What happened to Gabby Petito? The Long Island native was reported missing on September 11, 2021, after she embarked on a cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, that July. After Laundrie 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, her homicide, Brian’s death and to get updates on her family’s wrongful death lawsuit .
Who Was Gabby Petito?
She was a 22-year-old student and Florida resident who was originally from Long Island.
What Happened to Gabby Petito?
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 Gabby 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.
Brian Laundrie Became a Person of Interest
On September 15, the North Port police released a statement confirming Petito’s fiancé was a person of interest.
Brian Laundrie Went 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 17.
Gabby Petito Was Found Dead
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.”
The FBI released a statement on 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 was 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’s Parents’ Home Was Searched By FBI
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.”
Brian Laundrie’s Social Media Posts Prior to Gabby Petito’s Disappearance Sparked Concerns
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.
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito Were Sighted Before Her Disappearance
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.”
A Warrant Was Issued for Brian Laundrie’s Arrest
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.
Brian Laundrie Was Sighted Solo 2 Days After Gabby Petito’s Disappearance
Two women claimed 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.
When Was Gabby Petito’s Funeral Held?
“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 Joined 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 and Roberta, 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.
More Information About Petito and Laundrie’s Alleged Domestic Violence Incident Is Revealed
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 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 Broke Their Silence Following 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’s Family Broke Their Silence on His 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.
The sister of Brian Laundrie, Cassie Laundrie, urged him to come forward in an interview aired on Good Morning America on 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’s Family Joined the Search to Find Him
The family’s attorney, Bertolino, texted WFLA on October 6, confirming that Laundrie’s parents believed their son left to go hiking on 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 September 13.”
“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.”
Gabby Petito’s Cause of Death Was Revealed
On October 12, the Teton County Coroner’s Office held a press conference announcing the cause of death of Petito. She died of strangulation and her cause of death was ruled a homicide.
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 and Remains Were Found
Items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park on October 20, as well as remains that were believed to be his.
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.”
Brian Laundrie’s Cause of Death Was Revealed
On October 29, during a panel that hosted local law enforcement leaders, Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman suggested that Laundrie likely died by suicide after an initial autopsy from the Florida District 12 Medical Examiner came back as inconclusive.
“That guy went out there and by all accounts probably committed suicide and he was right out there where we thought he was,” Hoffman said. “There was four feet of water out there at the time.”
Laundrie’s remains, as well as his notebook and backpack, were found on October 20 at the Carlton Reserve. The following day, the FBI confirmed Laundrie’s death by matching his dental records with that of the remains.
Laundrie’s manner of death was determined to be suicide one month after his remains were found at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Tampa, Florida. After the Florida District 12 Medical Examiner’s autopsy report came back as inconclusive, Laundrie’s remains were sent to a forensic anthropologist for additional testing.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death was suicide,” Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino wrote in a statement to In Touch. “Chris and Roberta are still mourning the loss of their son and are hopeful that these findings bring closure to both families.”
In February 2022, officials with Florida’s District 12 Medical Examiner’s Office shared their findings on Laundrie’s remains in a 47-page report. According to the document, numerous bones recovered at the scene showed signs of “moderately extensive carnivore activity evidenced by multiple gouging and gnawing marks.”
The report also stated that the markings were “consistent” with animals such as feral dogs, coyotes, rodents or raccoons having chewed on his bones after his death. A description of the autopsy read, “Multiple long bones including bones of the arms and legs all disclose carnivore predation activity characterized by gnawing and chewing.”
Could Brian Laundrie’s Parents Could Face Jail Time?
Gabby Petito’s Parents Speak Out
Gabby’s family speaks out for the first time in Peacock’s documentary, The Murder of Gabby Petito: Truth, Lies and Social Media, about Gabby’s life and her tense relationship with Brian.
“It was like every parent’s nightmare,” Gabby’s stepfather, Jim, said. “Just like, in a flash of second. She’s gone, she’s missing.”
“It’s still unbelievable,” Gabby’s mother, Nichole, added. “I don’t understand it.”
Did Brian Laundrie Confess to Killing Gabby Petito?
In the notebook found after his death by suicide, Laundrie admitted to killing Gabby and claimed he had done so after she fell into a creek, injuring herself. “I hear a splash and a scream. I could barely see, I couldn’t find her for a moment, shouted her name. I found her breathing heavily gasping my name, she was freezing cold,” he wrote.
“I don’t know the extent of Gabby’s injurys (sic),” he added later. “Only that she was in extreme pain. I ended her life, I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistakes I made.”
When Was the Case Closed?
On January 21, 2022, the official Twitter account for FBI Denver released a statement revealing that the Petito investigation will be closed in the near future.
“All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case,” said FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito. The FBI’s primary focus throughout the investigation was to bring justice to Gabby and her family. The public’s role in helping us in this endeavor was invaluable as the investigation was covered in the media around the world. On behalf of the FBI, I want to express my deepest appreciation to the public for the thousands of tips that were provided during the investigation, and to our local, state and federal law enforcement partners for their work throughout the investigation.”
Along with their statement was a list of the major updates in the case. In an update that was listed after October 20, 2021, the day Laundrie’s remains and belongings were found at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, officials revealed the contents of Laundrie’s notebook.
“A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death,” read the FBI’s statement.
The Petito Family Files a Lawsuit Against the Laundries
In court documents obtained by In Touch, Gabby’s parents, Joe and Nichole, filed a civil lawsuit against Christopher and Roberta on March 10, 2022, for over $100,000 in damages from pain and suffering. They allege that the couple knew of Gabby’s murder and helped Brian try to escape.
“It is believed, and therefore averred that on or about August 28, 2021, Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito,” the suit claims.
The documents also include the allegation that Roberta “blocked Nichole Schmidt on her cellular phone such that neither calls nor texts could be delivered, and she blocked her on Facebook.”
“While Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt were desperately searching for information concerning their daughter, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie a secret, and it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country,” the documents read.
After the Petitos filed their lawsuit, the Laundries’ attorney provided a statement on March 11, 2022.
“As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundries have not publicly commented at my direction which is their right under the law,” read the statement obtained by In Touch. “Assuming everything the Petitos allege in their lawsuit is true, which we deny, this lawsuit does not change the fact that the Laundries had no obligation to speak to Law Enforcement or any third-party including the Petito family. This fundamental legal principle renders the Petito’s claims to be baseless under the law.”
On June 30, 2022, a circuit court judge in Sarasota Country, Florida, denied the Laundrie family’s motion to dismiss the Petitos’ civil lawsuit, according to court documents obtained by In Touch. The lawsuit was filed by the Petito family against the Laundries on March 10, 2022, for $100,000 in damages for pain and suffering, In Touch confirmed at the time.
“Because the Laundries’s statement by their attorney in the context of the unique facts of this case is objectively outrageous, the Court concludes that the Plaintiffs have stated causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Laundries. The Court denies the Laundries’ motion to dismiss,” the documents read.
On November 16, the Petito family was awarded $3 million from Brian Laundrie’s estate in their wrongful death suit, according to People.
Gabby Petito’s Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Moab Police
After retaining the law firm Parker & McConkie to represent them, Petito’s family sent a notice of claim for a wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department in November 2022, claiming that the officers responding to her and Laundrie’s domestic violence incident committed “wrongful acts or neglect.” Seeking $50 million, one of the family’s lawyers, James McConkie, said that “if the officers had been properly trained and followed the law, Gabby would still be alive today.” The law firm’s press release also mentioned an independent investigation that found “Moab City police officers failed in their duty to protect Gabby.”
In their notice of claim, Parker & McConkie added that “the Moab City Police Department failed to adequately respond to reports and evidence of domestic violence between Brian and Gabby.”
Moab’s chief of police did not immediately respond to In Touch‘s request for comment.
Petito’s family filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, their family lawyer confirmed on November 3, 2022, via press conference.
According to the lawsuit, the family claims that the police did not properly handle the argument between Petito and Laundrie in Moab, Utah. The family claimed it led to “further and escalating domestic violence, leaving her to eventually be strangled to death by [Laundrie],” according to documents obtained by In Touch.
Additionally, the Petitos claimed that they were taking the steps to arrange a flight for Petito to return home after she sent them pictures of the scratches on her body. However, they paused the process because they were under the impression the alleged fight between her and Laundrie was being properly investigated by police.
The family claims the police at the scene “never directly questioned [Laundrie] about whether he hit Gabby or how she ended up with scratches on her face” and “treated Laundrie as if he were the victim of domestic abuse rather than the perpetrator.”
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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