- On Monday, FBI agents and police searched for clues in the North Port, Florida, home the couple had been sharing with Laundrie’s parents.
- Brian Laundrie, 23, has been labeled the sole person of interest in what began as a missing person case for Gabby Petito.
- Laundrie and Petito began their cross-country trip in July.
The remains found at a campground near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park are those of missing blogger Gabby Petito, an autopsy confirmed Tuesday.
The Teton County coroner in Wyoming confirmed the remains are those of Petito, 22, and initially determined her manner of death was homicide. But the coroner, Dr. Brent Blue, did not disclose a cause of death “pending final autopsy results,” the FBI said in a statement.
“We extend sincere condolences to Gabby’s family, friends, and all the people whose lives she touched,” the FBI Denver office said in a statement.
Michael Schneider, FBI special agent in charge, said “the FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito’s death is held responsible for their actions.”
Petito’s fiance, Brian Laundrie, 23, has been labeled the sole person of interest, and his whereabouts are unknown. Authorities in Florida returned Tuesday to Sarasota County’s Carlton Reserve, a sprawling wilderness preserve, wetlands and recreation area, searching for Laundrie and hoping to unravel the mystery of her death.
The search concluded Tuesday with “nothing of note,” North Port police said on Twitter. Officials planned to search again Wednesday.
FBI agents and police searched for clues Monday in the North Port, Florida, home the couple had been sharing with Laundrie’s parents. The FBI declined to provide details on the search by at least a dozen law enforcement officers, but agents removed several boxes and towed away a car. Laundrie’s parents were seen getting into a police vehicle.
“Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI,” Schneider said.
Laundrie and Petito packed up a van in July and began a cross-country adventure that was supposed to conclude late next month in Oregon. But Laundrie returned home alone Sept. 1. Ten days later, Petito’s parents, who live in Long Island, New York, filed a missing persons report after not hearing from her since late August.
Federal authorities discovered Petito’s remains Sunday after combing through the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. Th FBI said Tuesday it concluded its forensic search and reopened the area.
The agency was asking anyone who used the campground between Aug. 27 and 30 and who may have had contact with Petito or Laundrie or who may have seen their vehicle to contact authorities.
Body discovered: Gabby Petito’s body believed to have been found near Grand Teton National Park, FBI says
Resource supervisor feared for Petito after 911 call
In Utah, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office on Monday released a 911 call from Aug. 12 in which the caller says he drove by the couple’s van and that “the gentleman was slapping the girl.”
“They ran up and down the sidewalk,” the caller says. “He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.”
A video released by the Moab Police Department, which has gone viral, shows Petito visibly upset when an officer approached. A crying Petito explains that she and Laundrie had been arguing over her excessive cleaning of the van. Laundrie says the couple had gotten into a scuffle after he climbed into the van with dirty feet.
The officer wrote in a report that the two had been traveling together for several months, creating an “emotional strain.” The couple were told to sleep in separate places for the night.
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“I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis,” the officer concluded in the report.
Melissa Hulls, a resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park near Moab, heard the possible domestic assault call and went to the scene.
“I can still hear her voice,” Hulls told the Deseret News. “She wasn’t just a face on the milk carton, she was real to me.”
Hulls said she implored Petito to “reevaluate her relationship” and consider a new path.
“It’s hard not to second-guess myself and wish I said more,” she said. “Or wish I had found the right words to make her believe that she deserved more.”
Latest news on case; Search for boyfriend Brian Laundrie stalls: What we know
Brian Laundrie family reports him missing
A month later, after Petito’s family had reported her missing, authorities conducting the search for Petito said Laundrie and his family declined to discuss the case. That changed Friday, when family members said Laundrie had gone hiking three days earlier and never returned. Family members found his car at the nearby Carlton Reserve.
Dozens of law enforcement officers searched the reserve over the weekend. On Monday, North Port police halted the effort, saying they had “exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there.”
But hours later, police tweeted that the “search for Brian Laundrie will resume Tuesday in the Carlton Reserve, Venice side.” Venice is west of the reserve.
“We join the FBI in asking for continued public assistance by sharing any information through the tip lines,” the tweet added.
The Friends of Carlton Reserve said on its website that the reserve was closed to the public “until further notice.”
‘Sighting’ draws search to North Florida
In North Florida’s Okaloosa County, sheriff’s officials said on Facebook they did their “due diligence” and were wrapping up an extensive search in response to a trail camera in Baker that captured the grainy image of a man who looked somewhat like Laundrie.
Baker is about 500 miles northwest of North Point. The sheriff’s office said local farmlands also were scoured without success.
“We wanted to let you know we are aware of this report and are actively checking it out,” the post said. “No one, and nothing of note was located.”
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Tragedy is a social media sensation
Petito’s death has mesmerized the nation and prompted an avalanche of social media musings and tips from amateur sleuths. The #GabbyPetito hashtag has more than 500 million views on the video app TikTok. Many TikTok creators share updates including unconfirmed reports, theories and their own feelings about the case.
Travel vloggers Jenn and Kyle Bethune said on Instagram they spotted Petito’s white van in GoPro footage they recorded while camping in late August. They shared the footage with the FBI before posting it online. Petito’s remains were found close to that spot.
Todd Shipley, president of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, said social media efforts to help investigations can provide clues, but also can create problems for investigators trying to sort through all the information.
“With thousands of tips coming in it can be both valuable and overwhelming,” he told USA TODAY.
Contributing: Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY