What happened to Gabby Petito? The Long Island native, 22, was reported missing on September 11 after she embarked on a cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, in July. After Laundrie, 23, returned to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, without Petito, her family became concerned about her whereabouts. Keep reading to find out what happened leading up to her disappearance and get updates.
Who Was Gabby Petito?
She was a 22-year-old student and Florida resident who was originally from Long Island.
What Happened to Her?
In July 2021, Petito and her fiancé, Laundrie, packed up her 2012 Ford Transit van and went on a road trip to visit national parks, as part of the “van life” movement on social media. Petito was last seen traveling in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone areas of Wyoming. They had also visited states like Kansas, Colorado and Utah along the way.
During a stop in Moab, Utah, local police had an encounter with Petito and Laundrie. At the time, the couple were described as having been “engaged in some sort of altercation,” according to a report released by the Moab City Police Department.
On August 12, officers responded to a call near the Moonflower Community Cooperative for a domestic incident in which a “male had been observed to have assaulted the female,” ABC News 4 reported. The couple drove off after the alleged altercation, but police caught up with their van near the entrance to Arches National Park.
When cops pulled them over, they observed Petito crying “uncontrollably.” Laundrie told officers they had been traveling together in their van for several months and it “created emotional strain between them and increased the number of arguments.” During their argument in Moab, Laundrie said he tried to separate Petito from him so they could “both calm their emotions,” but Petito had “gone into a manic state” because she thought he “was going to leave her in Moab without a ride.”
Laundrie then claimed Petito began to slap him, so he pushed her away to avoid being slapped. Petito lost her balance but was still able to allegedly scratch his face. Despite the alleged altercation, the couple told law enforcement that they were in love and did not want to press charges. Police determined that the incident was not domestic violence but caused by a mental or emotional health “break.”
When Was Petito Reported Missing?
Petito’s last text message to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, was on August 30, which Schmidt speculated was not from her daughter. Petito’s grandfather was referred to as “Stan” in the message, although she never called him by his first name.
On September 1, Laundrie returned to the home he and Petito shared with his parents in North Port, Florida. The Petito family reported Gabby as missing to the Suffolk County Police Department in New York on September 11.
Laundrie Becomes a Person of Interest
On September 15, the North Port police released a statement confirming Petito’s fiancé was a person of interest.
Laundrie Allegedly Goes Missing
“The attorney for the Laundrie family called FBI investigators Friday night, indicating the family would like to talk about the disappearance of their son. The family now claims that they have not seen Brian since Tuesday of this week,” Josh Taylor, a public information officer for the North Port Police told the New York Post on September 1.
A Woman’s Remains Are Found
On September 19, a body matching the description of Petito had been found by crews searching a national park in Wyoming, one of the last places she was known to have been seen alive.
“As every parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for her family,” FBI agent Charles Jones told the media, holding back tears.
“The cause of death has not been determined,” he added.
The FBI said at the time that while forensic examinations were yet to “confirm 100 percent” that the human remains were those of Petito, they were consistent with her description.
Petito’s father, Joseph, posted a photo of his daughter on Twitter shortly after the news conference. “[broken heart] #GABBYPETITO she touched the world.”
Law Enforcement Officials Swarm Laundrie’s Parents’ Home
The FBI searched the home of Laundrie’s parents in North Port, Florida on September 20.
Christopher and Roberta Laundrie were removed from the house but have since been allowed back inside, according to the BBC.
The FBI tweeted on Monday that it “is executing a court-authorized search warrant today at the Laundrie residence in North Port, Florida relevant to the Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito investigation.”
They added, “No further details can be provided since this is an active and ongoing investigation.”
The Remains Are Confirmed to Be Gabby’s, Her Manner of Death Deemed ‘Homicide’
The FBI sent out a statement on Tuesday, September 21, saying that the body investigated by Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue was “confirmed” to be the remains “of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999.” While her cause of death remains pending until the final autopsy results are released, the FBI added that “Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide.”
Brian Laundrie Seemingly Shared Concerning Posts on Social Media Before Petito’s Disappearance
Laundrie seemingly shared a number of disturbing Pinterest posts ahead of his fiancée’s disappearance. The account, which has not been verified but features images of Petito modeling face masks for his line, “Bizzare Designs,” and shares the same name as Laundrie’s Instagram handle, includes posts of multiple images of different covers of H. G. Wells’ iconic science-fiction horror story, The Invisible Man, and posts that read, “the opposite of lost.” Read more here.
Laundrie was also seen reading the novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer in an August vlog. The book follows four women as they venture off into Area X, a place known for disappearances, suicides and more.
Laundrie Seen ‘Fighting With the Hostess’ at Wyoming Restaurant
On August 27, an eyewitness claims Laundrie was “fighting with the hostess” and was kicked out of a Jackson, Wyoming restaurant, Merry Piglets. The event occurred two weeks before Petito was reported missing. The witness, Nina Celie, described it as a “blowout of a situation” between Laundrie and Petito and that she and her boyfriend had spoken with authorities.
The woman claims following the incident, Petito was outside “crying” while Laundrie “walked back in four more times to talk to the manager and to tell the hostess off.” She described Laundrie’s behavior as “angry” and “relentless.” Celie said that Petito had reentered the restaurant and “just apologized.”
An Arrest Warrant Was Issued for Brian Laundrie
An arrest warrant was issued for Laundrie by the U.S. District Court of Wyoming on Thursday, September 23, two days after Petito’s death was confirmed by a coroner. The warrant, released by the FBI, was not for Petito’s homicide but rather for the alleged violation of the “Fraud and related activity in connection with access devices” statute of the U.S. Code, specifically for “whoever knowingly and with intent to defraud produces, uses, or traffics in one or more counterfeit access devices.”
An access device may refer to “any card, plate, code, account number or other means of account access that can be used, alone or in conjunction with another access device, to obtain money, goods, services, or any other thing of value, or that can be used to initiate a transfer of funds (other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument),” according to the United States v. Jenkins-Watts.
Two Women Come Forward to Claim They Picked Up Brian Laundrie While Hitchhiking
Two women claim they picked up Laundrie while he was hitchhiking, two days after Petito was last seen. The first woman, Miranda Baker, shared on TikTok that she picked Laundrie up at Grand Teton National Park on August 29, four days after Petito’s last Instagram post, leaving him near Jackson Dam. The second woman, Norma Jean Jalovec, picked him up in the same area and dropped him off at the entrance of the Spread Creek dispersed camping area, where Petito’s remains were found.
Petito’s Family Holds an Open Service
“In lieu of flowers for the service, please send donations for the Future Gabby Petito Foundation through the Johnny Mac Foundation,” Petito’s father tweeted. “We Thank you for all the support.”
Duane ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ Chapman Joins Search for Brian Laundrie
Reality TV star Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman joined the search for Laundrie. Chapman arrived at Laundrie’s home, which he shared with parents Christopher “Chris” Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, and knocked on the door.
“I thought, well the dad’s gonna see me and crack. I know the kid knows me. [He’s] probably one of my fans. So, I thought the dad would answer and talk,” Chapman told Fox 13 Tampa in an interview released on September 26. “But I was very persistent without disturbing the peace and knocked a few times so they saw it was me. And I didn’t play nasty and put a copy of the warrant on the front door. None of that. I was very respectful. And the dad can still reach out to me through social media. Let’s get the kid captured alive. Alive.”
The Laundrie family’s lawyer, Steven Bertolino, told In Touch in a statement that Laundrie’s parents did not know where their son was at the time and were concerned.
Expert Claims Laundrie Is Incapable of Surviving in Florida’s Carlton Reserve
According to Alan McEwen, a local expert of the area where Laundrie was alleged to have been hiding, it is unlikely that the avid hiker could have survived the conditions of the Carlton Reserve.
“There’s no surviving out here, I don’t know how to say it,” Alan McEwen, a cattle rancher, told Fox News in an interview published on Sunday, September 26. “No buzzards, no body is my theory.”
Released Audio Recordings Show Dispatchers Alerted Police That Laundrie ‘Hit’ Petito Before Traffic Stop
Prior to the couple’s traffic stop in August over a domestic violence incident in Moab, Utah, dispatchers told police that Laundrie allegedly “hit” Petito.
“RP [reporting party] states a male hit a female,” a dispatcher told police officers in audio obtained by Fox 13 on Monday, September 27, later informing them of the license plate number. “Domestic. He got into a white Ford Transit van. Has a black ladder on the back. Florida plate. The female who got hit, they both — the male and the female — both got into the van and headed north.”
A responding officer wrote that “no one reported that the male struck the female,” going on to describe the incident “more accurately as a mental [or] emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault.”
Gabby Petito’s Family Breaks Their Silence in 1st Press Conference Since Her Death
On September 28, Petito’s mother and stepfather, Nicole and Jim Schmidt, as well as her father and stepmother, Joseph “Joe” Petito and Tara Petito, put on a united front during their first time addressing the public since her death was confirmed.
Nicole broke down in tears as she revealed that she believes her late daughter has been sending her “signs” since her passing. All four of her parents and stepparents also unveiled their tribute tattoos, choosing to ink all of the pieces Petito had designed for herself. The Petito and Schmidt family’s lawyer, Richard Benson Stafford, also addressed Laundrie for the first time since his own disappearance. “Brian, we’re asking you to turn yourself in to the FBI,” Stafford said.
Brian Laundrie Look-Alike Debunks Recent ‘Sighting’
A man with the TikTok handle @notbrianlaundrie went viral after posting a “duet” on September 28 with another TikTok user who claimed to have spotted Laundrie at a concert recently in San Diego. In the video of the sighting, the TikToker panned across a crowd to zoom in on @notbrianlaundrie, mistaking him as the missing Long Island native.
“I would just like to put all these rumors to bed,” @notbrianlaundrie said in his response to the video. In a followup TikTok, @notbrianlaundrie asked followers, “If you have any tips for me on how not to get attacked or accused of being this guy, get at me.”
Brian Laundrie’s Family Thinks He’s Still in Florida Amid Disappearance
In a statement to People on October 1, the Laundrie family’s lawyer, Steve Bertolino shared an update on Laundrie’s parents amid their son’s disappearance. “They are concerned,” Bertolino said, “but hopeful that he is found alive.” His family also believed at the time that Laundrie might have still been somewhere in Florida.
Gabby Petito’s Parents Demand Justice
“Mama bear is getting angry!” Nicole posted in her first-ever tweet on Saturday, October 2, addressing Laundrie within her message. “Turn yourself in! @josephpetito agrees. #justiceforgabby #americasdaughter.”
Joseph also told people to speak out if they are battling domestic violence in their own homes. “We have to do better,” he wrote via Instagram on Monday, October 4. “Changes are coming. Now is the time. Don’t be silent.”
Brian Laundrie’s Sister Urges Him to Turn Himself In
The sister of Brian Laundrie, Cassie Laundrie, urged him to come forward in an interview aired on Good Morning Americaon Tuesday, October 5.
“I would tell my brother to just come forward and get us out of this horrible mess,” she said, adding that if her parents are involved, they should come forward as well.
Cassie revealed that the wanted man and their parents stopped by for an “ordinary” visit on the day he returned without Petito, September 1. She would later join the family, including Laundrie, on September 6 at Fort De Soto Park, where they had dinner around a campfire.
Cassie, who lives in Florida with her husband and two children, admitted it was “pretty typical” of Laundrie and Petito to argue and “try and take space from each other,” but she did not witness signs of domestic violence.
Cassie said if she knew where Laundrie was located, she would “turn him in.”
Brian Laundrie Flew Home Before Returning on September 1
In another twist of the case’s timeline, Steven Bertolino, the family’s lawyer, revealed that Laundrie had flown home to North Port on August 17 and then flew back west to rejoin Petito on August 23.
“Brian flew home to Tampa from SLC on August 17 and returned to SLC on August 23 to rejoin Gabby,” Bertolino said in a statement to News12, published on October 5. “To my knowledge, Brian and Gabby paid for the flights as they were sharing expenses. Brian flew home to obtain some items and empty and close the storage unit to save money as they contemplated extending the road trip.”
Parents Believe They Saw Laundrie a Day Earlier Than First Reported
The family’s attorney, Bertolino, texted WFLA on Tuesday, October 6, confirming that Laundrie’s parents believed their son left to go hiking on Monday, September 13. Previously, they informed police he had left on Tuesday, September 14. To reiterate previous reports, Laundrie’s parents reported him missing on September 17.
“The Laundries were basing the date Brian left on their recollection of certain events,” Bertolino told the news outlet. “Upon further communication with the FBI and confirmation of the Mustang being at the Laundrie residence on Wednesday, September 15, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13.”
Laundrie’s Father Helps Law Enforcement Search for Missing Son in the Preserve
“Today Chris Laundrie accompanied members of law enforcement into the preserve to show them the trails and places Chris and Brian have hiked and which Brian was known to frequent,” Bertolino said in a statement obtained by In Touch on Thursday, October 7. While there “were no discoveries” Bertolino said “the effort was helpful to all.”
“It seems the water in the preserve is receding and certain areas are more accessible to search,” Bertolino added. “The entire Laundrie family is grateful for the hard work of the dedicated members of law enforcement that have been searching the Preserve for Brian over the last few weeks. Hopefully, Brian will be located soon.”
Viral Conspiracy Theory That Claims Laundrie Is Hiding in Parents’ Flower Bed
Nearly three weeks after Laundrie was last seen, a viral conspiracy theory began to circulate on TikTok suggesting that the then-missing man was hiding in the flower bed by his parents’ home.
After obtaining drone footage of the family’s home, TikTok users focused on a person believed to be Laundrie’s mother, Roberta, seemingly minding to her flower bed.
“Looks like a hand reaches out to get something from her,” one TikTok user wrote. Another added, “Is it me or does it look like she is talking to it?”
@charlienovasiteZoomed in and slowed down. 😊 There is definitely someone there. You cannot change my mind. #brianlaundrie #brianlaundrieupdate #foryoupage #dirtylaundrie♬ original sound – charlienovasite
Dog the Bounty Hunter Leaves the Search for Laundrie
Dog the Bounty Hunter (a.k.a. Duane Chapman) left the search for Laundrie after injuring himself, WFLA’s Josh Benson tweeted on Sunday, October 10.
“They say he’s headed back to Colorado soon to meet with his doctor after injuring his ankle in the search. He’s also raising funds to continue what he calls an ‘expensive search,'” Benson wrote. “Team says he’s put together a talented network of local team members he calls the ‘Florida Team’ that will continue the search while he’s gone. He says he will continue to process leads in Colorado while he’s there.”
Coroner Explains Why Gabby Petito’s Autopsy Was Delayed
On October 12, the Teton County Coroner’s Office held a press conference announcing the cause of death of Petito, however, the autopsy report was signed on October 5, one week prior to the press conference.
According to Teton County Coroner, Dr. Brent Blue, the delay was due to the ongoing investigation.
“There [were] indications that Gabby was in a relationship, a domestic relationship, which could play a part in this case, but I don’t have any direct evidence of that,” Blue told Brian Entin of NewsNation Now.
Brian Laundrie’s Belongings Found in Florida Park
Items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park on Wednesday, October 20.
Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, went to the “Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park this morning to search for Brian,” Bertolino said in a statement. “The FBI and NPPD were informed last night of Brian’s parents’ intentions and they met Chris and Roberta there this morning. After a brief search off a trail that Brian frequented, some articles belonging to Brian were found. As of now, law enforcement is conducting a more thorough investigation of that area.” Human remains were also recovered.
The local medical examiner and a K9 unit arrived on the scene, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to In Touch.
Brian Laundrie Confirmed Dead
On October 21, the FBI confirmed that Brian Laundrie’s dental records matched those of the human remains found in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park the day prior. Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino released a statement from Brian’s parents reading: “Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian’s. We have no further comment at this time, and we ask that you respect the Laundrie’s privacy at this time.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential support.
This is an ongoing article that was originally published on September 18, 2021, and last updated on October 20, 2021.
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