial."
"It may be that the close proximity of the Mountain to the Sea trail and the Appalachian Trail, and numerous state and federal parklands and Brian’s alleged affinity of trails and the outdoors (that) may have sparked the interest in western North Carolina," Hagaman said.
As of Sept. 30, the FBI has not provided any update on potential whereabouts of Laundrie outside of the statement made on Sept. 23.
"If anyone has any information concerning this case, they should contact the FBI as they are the lead agency on this nationwide hunt for Brian Laundrie," Hagaman said.