NORTH PORT, Fla. – When Gabby Petito came missing and the news broke that her boyfriend Brian Laundrie was driving across the country without her in her van, people across the country were listening for updates on her possible whereabouts.
The FBI then discovered his remains at a campsite in Wyoming and Laundrie fell asleep at night – raising many questions and revealing few answers.
Duane “Dog” Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, joined the search last week after he was encouraged by friends, fans and family to get involved, he said.
But someone stood up as he looked at the case. His daughter Barbara Katy Chapman died, in a rollover car crash in Alaska near his home in Fairbanks in 2006 – when he was 23 years old. Petito is 22.
“Because I lost a daughter at about the same age, I know how the parents feel,” Chapman told Fox News. “And you want justification. You want the guy behind bar.”
Francie Chapman, the bounty hunter’s wife, also noted that both she and her husband were widowed and said the emotional role played a role in their involvement in the case.
“Dog and I had our chance to say goodbye to Bob and Beth when they were sick, and we knew they were going home,” he told Fox News. “We were closed – even though we still went through the grieving process, and we still had heart disease and backup of our lives – we were able to say goodbye.”
She said the idea of not being able to say goodbye to a loved one is sad.
“If we can help them have some closure and be able to start getting their lives back on track, we want to be able to do that,” she said.
They work long days – from sunrise to sunset – sniffing tips, checking gossip facts and physically fielding with volunteer search teams looking for clues to Laundrie’s movements. Earlier this week, Chapman and a private K-9 unit searched a couple of islands outside Fort De Soto, where Laundrie may have been hiding.
Passersby would call, and Chapman greeted them warmly but returned to business.
“I can’t speak right now, we’re working,” he would say to a cyclist or a group of people leaning against the back of a yacht. “But God love and bless you.”
Despite the hoopla surrounding the case – Chapman has a long record of successful captures. And he said he holds the record for most arrests with 8,000.
With help from confidential sources and tips from the public, the bounty hunter emerged two major leads that led to major developments in the case.
He first led reporters at Fort De Soto Park in St. Louis. Petersburg, Fla., Where records show the Laundrie family camped from Sept. 6 to 8. Officials said the FBI took surveillance video there this week.
And she first shared evidence that Cassie Laundrie, Brian Laundrie’s sister who doesn’t live with the parents, met the family at the campground.
Chapman said he aims to get Laundrie alive – but he’s also in contact with the FBI.
And he asks for the public to continue sharing any possible leads in the case, which have been helpful so far.
“Please everyone open your eyes, and thank you for providing all the leads we get,” he said Saturday morning. “Aloha.”
Chapman has his own anonymous tip line at 833-TELL-DOG for people hesitant to call authorities directly-however anyone with information about Laundrie’s whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 1 -800-CALL-FBI at 303-629-7171.