Gabby Petito Case: Autopsy Set for Tuesday as New Clues Emerge From Text and Van

21September 2021

What to KnowFBI agents and police swarmed the home of a young man wanted for questioning in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito. At least a dozen agents and police officers converged Monday on the North Port, Florida, home Brian Laundrie shared with his parentsThat comes a day after authorities announced the discovery of a body believed to be hers at a Wyoming national park. She had disappeared during a cross-country trip with Laundrie. Petito and Laundrie left in July in a converted van but Laundrie returned to Florida alone Sept. 1. He has been named a person of interest but has disappeared. A search of a Florida park turned up nothing.

An autopsy was set for Tuesday in the death of Gabby Petito after a body was discovered over the weekend at a Wyoming national park months after she and her boyfriend set out on a cross-country road trip.

The body was recovered Sunday on the edge of Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited. No details on the cause of death were released and a forensic identification will be completed to confirm the body’s identity — but investigators believe it’s the 22-year-old reported missing by her family on Sept. 11.

FBI agents and police Monday searched the home of boyfriend Brian Laundrie, who is wanted for questioning but has disappeared. The FBI gave no details on the search by at least a dozen law enforcement officers, but agents removed several boxes and towed away a car that neighbors said was typically used by Laundrie’s mother. Local media said Laundrie’s parents were seen getting into a police vehicle.

The 23-year-old Laundrie and Petito had been living with his parents at the North Port home before the road trip on which she died.

The young couple had set out in July in a converted van to visit national parks in the West. They got into a fight along the way, and Laundrie was alone when he returned in the van to his parents’ home on Sept. 1, police said.

Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case, but his whereabouts in recent days were unknown. His attorney had scheduled a news conference for Tuesday but it was canceled.

Petito’s father, Joseph, posted on social media an image of a broken heart above a picture of his daughter, with the message: “She touched the world.”

In an interview broadcast Monday on TV’s “Dr. Phil” show, Joseph Petito said Laundrie and his daughter had dated for 2 1/2 years, and Laundrie was “always respectful.” During the interview, which was recorded before his daughter’s body was found, Petito said the couple had taken a previous road trip to California in her car and there were no problems.

“If there were, I would have discouraged going on the trip,” Petito said.

Petito said his family began worrying after several days without hearing from their daughter.


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“We called Brian, we called the mom, we called the dad, we called the sister, we called every number that we could find,” Petito said. “No phone calls were picked up, no text messages were returned.”

From the van the couple traveled in together, investigators found and have gained permission to access to a hard drive containing evidence connected to Gabby’s disappearance, according to a filing of a search warrant in Florida.

The documents also included new public details, including that the last text message Petito’s mother received from her phone was “odd.” It read, “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” The reference to Stan could regard Petito’s grandfather, but Petito’s mother said she never calls him “Stan,” which made her concerned there was something wrong with her daughter. The phone was turned off that same day, more than two weeks (15 days) ago, the filing said.

The initial filing also said investigators believed there was a probable cause that the hard drive contained “evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed,” according to the document.

Meanwhile, federal, state and local investigators are still trying to ascertain the whereabouts of Laundrie, who hasn’t been seen since family members said they said him Tuesday. North Port, Florida, police scoured a vast nature preserve over the weekend and said Monday they felt they had exhausted that area.

It’s not clear where investigators planned to search for him next.

Gabby’s father said he wants Laundrie to be held accountable for whatever part he played in his daugther’s disappearance, along with his family for protecting him.

“I hope they get what’s coming, and that includes his folks,” Petito said. “Because I’ll tell you, right now, they are just as complicit, in my book.”

The FBI said investigators are seeking information from anyone who may have seen the couple around Grand Teton.

Police looking for Laundrie searched a 24,000-acre Florida nature preserve over the weekend without success. Investigators had focused intently on the area after Laundrie’s parents told police he may have gone there.

Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts who met while growing up on New York’s Long Island. His parents later moved to North Port, about 35 miles south of Sarasota.

A man who saw Petito and Laundrie fighting in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12 called 911 to report a domestic violence incident, according to a recording of the call obtained from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. The man said that he saw Laundrie slap Petito while walking through the town and proceeded to hit her before the two got in their van and drove off.

Video released by the Moab police showed that an officer pulled the couple’s van over on the same day after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near Arches National Park. The body-camera footage showed an upset Petito.

Laundrie said on the video that the couple had gotten into a scuffle after he climbed into the van with dirty feet. He said he did not want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the aggressor.

Moab police separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the van.

In the footage, Gabby Petito cried as she told the officer that she and Laundrie had been arguing over her excessive cleaning of the van. She told the officer she has OCD — obsessive compulsive disorder.

On “Dr. Phil,” her father said that wasn’t literally true. She just likes to keep her living area orderly and was using slang, he said.

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