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Brian Laundrie's Remains Found in Nature Reserve, FBI Confirms - Gabby Petito Updates

Teen Vogue logo Teen Vogue 10/21/2021 Brittney McNamara
a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera © Courtesy of Gabby Petito's Instagram

This story was updated on October 21 to include the most up to date information.

In a statement on September 21, the FBI confirmed that remains found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming are those of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old who was reported missing on September 11. On October 12, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue announced Petito's cause of death was strangulation, and officially ruled her death a homicide. A month after Petito's body was found, the FBI confirmed that human remains found in the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park belong to Brian Laundrie.

Petito's family reported her missing on September 11. She had set off on a cross-country toad trip with fiancé Brian Laundrie as she tried to start a blog based on her van travel lifestyle. About two weeks after a fight between the two drew police attention, Petito abruptly stopped communicating with her family. Laundrie returned to the couple's North Port, Florida home, where they had previously lived with his parents, but Petito was not heard from since. 

Now, Laundrie's family says they haven't seen him since September 14. Investigators are searching for him, as he is a person of interest in the case. And, a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Here's a timeline of the case:

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie embark on a road trip

North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in a news briefing that the couple left North Port in June 2021 to drive to the west coast in a 2012 white Ford van, planning to visit national parks along the way. According to USA Today, the couple had been living with Laundrie's parents in Florida after moving from Blue Point, New York. They were reportedly childhood sweethearts.

“After our first cross country trip in a little Nissan Sentra, we both decided we to wanted downsize our lives and travel full time,” Petito wrote in the caption of a video blog posted to YouTube in July. The video documented the “beginning of our van life journey,” showing the two kissing, camping, running on the beach, and other idyllic scenes. The couple talk about sleeping in their tent and show their daily routines.

The two posted extensively on social media about their trip, and had started a website (which is currently password protected) to document their travels.

According to police, Petito had stayed in regular contact with her family until the end of August, when she abruptly stopped communicating with them.

Petito and Laundrie are stopped by police after having a physical altercation

On August 12, a police report obtained by USA Today shows the couple was pulled over by police in Moab, Utah, after they had a fight outside a local store. According to the police report, witnesses saw Petito and Laundrie fighting. When they were pulled over after driving away from the scene of the fight, Petito told police that she was struggling with her mental health, which had caused her and Laundrie to have arguments all day. Laundrie said he and Petito both have similar mental health issues, and that tension had been rising between them. After an argument, Laundrie said Petito tried to slap him, and he pushed her away as a result. Laundrie told police, according to the report, that Petito was scared he was going to leave her in Utah without a ride. 

According to the report, police mediated the situation, and Laundrie and Petito agreed to spend the night apart — her in the van and Laundrie in a hotel room police helped him find. Throughout their encounter with the couple, police wrote in the report that Petito did not stop crying.

Body camera footage released by Moab police on September 16 shows a distressed Petito talking about her efforts to start a blog, and her mental health strains. “We've just been fighting all morning,” a tearful Petito told officers.

In their report, police wrote that neither Petito nor Laundrie wanted the other charged with a crime, noting that they love each other. Police concluded it seemed less like a case of assault than a “mental health crisis.”

Petito stops communicating with her family and Laundrie returns home

Around the end of August, police said Petito's family stopped hearing from her. Their last communication was on August 30, but their attorney said in a news conference according to CNN that they don't believe the messages were from Petito. He didn't share why they don't think the messages came directly from her.

Before she stopped communicating with her family, Petito was believed to be in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, police said.

On September 1, North Port police say Laundrie returned to his parents' home in the van the couple was traveling in, which has now been recovered by police. According to police, they haven't been able to speak to Laundrie since he returned home, and instead were directed to his attorney. Chief Garrison has pleaded with Laundrie's attorney, Steven Bertolino, on Twitter, asking him to set up a meeting with his client.

Laundrie is a person of interest in the investigation, police say.

In a statement shared by ABC7 News, Bertolino said Laundrie is declining to speak about the subject:

“This is an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. I understand that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."

Teen Vogue has reached out to Bertolino for comment.

Petito's family reports her missing

On September 11, ten days after Laundrie returned home, Petito's family reported her missing. Petito's family lives in New York, and reported her case to Suffolk County Police, CNN reports.

Since she was reported missing, police and her family have held news conferences asking for more information from both Laundrie and the public.

“What I need from everybody here is help,” Petito's father, Joe Petito, said, also asking the Laundrie family directly to come forward with information.

In an interview on Friday morning on Good Morning America, Laundrie's sister, Cassie Laundrie, became the first member of the family to speak publicly.

“Obviously, me and my family want Gabby to be found safe,” she said, according to the New York Times. “She’s like a sister and my children love her, and all I want is for her to come home safe and found, and this to be just a big misunderstanding.”

Cassie Laundrie said she has not spoken to her brother since he returned home.

Both police and Petito's family continue to plead with the Brian Laundrie to come forward with any information he may have. Chief Garrison said he believes “Brian has the information,” according to CNN.

"We've had no communication between our family and theirs. It's absolutely absurd. We don't understand why," Petito's stepfather, James Schmidt, told CourtTV. "He grew up with Gabby; they went to school together. They're not strangers. They've known each other for a long time…This is the love of your life. It's been out there on social media. You posted on your accounts. If that is true, then do the right thing. You need to do it now. Stop waiting.”

Brian Laundrie Disappears

On September 17, North Port police posted a note on Twitter saying Laundrie's family told the FBI they hadn't seen him since September 14. 

"For six days, the North Port Police Department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian's Fiancé Gabby Petito," the note said. "Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail."

Laundrie's whereabouts are still unknown, but police have been searching the the Carlton Reserve, a nature park in Sarasota County, Florida. According to CBS News, Laundrie's family indicated he may have “entered the area,” police said. USA Today reports Laundrie's car was found near the reserve.

As of September 22, Laundrie remains missing.

Investigators find a body

On September 19, the FBI said human remains “consistent with the description of” Petito were found in Teton County, Wyoming, CNN reports. The identity of the body has not yet been confirmed, but CNN reports an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday. 

The same day the body was found, Petito's father posted a photo of her on Twitter saying "she touched the world.

A coroner confirms Gabby Petito was found dead

In a statement on September 21, the FBI confirmed Petito's body was found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on September 19. Coroner Dr. Brent Blue's initial findings indicate Petito's death was a homicide, but the official cause of death has not yet been determined.

“The F.B.I. and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito’s death is held accountable for their actions,” FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in the statement.

According to the New York Times, Petito's body was found in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area of the national park. 

Authorities issue a warrant for Brian Laundrie's arrest

On September 23, the FBI posted on Twitter that the U.S. District Court of Wyoming issued a federal arrest warrant the previous day for Brian Laundrie's arrest. A grand jury indicted Laundrie for “use of unauthorized devices,” stemming from his use of a debit card to access accounts that did not belong to him in the days following Petito's death, CNN reports.

"While this arrest warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide," FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a statement posted to Twitter. “We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the F.B.I.”

According to CNN, Laundrie's attorney stressed in a statement that the warrant is not related to Petito's cause of death.

"It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise," Steve Bertolino told CNN. "The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum."

Authorities continue to search for Laundrie. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Coroner says Gabby Petito was strangled to death  

Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue announced in a news conference on October 12 that Petito died from strangulation, CNN reports. Her manner of death was a homicide. The coroner said Petito's body had been left in the wilderness for three to four weeks after her death, according to CNN, meaning she likely died in mid-August. As of October 12, Laundrie remains missing as authorities continue their search.

FBI confirms human remains found belong to Brian Laundrie

In a statement posted to Twitter on October 21, the FBI confirmed that human remains found in the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park belong to Brian Laundrie, who had been missing since early September. Skeletal remains and clothing were found on October 20. The clothing, CNN reports, was apparently consistent with what Laundrie was believed to be wearing when he left his parent's Florida home.

The FBI is still seeking tips from anyone who may have seen Petito and Laundrie. The tip line can be reached at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324), or report it here.

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