UPDATE: Body Found in WY Believed to be Gabby Petito

It’s a case that’s been gripping the nation: Gabrielle “Gabby’ Petito went on a “VanLife” vacation with her boyfriend, Brian

Gabby Petito

It’s a case that’s been gripping the nation: Gabrielle “Gabby’ Petito went on a “VanLife” vacation with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. Laundrie returned, but Petito was nowhere to be found. Since her disappearance, Laundrie has been tight-lipped, refusing to cooperate with investigators desperately searching for Petito as the clock ticks. Now, police in Utah have released ominous bodycam footage of an encounter with the couple that raises huge red flags and points even more fingers at Laundrie.

UPDATE 9/19/21

Body Found Believed to be Petito

Unfortunately, it’s the update nobody wanted to hear but many feared they would. A body was found in Wyoming during the search for the missing NY woman and it is believed to be that of Gabby Petito. Investigators have been searching Grand Teton National Park, near where Petito was confirmed to be seen alive. Although they have not confirmed the identification of the remains found with 100% certainty, they fit the description of Petito and at this time are believed to be hers.

Per USA Today via MSN, “The FBI made the announcement Sunday afternoon, explaining law enforcement had combed through a camping area in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest and found human remains that appear to be Petito. Authorities will conduct a full forensic review to verify the remains, according to Charles Jones, a special agent with the FBI’s Denver office.

‘I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby’s family,’ Jones said. ‘As every parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time.’”

It’s the latest heartbreaking update in a story that isn’t over yet. Petito’s partner, Brian Laundrie, is now missing. Police have been pushing Laundrie and his family to share information to lead to Petito’s safe recovery, believing that Laundrie was holed up at his parents’ home in North Port, Florida. However, on Friday, Laundrie’s family filed a missing person report, telling the police that he had been missing since Tuesday. Laundrie’s parents shared that he may have gone to a nature reserve in Sarasota County earlier that week, and it’s there investigators have focused their search efforts, now for the case’s second missing person.

Although the forensic verification of Petito’s body has not yet concluded, the FBI seems confident that they’ve found her. The question now will be if they can find Laundrie, and what he may or may not know. Running the way he has certainly hasn’t convinced anyone of Laundrie’s innocence, but he will receive due process, if they can find him and if evidence links him to her death.

The Case So Far

Gabby Petito

CELEB is taking a look back at what’s happened and what we know about the case so far:

  • July 2nd: On July 2nd, Petito and Laundrie left on an adventure. They departed Blue Point, New York – near where Petito grew up – in a cargo van that they have outfitted into a “van-life” travel vehicle. It’s a 2012 white Ford Transit, belonging to Laundrie. 
  • After departing NY, the couple traveled to Florida, Kansas, Colorado and Utah. They shared their exploits on social media. 
  • On August 12th, police encountered the couple in response to a domestic altercation. This point of contact was in Moab City, Utah. 
  • August 25th. This appears to be the last verified time anyone saw Petito. At the time, Petito and Laundrie were in Grand Teton, Wyoming, heading to Yellowstone National park.
  • August 30th. Petito’s mom receives a text message, ostensibly from Petito.
  • September 1. Laundrie returns to his parents home in North Port, Florida. Laundrie returned with the van, but no Petito. Petito and Laundrie had been living with his parents at their Florida home prior to their travels. 
  • September 11. Family reports Petito missing. Police tried to make contact with Laundrie but were instead referred to his lawyer. The van was confiscated for evidence.
  • September 15th. Due to his lack of cooperation and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Petito’s disappearance, Laundrie is named a person of interest. 

Bodycam Footage Released

Some are questioning why Laundrie has been so tight-lipped, since it’s clearly implicating him on its own. Laundrie’s lawyer has an answer for that, per ABC7, “Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence. In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this, and the waring that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundie is not speaking on the matter. I have been informed that the North Port, Florida, police have named Brian Laundrie as a ‘person of interest’ in this matter. This formality has not really changed the circumstances of Mr. Laundrie being the focus and attention of law enforcement, and Mr. Laundrie will continue to remain silent on the advice of counsel.”

Unfortunately, it’s basically a lot of lawyer-speak for, “my client may stick his foot in his mouth.” While this doesn’t mean Laundrie is guilty and hiding something, it means he’s wary of how often fingers are pointed at spouses and partners of people who go missing. But there’s a good reason for that.

Per PsychologyToday, “According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), intimate partner homicides make up approximately 10% of all US murders and of those, women comprise approximately 70% of those killed. In other words, one out of every 10 people murdered is by an intimate partner, and seven of those ten murdered are women. Research tells us that women are far more likely to be killed by an intimate acquaintance or spouse than by a stranger.” While there’s no evidence so far that Petito is dead – there are certainly good reasons to believe Laundrie is involved, if foul play is suspected. And Laundrie’s behavior definitely suggests foul play and a desire to prove himself innocent. If there’s nothing to hide, what is he hiding?

Bodycam footage released by police in Moab City, Utah, point more damning fingers at Laundrie.

A witness called 911 at 4:30PM on August 12th, reporting a possible incident of domestic violence. A responding officer noted that the driver – Laundrie – had an argument with Petito, which prompted the call. Per Fox News via MSN, “‘The male tried to create distance by telling Gabbie to go take a walk to calm down, she didn’t want to be separated from the male, and began slapping him,’ the report said. ‘He grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van, he tried to lock her out and succeeded except for his driver’s door, she opened that and forced her way over him and into the vehicle before it drove off.’

A responding officer initially wrote that he believes ‘it was reported the male had been observed to have assaulted the female,’ but later wrote that ‘no one reported that the male struck the female.’

An officer eventually pulled the van over and said that when he approached, Petito was ‘crying uncontrollably’ in the passenger seat.

One of the responding officers said the incident can be ‘more accurately categorized as a mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault,’ and that ‘no significant injuries’ were reported.”

In the bodycam footage, Petito appears shaken. Her body language suggests she’s feeling insecure and unsure of herself, and she gets in the back of the police SUV as they try to sort out the issue. Laundrie, by comparison, appears confident and almost smirking. According to a police report, Laundrie explained that both he and Petito suffered from an unspecified medical condition and are both currently unmedicated for it. According to Laundrie, the close confines of travel have increased their stress and arguments over time.

If anything, the bodycam footage is proof that there was trouble in paradise between the pair. That may be the full extent of their troubles and what Laundrie is looking to avoid being implicated by. But without evidence of foul play, it behooves him to help them find her. Otherwise, he looks more guilty as the days pass.

What Happens Next?

Police will be looking urgently for Petito over the next days and weeks. They will use technology to track the text message received last by Petito’s mother, and try to compel Laundrie to give them information.

Petito’s father, Joe Petito, has been pleading with the public for information and help. Per WFLA, “‘What I need from everybody here is help,’ Joe Petito said. ‘Because the goal is still not met. And the goal is to bring Gabby home safe.’”

WFLA adds, “‘We share the frustration with the world right now. Two people went on a trip. One person returned. And that person that returned isn’t providing us any information,’ North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said.

Chief Garrison held a news conference Thursday to give an update on the investigation, and invited Petito’s father to speak.

‘I’m asking for help from everyone here, I’m asking for help from everyone at home. I’m asking for help from the parents of Brian. I’m asking for help from the family members and friends of the Laundrie family as well,’ Joe Petito said. ‘Whatever you can do to make sure my daughter comes home, I’m asking for that help. There is nothing else that matters to me now.’

Petito, pointing to photos of his missing daughter, told the public, ‘This. This girl right here. This is what matters.’”

Police will begin backtracking Laundrie’s steps, even without his help. Looking for stops he made along the way between Wyoming and Florida, and looking for communication with anyone he may have had. They will dig into activities on Petito’s Instagram – it has reportedly been taken down and put back up in the past 48 hours. And they will continue asking the public for help. Until they find answers, Petito’s family and the police will keep seeking; eventually, Laundrie will have to say something.