The story of missing Myrtle Beach University of South Carolina graduate Brian Laundrie has captivated the small, coastal community for more than a week. Wednesday, it took an unexpected turn.
Hours after Laundrie, 30, disappeared with his ex-girlfriend’s pet, 20-year-old Gabby, a body in a blue Dodge Ram pickup truck was found about a mile south of Laundrie’s home. Gabby’s body was not in the pickup, but police believe it’s Laundrie’s ex-girlfriend.
Gabby’s disappearance has prompted an all-out manhunt for Laundrie in an island town where he is highly respected. There are people there who haven’t met Laundrie, but who are not strangers to him and his disappearance.
“I’ve gotten a lot of email from people, ‘if you guys need to know what a gentleman he is,’” says Paradise Park Police Chief Lane McConnell. “He is very special to a lot of folks.”
Despite the intensity of the manhunt, McConnell’s department has been able to maintain the community’s confidence. It’s a rare in Ocean Isle Beach – the department serves a nearly 15,000-resident municipality. The community and Laundrie are inextricably linked – and that’s why Laundrie is so wanted.
“My department’s job is to keep an eye on him in the community and follow through in getting him out of here,” McConnell says.
Gabby’s body was found along the Port Sound Trail, police say. It’s a foot away from where Gabby was last seen.
Sources tell CNN that body is of an African-American woman in her 20s.
While the body hasn’t been positively identified, there are strong similarities to the human remains found in a truck and those found in an abandoned home near Port City. CNN cannot confirm the exact cause of death and preliminary autopsy results are not expected for a week.
Police have charged Laundrie’s ex-girlfriend, Ta’Cleia Pugh, with murder in the case. She was arrested Monday after a federal arrest warrant was issued. She is being held without bond in the Sumter County Detention Center.
Laundrie had been dating Pugh for just two months when he disappeared. He has no other known enemies.
Still, sources say investigators are focusing their efforts on Pugh, focusing on her drive to get Laundrie out of town before his parents could find him. She is accused of failing to report his disappearance. Pugh recently stopped co-operating with police, sources tell CNN.
The chief wouldn’t comment on why police suspect Laundrie’s ex-girlfriend killed Gabby.
“At this point, I can’t get into the details of the case,” McConnell says. “We’re still trying to put the pieces together.”