NORTH PORT, Fla. – When Gabby Petito disappeared and news broke that her fiancé Brian Laundrie had driven across the country without her in his van, people across the country signed up for updates on her possible whereabouts.
Then the FBI revealed her remains at a campground in Wyoming, and Laundrie snuck out into the night – raising several questions and revealing few answers.
Duane “Dog” Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, joined the search last week after friends, fans and family encouraged him to intervene, he said.
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But something stood out when he looked at the case. His daughter, Barbara Katy Chapman, died in a car accident in Alaska near her home in Fairbanks in 2006 – when she was 23 years old. Petito was 22.
“Because I lost a daughter about the same age, I know how the parents feel,” Chapman told Fox News. “And you want justification. You want the guy behind bars.”
Francie Chapman, the bounty hunter’s wife, also noted that both she and her husband had become widowed, saying it played an emotional role in getting them involved in the case.
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“Dog and I had our chance to say goodbye to Bob and Beth when they were sick and we knew they were going home,” she told Fox News. “We got closure – even though we were still going through the grieving process and we still had heartache and picking up our life backup – we came to say goodbye.”
She said the thought of not being able to say goodbye to a loved one is heartbreaking.
“If we can help them get a closure and be able to start putting their lives back together, we want to be able to do that,” she said.
They work long days — from sunrise to sunset — sniffing tips, looking for rumors, and physically in the field with volunteer search teams looking for traces of Laundrie’s movements. Earlier in the week, Chapman and a private K-9 unit searched a few islands off Fort De Soto where Laundrie may have been hiding.
Passers-by will shout, and Chapman greets them warmly, but returns to the company.
“I can not speak right now, we are working,” he tells a yawning cyclist or a group of people leaning on the back of a yacht. “But aloha and God bless you.”
Despite the hoopla surrounding the case – Chapman has a long record of successful catches. And he says he holds the record for most arrests by 8,000.
With the help of secret sources and tips from the public, the bounty hunter showed two important clues that led to major developments in the case.
He was first to lead reporters to Fort De Soto Park in St. Louis. Petersburg, Fla., Where records show that the Laundrie family camped from 6 to 8 September. Officials said the FBI seized surveillance video there this week.
And he first helped share evidence that Cassie Laundrie, Brian Laundrie’s sister who does not live with her parents, met the family at the campground.
Chapman has said he intends to capture Laundrie alive – but he is also in contact with the FBI.
And he asks the public to continue to share any leads in the case that have been helpful so far.
“Please keep everyone’s eyes open, and thank you for giving all the leads we get,” he said Saturday morning. “Aloha.”
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Chapman has his own anonymous 833-TELL-DOG tip line for people who hesitate to call the authorities directly – however, anyone with information about Laundrie’s whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or 303-629- 7171.