Though Duane Chapman, who is better known as "Dog the Bounty Hunter," is taking a break from searching for fugitive Brian Laundrie due to an injury, the Christian reality star and his team aren’t giving up the chase.
Weeks after joining the search for Laundrie, a person of interest in the homicide of his 22-year-old fiancée, Gabby Petito, Chapman and his wife, Francie, returned to their home in Colorado.
In a statement to The Christian Post, Chapman’s spokesperson, Jennifer Willingham, explained that the bounty hunter needed to attend to a "variety of matters," including an ankle injury he incurred during the search.
“Dog has not ended his search for Brian Laundrie,” Willingham said, adding that there is still a group of investigators working with Dog who remain in Florida and are researching regional tips.
“Additionally, Dog’s command center team led by Lyssa Chapman and Greg Zecca continue to assist in managing the search logistics and researching leads from Hawaii and Colorado, respectively,” she said.
Laundrie, 23, went missing shortly after he returned home from a vacation with Petito, who was found dead in Wyoming on Sept. 19. Petito’s death was ruled a homicide. In a press conference Tuesday, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blu revealed she died from strangulation.
Though Laundrie has not been charged in the death of Petito, he was indicted on charges of using two financial accounts that did not belong to him in the days following her death.
Chapman, who has apprehended more than 8,000 fugitives, joined the search for Laundrie on Sept. 27, four days after a warrant was issued for the latter's arrest. Dog believes that Laundrie is hiding somewhere in the 1,136-acre Fort De Soto Park in Florida, which is made up of five interconnected islands.
Last month, Willingham revealed that it was Chapman’s faith that compelled him to join the search for Laundrie.
"Dog and Francie, who are devout Christians, felt as if their proximity to the search was not a coincidence and they wanted to do something to help the Petito family," she said. "At the same time, Dog's fans were sending him tips and urging him to join the search."
"Therefore, Dog and his team, including his daughter Lyssa and Francie's son Greg who are working from Hawaii and Colorado respectively, opened up a formal tip line, 833-TELLDOG, and volunteered their time to search for Mr. Laundrie this past weekend."
Willingham revealed that Dog received the blessing of the Petito family to be involved in the search and have been in touch periodically.
"During their search, they have unearthed multiple new leads. They will be continuing the hunt in the coming days, following evidence and tips in an effort to aid law enforcement," she said.
Laundrie's parents, Chris and Roberta, told investigators they have not seen their son since Sept. 14. At the time, they said, he left their home with a backpack, saying he was going to a nearby nature reserve.
But Dog previously told the Sun that he believes Laundrie was encouraged by his parents to return to their home in North Port following Petito’s death.
“Of course he murdered her. I think he called the mom and dad right from the scene and said, ‘OMG!’” Chapman told the news outlet.
“Now we have to remember that they lived — Gabby and Brian — with his mom and dad for almost two years,” he continued. “And the house, I was there, it’s not a huge house, so I’m sure they heard, the parents probably heard Gabby screaming.
“I was told by a very close source that he was a gentleman,” he said. “I think he said, ‘Mom, she was screaming, she was screaming so I put my hand over her mouth, and I held my hand and she was screaming and when I took it away she wasn’t breathing and I tried CPR.’"
Petito’s case has dominated headlines in recent weeks and, on social media, sparked a flurry of theories regarding her death and Laundrie’s involvement. Across the country, numerous vigils and memorial services have been held in Petito's memory.
At a memorial service for Petito held at Moloney Holbrook Funeral Home in New York on Sept. 26, her family reflected on her passion for life and love of others.
They passed out a prayer card that read: “Do not grieve for me, for I am free. I am traveling a path the Lord has taken me. Be not burdened with times of sorrow. I wish for you the sunshine of tomorrow. Perhaps my time seemed too brief. Do not lengthen it with undue grief. Lift up your hearts and share with me the memories that will always be.”