- A private investigator told Insider the chance of finding a missing person alive after 2 weeks in the wild is “minimal.”
- But PI John Van Steenkiste also said someone with strong survival skills could survive.
- His comments come amid an ongoing search for Gabby Petito, a missing 22-year-old woman.
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The clock is ticking as law enforcement and family members search for Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman who disappeared during a months-long cross-country road trip with her fiancé.
Petito’s mother reported her daughter missing earlier this week after her daughter’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, returned to the couple’s Florida home in their shared van without Petito on September 1.
But a private investigator told Insider the chance of finding someone alive two weeks after they’ve gone missing is slim.
John Van Steenkiste, lead investigator for Florida-based private investigator Compass Investigations, said the general likelihood of finding a person alive after they’ve been missing in the wild for two weeks is “minimal.”
He cited dangerous terrain, starvation, and extreme weather as possible threats.
“If that person was alive when he left but was entrapped, or incarcerated in some manner, in a cave, in a room, in a building, they’re going to have not had any food for weeks,” Van Steenkiste said.
“Assuming it was hot, that person is going to get dehydrated,” he added.
Petito, a van-life vlogger, last spoke to her family in late August.
Since returning home without Petito, Laundrie has retained a lawyer and is refusing to cooperate with investigators. North Port, Florida police named him as a person of interest on Wednesday.
Petito’s stepfather, James Schmidt, and a family friend left for Wyoming’s Jackson Hole valley on Tuesday to search for the missing woman. Police say Petito’s last known location is believed to be in the state’s Grand Teton National Park.
“They’re trying to stay as close as they can to the Grand Teton National Park. That’s the closest place I think they can find, so that they can spend as much time as possible looking for Gabby,” Schmidt and Petito family lawyer Richard Stafford told Insider’s Natalie Musumeci.
Guillermo Hechevarria, a criminal investigator with Investigation Services Unlimited in Florida, told Insider he believes Laundrie most likely left Petito alive somewhere in the Tetons. But he added that Laundrie retaining an attorney suggests to him that police also may want to look within a one-mile radius of Laundrie’s parents’ home for a body.
Petito’s family blasted Laundrie on Wednesday, urging him to cooperate with investigators and calling his silence “reprehensible.” Petito’s parents accused Laundrie of leaving Petito “in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves while he sits in the comfort of his home.”
Van Steenkiste, however, did provide a sliver of hope, telling Insider that it wouldn’t be unlikely for someone to be found alive after weeks missing in a National Park if they had strong survival skills.
“If she’s out there … and she has a good skillset of survival, it’s a good possibility,” Van Steenkiste said. “It’s a possibility.