Gabby Petito’s Death & Brian Laundrie’s Disappearance

Photo of suspect Brian Laundrie and victim, Gabby Petito (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/gabby-petito-s-cause-death-was-strangulation-coroner-determines-n1281319)

Photo of suspect Brian Laundrie and victim, Gabby Petito (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/gabby-petito-s-cause-death-was-strangulation-coroner-determines-n1281319)

Ariana Warner, Author

On what was supposed to be a cross country trip, ended in death and disappearance. A young woman named Gabby Petito, went traveling across the states with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. He arrived at his home with no Petito. Gabby was reported missing, and her remains were soon found. Brian wouldn’t cooperate with police, and became a person of interest in Gabby’s murder. Suddenly, Brian disappeared without a trace.

The couple started their 4 month cross-country trip in the beginning of July. They planned to drive Petito’s white van across the states, from Long Island, their hometown, to visit national parks. The two planned to reach Oregon by Halloween. Gabby was anxious to vlog their trip, and post the trip on social media as well. Everything seemed to be going well, until August came around.

Brian returned to the home he and Gabby shared with his parents, in North Port, Florida, with the van they had been traveling in, without Petito. After not receiving any calls for weeks, and not seeing any social media posts since the end of August, Petito’s family reported her missing September 11th, 2021. Soon after this, the search for her body began, and things became more difficult to understand.

Police asked for the Laundrie family to come forward about any information they knew involving this case. Laundrie’s parents told police they haven’t seen their son since the 14th of September, but strangely reported that this days after the fact he left. He claimed to be going to the Carlton Reserve, which is a nature reserve near their home. The family says Brian left with a backpack, while a source who’s close to the Laundrie family added Brian left without his phone and wallet. The family’s story soon changed. They claimed to have last seen their son on September 13th, 2021, which is a day before their original date they had said. The families attorney, Bertolino, told CNN that Chris Laundrie, Brian Laundrie’s father, searched for Brian the same day he left home, after he did not return. The following day Laundries parents returned to the area, and this time located their Ford Mustang abandoned with a citation placed on it. They then retrieved their car the next day.

Not only was there an ongoing search for Gabby, but now for Laundrie. The authorities searched the reserve for Brian, but to no avail. After a week of searching for Petito, remains were found in Wyoming Bridger-Teton National Forest. Two days after the finding of the remains, it was confirmed that they belonged to the young, once lively, woman. The medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Petito, said her cause of death was strangulation. 

A few events occurred between the couple before the death of Gabby. Their Ford van was pulled over when Brian was speeding, and hit a curb near the entrance of Arches National Park. Police described the two as having, “some sort of altercation,” on August 12th, 2021. A caller reported a domestic dispute, and described the vehicle to be a white, Ford van, with a Florida license plate, which correlated to Petito’s van. The caller claimed as they drove by, “the gentleman was slapping the girl.”  “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off,” the caller added.

Although this was a domestic altercation, “both the male and female reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” a report from officer Eric Pratt says. Police suggested the two stay separated for the night, and chose not to press charges. Petito kept the van, while Brian checked into a motel. 

Day’s later, another red flag leading up to the death of Petito was witnessed. An altercation occurred between the two, with an unknown cause of how it began. A couple from Louisiana, who were vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming, said they saw the couple involved in a, what they said, ‘commotion,’ at the Merry Piglet restaurant. Nina Angelo, as well as her boyfriend, were at the restaurant, when they witnessed the couple’s encounter. She said Laundrie was screaming at the staff, and hostess, and Gabby was crying, and apologizing. “It looked as though they were like almost getting kicked out,” Angelo told ABC News. “It wasn’t necessarily between them, it was more so Gabby abruptly leaving the restaurant crying, and Brian was just evidently really upset, pissed off, I would say. I would say Gabby was upset, he was angry, and he was just being very temperamental towards the restaurant staff,” Nina also added. 

This was the last sighting of the two together. A few messages were exchanged between Mrs.Schmidt, (Petitos mother) and Petito. Gabby texted her mother saying, “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” Petito was referring to her grandfather, who she never calls by his first name, which was odd. She then texted Mrs.Schmidt saying, “No service in Yosemite,” which was her last text ever sent. Not only was this skeptical, but so was the fact her ongoing social media presence was no more. There were no posts to indicate their trip to Yosemite. Gabby kept in contact with her mother most of the trip, but that soon stopped. 

Laundrie still hasn’t been located, and the search still continues. Not only is he a person of interest in this homicide, but the FBI said Brian has been charged for using two financial accounts that were not his, between the dates of August 30th, and September 1st. According to the indictment, Brian did this intentionally, and had intent to defraud. Although the Petito family now has closure, there’s still so many unanswered questions. A trip that was supposed to be full of love and memories, ended in death and mystery.