Last September 11, police recorded the disappearance of a young woman named Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, 22, who lived with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie in North Port, Florida.
Brian and Gabby had embarked on an affair as a couple. On July 2, they set out from New York with the goal of traversing the United States, camping and touring national parks. Documenting and sharing their experience on social media was part of the plan.
For almost two months, Brian and Gabby posted pictures of their seemingly romantic and fun trip on Instagram and YouTube. Judging by their posts, everything seemed to be going well.
However, Brian Laundrie returned home alone to Florida on September 1. When Gabby’s family reported her missing to authorities 10 days later, Laundrie was also missing.
His family reported him to North Port police on Sept. 17, after three days had passed without knowing his whereabouts.
Two days later, on Sunday, authorities found a lifeless body in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and police found Tuesday that the body matched Gabby’s description. The preliminary forensic conclusion, although there are no details, is that it is a homicide.
The case that has shocked the country remains unsolved: where is Brian Laundrie and who killed Gabby Petito?
What we know so far
Gabby Petito was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and fell in love with Brian in high school. They moved to Laundrie’s parents’ home in Florida during 2019 and became engaged in 2020.
Their family members indicated that the trip would last about four months and the plan was to tour the United States by van. They intended to test and record their nomadic living experience as they toured the parks of the American West.
Laundrie’s last posting, dated August 13, indicates that they were in the Utah town of Moab, about 500 miles from where Gabby’s body was found.
Following news of Petito’s disappearance and Laundrie’s suspicious sudden departure, Moab police released a disturbing video captured by an officer’s body camera on Aug. 12, when they responded to a call about a possible domestic violence case.
The video shows Petito visibly upset, crying, worried about her mental health and acknowledging to police that she had been arguing loudly with her partner.
In the video, Laundrie accuses Petito of hitting him after an argument, after he locked her in his van. However, he appeared calm and willing to cooperate.
Both Laundrie and Petito are also seen mentioning the video they were preparing and Gabby was editing to post on her social media.
Officers did not press charges for the incident, only helped the young couple calm down and advised them to spend the night apart.
On August 19, the first video of their affair was posted on their YouTube channel, registered with Petito’s email.
According to the missing woman’s attorney, Rick Stafford, Petito spoke with her mother in a video call on Aug. 24, 12 days after the incident with police, and mentioned to her that she was headed to the Teton Range in Wyoming.
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, told CBS New York that she chatted with her daughter three times a week during the trip.
Gabby Petito’s last post on Instagram was on Aug. 25. In a carousel of photos, Petito looks smiling. “Happy Halloween,” is the caption.
Schmidt says that on August 30 she received the last message from her daughter: “No signal in Yosemite,” the famous national park in California, but she has doubts about who wrote the text.
Where is Brian Laundrie?
Last Wednesday, September 15, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison tweeted a letter asking Laundrie’s attorney, Steven Bertolino, for a meeting to provide input into the investigation.
Unexpectedly, Bertolino responded in a statement in which he said he had advised his client not to testify to police, given that couples are often prime suspects in investigations of this nature.
“In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases such as this and the warning that ‘any statements made will be used against you’ is true regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance,” Bertolino’s statement said. “As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie will not speak on this matter.”
Last Friday, Sept. 17, Chief Garrison reported on Twitter that they had spoken with the Laundrie family at their home, and asked that they let law enforcement work on the investigation.
At the direction of Laundrie’s family, police launched a search operation that included dogs and drones in the Carlton National Park Preserve north of North Port, but the search was called off with no findings.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that he had instructed all state law enforcement agencies to intensify the search for Laundrie’s whereabouts.
“I have directed all state agencies under my purview to continue to assist federal & local law enforcement as they continue to search – we need justice for Gabby Petito,” DeSantis tweeted.
Details on the cause and conditions of Petito’s death have yet to be released by forensic experts.