Searchers have found a body they believe is that of Gabby Petito, who was last heard from late last month while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend.
The FBI’s senior resident agent in Wyoming, Charles Jones, offered “sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby’s family.”
He said formal identification and determination of cause of death would come later, but the body found matches the description of the 22-year-old Petito.
Petito and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, set off on their trip in July, traveling in a customized Ford Transit van. Petito kept in contact with her family for weeks as well as posting frequently to her Instagram account about the trip. But contact abruptly ended on August 25, and Laundrie was back at their North Point, Florida, home on September 1 — with the van but without Gabby.
The live update has concluded and we will share a recording soon. Our statement is attached & we have no additional comment at this time. #FBIDenver & our partners extend our condolences to Gabby’s family. We thank the public for your generous support of this investigation. pic.twitter.com/kZiSVmJtqv
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 19, 2021
Laundrie did not tell Gabby’s family he was back, however. They learned he had returned 10 days later and promptly filed a missing person report for Gabby. Laundrie and his family refused to answer her family’s repeated calls to give them information about her location — or speak with police.
North Point police did not seek search warrants to gather information about the disappearance, saying they had no evidence of a crime. Then, nearly a week after Gabby was reported missing, Laundrie’s parents asked police to come to their home. But instead of talking about Gabby, the Laundries filed a missing person report for their son, who left the house three days earlier and hadn’t been heard from since.
While the FBI, park service investigators, sheriff’s deputies, and police officers launched an intensive search in the area of Grand Teton National Park, where Gabby was last known to have been, North Point police began to search a flooded, 25,000-acre nature reserve for Laundrie.
And tips poured in. A woman traveling through the park with her husband said she saw the van on August 25. A Utah business owner said the couple was in his store for 15 or 20 minutes on that day or the next. Another couple traveling through the area posted video of a van that closely resembled Petito and Laundrie’s van. That video was shot on August 27, although the couple did not see anyone near the van. A TikTok user said she had briefly picked up a hitchhiking Brian Laundrie on August 29.
Police in Moab, Utah, stopped the van on August 12 after receiving a report of a possible domestic disturbance. Body camera footage showed Gabby crying through most of the interview, as both she and Laundrie told officers they loved one another and were stressed from their trip. The officers separated the couple for the night and wrote that they thought the incident bore the hallmarks of a “mental health crisis” and did not rise “to the level of a domestic incident.”
On Saturday, North Point police said they had gotten limited access to cell phone data from the couple’s phones. It isn’t clear if that information helped crews in Wyoming narrow their search, but they were focusing on an area known as Spread Creek Dispersed Camping, a remote area in Bridger-Teton National Forest, adjacent to the national park. That was the area where the van was possibly seen on August 27.
After the discovery of the body, the Jones said that the Spread Creek camping area would be “closed until further notice.” He also asked that the public “respect the privacy of Gabby’s family.”
“This is an incredibly difficult time for them,” he said, “and our thoughts are with them as they mourn the loss of their daughter.”
There was no immediate word from the Laundrie family, but North Point Police released a statement that said they were “saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased.”
“Our focus from the start, along with the FBI, and national partners, has been to bring her home,” the statement said. “We will continue to work with the FBI in the search for more answers.”
The Laundries’ attorney released a statement saying the news was “heartbreaking.”
New statement from Laundrie family attorney:
The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 19, 2021
“The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family,” the statements said.
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[Featured image: Gabby Petito/Instagram]