The FBI has confirmed that a body found inside a Wyoming national park on Sunday belongs to the missing “van life” blogger Gabby Petito
Petito, 22, was visiting Grand Teton National Park with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23 – Laundrie has vanished and police are searching for him
He’s considered a “person of interest” in the case, but has not been charged with any crime
“Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito… Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide,” the FBI’s Denver office tweeted
The couple had been travelling for several weeks before Laundrie returned home to Florida alone with their van on Sept. 1
He did not contact police or the Petito family on his return, they reported her missing 10 days later
Several weeks earlier, police in the Utah town of Moab were called to a possible domestic violence incident
Bodycam footage showed Petito crying and complaining about her mental health
A police report later said Laundrie claimed Petito had struck him during an argument
No charges were filed, with officers recommending that the couple spend the night apart
A coroner made an initial finding that her death was homicide but gave no indication as to how she died.
Petito, 22, was visiting Grand Teton National Park with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23.
Police are currently searching for Laundrie, whose whereabouts are unknown.
He is considered a “person of interest” in the case, but has not been charged with any crime.
No details from the post-mortem have been released.
“Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito… Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide,” the FBI’s Denver office tweeted.
The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results.’
The FBI on Tuesday said that a forensic search of the camping area where her body was found had ended, and appealed for anyone who was in the area from August 27 to August 30 to contact them.
‘We extend sincere condolences to Gabby’s family, friends, and all the people whose lives she touched,’ the FBI said in a statement.
They also added her to their ‘seeking information’ site, describing her as a ‘homicide victim’.
Petito’s case was being referred to as a criminal investigation for the first time on Tuesday.
‘This is an FBI-led criminal investigation and North Port Police are assisting our federal partner in any way we can to bring this investigation to a close,’ said Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for Florida’s North Port Police Department.
Laundrie’s family said on Tuesday evening, through their lawyer: ‘May Gabby Rest In Peace.’
The Petito family said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that they will speak publicly after her body is returned home.
The couple had been travelling for several weeks before Laundrie returned home to Florida alone with their white van on Sept. 1. He did not contact police or the Petito family on his return.
Petito’s family reported her missing 10 days later.
Weeks earlier, police in the Utah town of Moab were called to a possible domestic violence incident. Bodycam footage from the incident shows Petito crying and complaining about her mental health. A police report later said Laundrie claimed Petito had struck him during an argument.
The first report of the ‘van-life’ blogger missing was filed on September 11 by Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt.
Schmidt said that she last spoke to her daughter on August 24. She then received two text messages from her phone, but the wording sounded odd and she is unsure if Petito sent them.
The couple had been in contact with police shortly before she vanished.
On August 12, a passerby in Moab, Utah, called police after seeing a man and a woman in a blazing row, physically fighting each other.
In the audio, the male caller tells a Grant County sheriff that a ‘gentleman’ in a white van with a Florida license plate had slapped a girl in the vehicle before driving away.
One witness to the row wrote in his statement that ‘they were talking aggressively [at] each other [and] something definitely seemed off.’
He added: ‘At one point, they were sort of fighting over a phone – I think the male took the female’s phone. It appeared that he didn’t want her in the white van. ‘I heard her say, ‘Why do you have to be so mean?’
He saw Petito allegedly ‘punching him in the arm’ and trying to get inside the vehicle – which was registered in her name. She had been working as a pharmacy technician to save money for the four-month trip.
‘From my point of view, something definitely didn’t seem right,’ this witness wrote.
‘It was as if the guy was trying to leave her, and maybe take her phone? Not sure but wanted to help out.’
Petito and Laundrie were both interviewed by police, and Petito claimed that Laundrie sometimes hit her.
Melissa Hulls, the visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park, told Petito that her relationship with Laundrie ‘seemed toxic’.
‘I was probably more candid with her than I should’ve been,’ Hulls told Desert News.
‘I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life.
‘She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida.’ In the end, Petito stayed with Laundrie.
‘This wasn’t a good day for anybody. We thought we were making the right decision when we left them.’ A huge manhunt was launched on September 11 to find the missing woman, and police said that they eventually received more than 1,000 tips.
Petito’s body was located on Sunday at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area.
The camp site is on the edge of the Grand Teton national park, and has views of the stunning mountain range.
No charges were filed, with officers recommending that the couple spend the night apart. What happened next is unclear.
Laundrie’s has disappeared, his whereabouts are now the subject of intense interest. His car has been recovered, abandoned, from the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida. The Mustang had a note on it asking for the car to be removed.
Police on Monday said they had ‘exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there,’ but are still looking for Laundrie.
Laundrie’s family reported him missing over the weekend. They claim he left for a hike on Sept.14, and never returned. He had refused to speak with investigators before disappearing.
The search for Laundrie has focused on a 24,000-acre nature reserve near his home in North Port, Florida.
Police are using dogs, drones, and all-terrain vehicles for the search, which officers say is complicated by difficult, swampy terrain.
Additionally, police are investigating hundreds of reported sightings of Laundrie, including more than a dozen from Alabama, which borders Florida to the west.
On Monday, investigators searched the Laundrie family home. Agents were then seen removing several boxes from the house and towing away a silver Ford Mustang.
The case has captivated the public, with each new development becoming the focus of web sleuths on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter – As of Tuesday, the hashtag #GabbyPetito has received more than 650 million views on the social media platform TikTok, according to AP.
Petito and Laundrie had cultivated a following on social media as the traversed the West in their van, and fellow social media users jumped into the hunt for clues.
The van was spotted in footage made by YouTubers, a TikTok user said that she had given an ‘antsy’ Laundrie a lift when he was hitchhiking on August 29, and an Idaho woman who owns a shop in the town of Victor said that she had seen the pair around that time.