It was the case that gripped the nation. Young and bubbly Gabrielle Petito went missing, and the country activated their searchlights to try to find her. Meanwhile, partner Brian Laundrie returned to Florida without her, but driving her van. Suspicious? Absolutely.

And that suspicion rose even higher once it was tragically discovered that Petito was dead, and likely a victim of homicide. Laundrie vanished, leaving everyone to wonder what he’s hiding. It has been announced that a reward fund has been gathered for information that leads to finding Laundrie; but the amount is $30K. Public interest in the case has seemed to wane, so is that enough to find who could be Petito’s killer? 

Cause of Death Released

UPDATE 10/12/21

Even as the manhunt for Brian Laundrie continues, disturbing news comes from the investigation into the death of Gabrielle Petito. On Tuesday, a Wyoming coroner examining Petito’s body has released the cause of death: strangulation, consistent with the initial report that she had died by homicide. 

CBS News reports, “Dr. Brent Blue, the Teton County coroner, said the manner of death is still considered a homicide, backing initial autopsy results that were released last month. Blue did not comment on who may be responsible for her death and said he could not comment on how his team determined she died by strangulation.”

Meanwhile, the manhunt for Laundrie has hit a snag as Dog the Bounty Hunter had to leave the chase due to an ankle injury. Per Yahoo! News, “‘Just got an update from Dog the Bounty Hunter’s team. 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’,’ WFLA news anchor Josh Benson wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

‘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,’ Mr Benson added.”

It may seem insignificant held up against the horrifying news that Petito’s death has been confirmed to be a homicide, but Dog’s presence in the hunt gave the public a sense of reassurance. Now, armed with some solid information but even more questions, the hunt continues for Laundrie. Internet conspiracies have run wild; from theories that he’s hiding in a void under his parents’ flower bed, to speculation that he called his parents from the scene of Petito’s murder, every new clue spawns more theories. 

Gabby Petito Found Dead

Gabby Petito

Let’s back up a little and take a look at what we know about Petito’s death and Laundrie’s potential involvement. The couple decided to embark on a #VanLife journey, chronicling it on social media.

  • They departed from New York on July 2nd. They traveled through Florida, Kansas, Colorado and Utah.
  • On August 12th, they had an encounter with police in Moab City, Utah, over a domestic disturbance. In a bodycam video shared by police during her disappearance, Petito was crying and shaken and Laundrie appeared cool and almost amused.
  • On August 25th, Petito was last seen alive.
  • August 30th, Petito’s mom receives a text message from Gabby’s number but there are questions about who really sent it.
  • September 1st, Laundrie returned to his parents home in North Port, Florida, driving Petito’s van but without her.
  • Police try questioning Laundrie, but he hides behind his lawyer. on September 17th, police find out that Laundrie’s family hasn’t seen him since September 14th. At this point, he’s been named a person of interest in her disappearance. A search is launched to try to locate him a nature preserve near his parents’ home where they say he may have headed.
  • On September 19th, Petito’s body is found near where she was last spotted in Wyoming. The cause of death was ruled as consistent with homicide.

Brian Laundrie Missing

Brian Laundrie

So how does this happen? How does a person of interest vanish right under the noses of police? To get that answer, you’d have to ask his family. It’s egregious to think that they knew he was gone for three full days before reporting him missing – giving him a head start that has allowed him to elude the police entirely thus far. 

Perhaps they didn’t know Petito was dead, perhaps Laundrie lied and said she was planning to frame him or trash his reputation. It’s hard to imagine what happened behind closed doors that led to them covering for their son who most people now suspect killed Petito and fled. But now that he’s missing, what’s next?

Finding Laundrie

Brian Laundrie

While it does seem that a $30K reward is a paltry amount to find someone who may have viciously murdered the woman that loved and trusted him, it has attracted some useful attention. Reality star Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman has joined the search for Laundrie. Laundrie’s family reportedly called the police on him for attempting to make contact over the weekend. The irony of their quick call to police after stonewalling and potentially aiding the escape of a murderer is not lost on most. 

It does seem at least like most people are looking for Laundrie. Lookalikes are frequently spotted but so far no verified sightings. It does also seem like more than $30K might invite a much more robust search, but now that Petito has been confirmed dead, there’s more time to spend finding Laundrie.

It’s an absolutely tragic and heartbreaking end to a story Petito’s family never wanted to live through. Was Petito the victim of yet another monstrous domestic abuser? Time will tell; first they have to find Laundrie. Then, answers. They won’t come quickly enough for the Petito family, but it’s a start for healing. The investigation into the circumstances surrounding Petito’s death will be ongoing, and they may be able to find those answers even without Laundrie. But he will eventually have to face the music.