The Case of Gabby Petito – 22-year-old Girl Missing After Van Trip with Fiancé
September 23, 2021 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements Social Share
The tragic story of Gabby Petito’s disappearance completely took over the nation in just the matter of a few weeks. It seemed like you couldn’t turn on the TV or check social media without seeing the face of the young girl. Florida resident and Youtuber Gabby Petito, 22, was originally reported missing by the Suffolk County Police Department on September 11th, after she had not returned from a cross-country trip. She was last seen with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, on the extended road trip. They had recently bought a campervan together, planning on traveling across the country over the course of three months. They had been visiting multiple states, including Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.
Things get dark when the fiancé returned, but Gabby did not. Gabby’s parents stated that they were in contact with Gabby throughout the entire trip. However, frequent communication turned to radio silence towards the end of August, and they began to grow worried. Growing tired of waiting it out, Gabby’s parents finally reached out to the police on September 11th to report their daughter as missing.
Gabby’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, had been the main point of interest from the beginning of the case. He returned to his parents’ home on September 1st—the planned ending point of him and Gabby’s extended trip. Except Laundrie had returned on his own, without addressing Gabby’s absence to anyone, including Gabby’s parents. It was not until 10 days later that her parents reported her missing. Laundrie was not immediately charged with any crime due to the lack of evidence from the police, but he refused to speak to anyone regarding Gabby’s disappearance.
The more time that passed the more police grew worried, pleading for anyone with information to come forward about her whereabouts. It was not long into the investigation that Brian Laundrie disappeared himself, without telling anyone where he was going. His parents also claimed ignorance, stating that the last time they saw their son he was heading into the woods.
All efforts were exhausted by the FBI and the police regarding the search for Gabby, and eventually a discovery was made in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Human remains were found buried in an underdeveloped camping area. The found remains were then sent to Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue for review. From his findings, he ruled the manner of the death for the body found was a homicide. A few days later, the news everyone was most dreading was released to the public: it was in fact Gabby Petito’s remains that were found.
Over a month after Gabby was reported missing, Dr. Blue released a video with the information regarding the cause of death. After reviewing the body, he ruled that the cause of death was strangulation. This reiterated the statement Dr. Blue made in prior weeks saying the death was a homicide. In addition to the cause of death, Dr. Blue said the time of death was estimated to be about three to four weeks before her body was found on September 19th in the national forest in Wyoming. Dr. Blue declined to release any additional information regarding the autopsy because of protocol, but the information he did address was helpful for investigators and the FBI as they continued to hunt for Gabby’s fiancé Brian Laundrie.
Brian Laundrie disappeared from his Florida home in North Port and had not been seen in over three weeks. His parents continuously stuck to their original story, that they believed Brian left to go for a hike in a nearby nature reserve. After being gone for so long during the case, it did not create a good look for Brian or the rest of the Laundrie family. While Brian had not yet been charged with Gabby’s death, he was indicted on the charges of using two financial accounts that were not his own following the days after Gabby died.
Where it Begins
The road trip began in June in New York where Gabby is from. The couple was set to go through Colorado, Kansas, Utah, Wyoming, and end in Florida. This made the beginning of the investigation complicated, creating questions over who had jurisdiction over the missing-persons case. North Port police Chief Todd Garrison gave a quote, saying it’s a “multi-jurisdictional case.”
In addition to Gabby’s ongoing case, the Moab Police Department were also investigating a double homicide that had taken place in Grand County, which is near the area where Gabby and Brian had an altercation which led to the involvement of the police. It was also close to where Gabby’s remains were found. After further investigation authorities announced the double homicide and Gabby’s homicide were not connected.
The FBI decided to step in, and worked together with law enforcement in the Wyoming Teton National Park—whichwas where they finally ended up finding her remains. The couple was still in the National Park when Gabby last spoke with her mother on August 25th.
The Police Report and Body Cam
Body cam footage was released by the Moab Police Department, showing the altercation that happened between Gabby and Brian that resulted in the National Forest. Police were called to the scene and had to interfere with the argument, which is where the body cam video came from. The video is an hour and 17 minutes long, and shows police questioning both Gabby and Brian about their argument. Gabby’s cousin later came forward and insisted she had never seen Gabby look so stressed out. The video shows Gabby crying to the officers while trying to explain that Brian would not let her enter the van until she calmed down. She said that she had severe anxiety and the argument was not helping. There was indication that Brian shoved Gabby, but police concluded it was out of defense, after she had both slapped and scratched him. Gabby was identified as the primary aggressor and almost charged for domestic abuse, but police finally determined it was more of an emotional break than domestic assault and let the couple go. Now that Gabby’s body was found not far away from the confrontation, it raises many questions. Most importantly, what happened in those final moments?
With each new piece of evidence being released, North Port police department have more reason to believe that Brian Laundrie’s disappearance implies that he not only knew what happened to Gabby, but was likely responsible for her death. In an interview with CNN, Chief Garrison stated that he believed Brian and his family were holding back vital information that could help with the case. At the end of the interview, Chief Garrison announced that Laundrie was the only confirmed person of interest in the case, which was then further emphasized with the fact that Brian disappeared. Before law enforcement found Gabby’s remains, Laundrie’s sister came forward and spoke in an TV interview, saying that she hoped that Gabby would be found safe. Authorities were finally able to speak to his parents, and they admitted that they had not seen Brian since he left their house on September 14th. He was last seen taking his backpack and going out for a walk in the nearby reserve. With Gabby’s cause of death and time of death being addressed, Brian’s disappearance added more stress to the case and made it difficult for Gabby’s family to receive the justice and closure they deserved.
On October 20th, 2021, over a month after Gabby’s remains were found and several weeks after Brian Laundrie went missing, police found what appeared to be human remains. In the Carlton Reserve in Florida, there were “items of interest” found in connection with the search, according to a tweet by the FBI.
FBI Tampa Division Special Agent Michael McPherson gave a statement in a news conference regarding the findings: “I know you have a lot of questions, but we don’t have all the answers yet.”
The Laundrie family attorney confirmed earlier that day that “some articles” had been found off a trail in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which is connected to the Carlton Reserve. The items belonged to Brian, and they were found located off a trail that he frequently went on.
The night before the remains were found, Laundrie’s parents had agreed to meet the North Port police to assist in the search for their son. Only after what is being called a “brief search” the family and law enforcement found articles belonging to Brian. A medical examiner and cadaver dog were then called to the area to search for any remains. In the FBI’s tweet they added, “An #FBI Evidence Response team is processing the scene. The reserve is closed to the public and no further details are available at this time.”
On October 21st, 2021, dental records were used to identify the found remains as belonging to Brian Laundrie. Officials claimed that the remains were found in an area of the park that had until recently been underwater. The FBI gave a statement on the day the remains were identified: “On October 21, 2021, a comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T Marby Carlton Jr Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creed Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie.” Brian’s parents had rarely helped in the search for their son. On Wednesday afternoon, both parents were present on the day Brian’s remains were conveniently discovered. Speculation raised over their late attendance in the search and was furthered by the fact that it was Brian’s father who seemed to have found the items so quickly. Chris Laundrie was the person who discovered the bag containing his son’s belongings.
The rapid quick discovery made by the Laundrie family raises questions that they could have potentially planted his remains or evidence as a way to protect their son. They had continuously remained quiet throughout the case, and were finally condemned by the Petito family for refusing to provide any help.
Although it seems somewhat suspicious, the Laundrie family lawyer declines all rumors regarding the Laundrie parents. He claimed that Chris Laundrie simply made a chance discovery, and any other speculations are “hogwash.” The lawyer gave a following statement: “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.”
Timeline of Gabby’s Last Whereabouts: June – September
Here is a brief overview and timeline of Gabby’s whereabouts since leaving her North Port, Florida home:
- When Gabby and Laundrie originally embarked on their road trip together.
- Gabby’s parents kept in contact with her on a regular basis.
- She seemed excited to be going on the trip with Laundrie in their white Ford van.
- When the couple reached Moab, Utah on August 12th, they were stopped by the police after a 911 caller told dispatchers they saw the heated argument between the couple. The police were called onto the scene after people witnessed Gabby slapping Brian.
- Descriptions had been made about the couple’s argument turning physical, yet when police got involved, the couple said they didn’t want any charges to be filed. Police let them leave without filing any charges.
- In the last week of August, Gabby’s parents heard from her for the last time on the 27th. They claim they received an odd text message from Gabby that read, “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” Stan was referring to Gabby’s grandfather, but her mom said she never referred to him in that way.
- Witnesses from a Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming, came forward and reported a “commotion” from Brian and Gabby as they left. Gabby was in tears and Brian seemed visibly angry towards her and the restaurant staff. The manager claimed to have seen an incident and tried to report it, but there were no surveillance cameras to show what actually happened.
- Laundrie returned to his family home in Florida on the 1st of September, with the white Ford van but without Gabby.
- Gabby’s parents were not able to get in contact with her after almost two weeks, and since they live in New York they decided to reach out to the Suffolk County Police Department in New York.
- The North Port police went to Laundrie’s home to question him and his family but were immediately handed the information of their attorney.
- Gabby’s family attorney gave a news briefing calling on Laundrie and his family to turn over any information about the case. He said if they had any decency left, they would help with the investigation or let them know where Gabby was.
- The Moab Police Department released the footage from Gabby and Brian’s altercation.
- Cassie Laundrie, Brian’s sister, spoke with Good Morning America and said she hopes Gabby will return home safely.
- Brian Laundrie’s family came forward to the police to say they hadn’t seen him since September 14th. He had left his home with his backpack and claimed he was going into the Carlton Reserve.
- Investigators found remains of a body in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, that they believe may be the remains of Gabby Petito.
- The FBI go searching the Laundrie household out to search for Brian Laundrie or anything to do with Gabby’s disappearance. His parents are brought in for questioning.
- The human remains have been taken into the autopsy. The body had yet to be identified.
- On Tuesday, September 21st, authorities release the information that the human remains found are those of Gabby Petito. Brian Laundrie is still nowhere to be found, and police continue to search for him.
- On October 12th, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue revealed the cause of Gabby’s death as homicide by strangulation. Brian Laundrie has been missing for three weeks and has still not been found.
- After weeks of searching for fiancé Brian Laundrie at the Carlton Reserve in Florida, human remains were found on October 20th alongside a backpack and notebook that belonged to Laundrie.
- October 21st – The FBI announces that the remains found are Brian Laundires, ultimately ending the search for Gabby Petito’s fiancé.
Demand for Justice
Protestors were gathered outside of Laundrie’s family home demanding justice for Gabby. People had originally been seen driving by in golf carts with signs that read “Where is Gabby?” and “Speak up.” The Laundrie family continuously refused to provide any information on their son’s whereabouts. Even though Brian’s remains have been found, it’s hard to say if this has brought the well-deserved justice for Gabby Petito and her grieving family. Before Brian’s disappearance, the Laundrie family attorney gave the following comment: “Gabby Petito’s death at such a young age is a tragedy. While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito’s demise. At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located, we will address the pending charge against him.”
Father Chris Laundrie joined authorities in the search for Brian for the first time two weeks into his disappearance. The search had taken place in the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve which is the focal point of the ongoing manhunt. Calls had been piling up from multiple states—including Montana, Alabama, and North Carolina—with people claiming they had spotted Brian Laundrie. Investigators made it a priority to thoroughly check out every tip called in.
Gabby Petito’s family has declined to make any statements after the autopsy results were released. Regarding Brian Laundrie, Gabby’s parents believed that he was still alive and hoped he would do the right thing by coming forward. Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, gave the following statement addressing Brian Laundrie in an interview with FOX News: “Just turn yourself in. It’s getting more and more frustrating as the days go on. I don’t know what’s taking so long.”
Now that Brian’s remains have been found, it raises the question, “Is this the end?” After what can only be described as a horrible year for the Petito family, hopefully knowing that Brian was found can bring some semblance of peace. It may not bring justice, but hopefully there will finally be an end in sight.
This article was written by Karissa Key