The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie on Sept. 23, accusing him of using an unidentified person’s Capital One card and the personal identification number to charge or withdraw over $ 1,000 between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, a period when his now-deceased fiancée, Gabby Petito, was missing. He is a person of interest in Petito’s killing but has evaded authorities since Sept. 13.
While it is a general rule that the prosecution is not allowed to “admit evidence of a prior crime to show that the defendant has a bad character … or acted in bad faith” or to show that “because he committed this similar crime before, he’s likely to do it again,” there are certain circumstances under Florida law where the prosecution can try to introduce evidence of prior bad acts to show motive, intent, knowledge, modus operandi or lack of mistake, Sarasota-based criminal defense attorney Ajay Pallegar told Fox News.
Additionally, prior convictions of past crimes may be presented in court against a witness if it involves a felony charge, or a crime involving dishonesty or false statement. But in this case it appears Laundrie may have no prior convictions.
However, in both Florida and possibly in Wyoming, while prior incidents may not be presented in court to show a witness’ or defendant’s “character,” or “propensity to commit the crime,” the court could permit prosecutors to introduce evidence regarding “prior bad acts to show motive, intent, knowledge, modus operandi or lack of mistake,” Pallegar said.
According to the Wyoming Judicial Branch, “evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person” unless it is used “for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, provided that upon request by the accused, the prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial.”
Police in Moab, Utah, pulled Laundrie and Petito over on Aug. 12 following a domestic dispute that two witnesses reported to authorities, as Fox News Digital first reported. In a 911 call placed at the time, a person can be heard telling a police dispatcher that “the gentleman was slapping the girl,” though Petito tells police in the footage that she struck him “first.”
Laundrie and Petito were traveling in a van from New York to Oregon over the summer before Petito’s parents reported her missing on Sept. 11. The FBI discovered her remains eight days later at a dispersed camping area near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Forest on Sept. 19.
Laundrie, 23, returned home to North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1 without Petito. Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case, and his whereabouts have been unknown for weeks. His parents reported him missing to North Port Police Sept. 17, though they said the last time they saw their son was Sept. 13.