The family of a man whose girlfriend vanished during a cross-country road trip together have spoken out as it emerges he has now also gone missing – a claim his partner's family reject.
Gabby Petito, 22, was traveling in a converted 2012 Ford camper van with her long-time boyfriend Brian Laundrie when she disappeared in late August.
Police have named Mr Laundrie as a person of interest, releasing video footage of the missing 22-year-old in an emotional fight with him just days before she was last seen.
As the Petito family pleads for help to find their daughter, the sister of Mr Laundrie has opened up about her chilling disappearance.
In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Cassie Laundrie insisted Gabby Petito is like part of the family.
“I want this to be a big misunderstanding,” she said.
In a brief clip ahead of the full interview, which aired on Friday morning (local time), Cassie said the family wants Gabby to be found safe.
"She's like a sister and my children love her.”
Boyfriend refused to cooperate with police, now missing
Police are yet to accuse Mr Laundrie of any wrongdoing however he has so far refused to speak with investigators since returning home alone.
He has issued a single statement through his lawyer, which said he hopes the search for Ms Petito is "successful".
Ms Petito’s family released a statement in response, begging him to assist police.
In a statement Friday night (local time), a lawyer for the family of Brian Laundrie said his client's whereabouts is "currently unknown".
"Brian was last seen by his family Tuesday morning," lawyer Steven Bertolino said in a statement to CBS News.
"Be advised that the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie are currently unknown. FBI is currently at the Laundrie residence removing property to assist in locating Brian. As of now the FBI is now looking for both Gabby and Brian."
Gabby's family refute claims
Yet Ms Petito's family has since responded to claims Mr Laundrie is missing, insisting he is in fact hiding.
“All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing,” the lawyer’s statement read.
Protesters were seen on Friday (local time) outside Mr Laundrie's home holding signs and calling for him to come outside.
Gabby was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Mr Laundrie in Salt Lake City, Utah, her family told ABC News.
Ms Petito’s mother Nicole Schmidt said she last spoke to her daughter the same day who told her the couple were heading to Grand Teton, Wyoming, and the Yellowstone National Park.
The couple had started a YouTube channel to showcase their road trip called "Nomadic Statik."
Protestors rally outside boyfriend’s home
As Mr Laundrie continues to not cooperate with police, angry protesters have gathered outside his Florida home.
People drove past in golf carts carrying signs with messages such as “Where is Gabby” and “Speak up”.
"We’re standing up for somebody who’s lost that's in our city, and we’re a big family in our city, in North Port. And we are definitely going to do whatever we can to help the family find this missing daughter," a protester told Fox News on Thursday.
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