Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie: What do we know about the boyfriend?

Missing person poster for Gabby Petito

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Blogger Gabby Petito embarked on a road trip this July with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. Nearly two weeks after she was reported missing, Ms Petito’s body was found in a national park in Wyoming. Now, Mr Laundrie is missing too. What happened?

On Tuesday, a post-mortem examination confirmed the remains found in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park this weekend belong to Ms Petito. In his preliminary findings, the coroner ruled her death a homicide.

The 22-year-old was visiting the Grand Teton National Park with Mr Laundrie, 23, as part of a cross-country camper van road trip.

But after a month of travelling, Mr Laundrie returned home to Florida without Ms Petito.

Police resumed the search for Mr Laundrie this week. He is considered a “person of interest” in the case but has not been charged with any crime.

Here’s what we know about the case so far.

Who is Gabby Petito?

In July, Ms Petito set off on a road trip from her hometown in Long Island, New York, with Mr Laundrie.

Mr Laundrie and Ms Petito got engaged in July 2020, according to their social media.

The two high school sweethearts documented their nomadic “van life” through national parks in the American West on Instagram and YouTube.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito

EPA

The journey was originally intended to last four months, US media report, but Mr Laundrie returned home to Florida alone on 1 September.

Ms Petito’s family reported her missing 10 days later.

Where is Brian Laundrie?

Mr Laundrie, currently the only person of interest in this case, remains missing.

Family reported his disappearance this past weekend, saying he had left for a hike on 14 September and never came back.

On Wednesday, police and FBI were due to resume their search in the Carlton Reserve, a 24,000-acre county park in Florida’s Sarasota County with police dogs and drones.

“A weekend ground search and aerial search Monday of the 25,000-acre preserve has yet to yield any answers, but we must press on,” spokesman Josh Taylor told WTSP, a local affiliate of CBS News. “Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times.”

On Monday, federal agents conducted a nearly eight-hour search of his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, where Mr Laundrie and Ms Petito had moved in 2019.

Before he vanished, Mr Laundrie had eluded authorities and did not share any information with police.

Mr Laundrie’s lawyer Steve Bertolino had originally scheduled a news conference on Tuesday, but he later cancelled it after speaking to the FBI.

He was quoted by local media as saying it was not in his “client’s best interest” to go ahead with the event.

Following the news of Ms Petito’s death, Mr Bertolino issued the short statement: “May Gabby rest in peace.”

What happened?

It is still unclear what happened when Ms Petito, and later, Mr Laundrie, went missing, but some details have emerged from the weeks prior.

On 12 August, police in the southern Utah town of Moab were called to a possible domestic violence incident involving the couple.

Bodycam footage showed Ms Petito crying and complaining about her mental health to officers. She also said the couple had been arguing more frequently.

A police report of the incident said Mr Laundrie claimed Ms Petito hit him after an argument.

The officers recommended they spend the night apart but did not file any charges. It is not yet known what happened next.

On 19 August, a video was posted to a YouTube channel registered with Ms Petito’s email. The video showed the couple smiling, kissing and running on beaches. It has been viewed more than 3.2 million times.

Regular social media updates from the couple on Instagram abruptly ended in late August.

Ms Petito video called her mother on 24 August to say she was leaving Utah and heading to the Teton mountain range in Wyoming, according to Rick Stafford, the Petito’s lawyer.

Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, told CBS New York that she and Ms Petito would usually speak three times a week during the road trip.

On 25 August, Ms Petito posted for the last time on Instagram, with the caption “Happy Halloween”. Her photo gallery did not include any location information.

What did the text messages tell us?

In a search warrant application, authorities wrote that text messages sent by Ms Petito to her mother seemed to show mounting tension between the couple.

According to the application, Ms Petito sent an “odd text” about her grandfather that sounded out of character, concerning her mother.

The last time Ms Petito’s family heard from her was a text message on 30 August that read: “No service in Yosemite”, a reference to the national park in California.

Ms Schmidt has cast doubt over who sent this message.

After a search that drew national public interest, officials discovered human remains now confirmed to be Ms Petito in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park on 19 September.

Investigators have yet to disclose how and where the body was found.

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