UPDATE (9/20): Teton County, Wyoming, coroner Dr. Brent Blue says that an autopsy will be done on the remains matching the description of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito on Tuesday. Per CNN, the identity will be confirmed via photos, personal ID, or DNA.
Petito’s family paid tribute to the young woman on Sunday night. Her father Joseph Petito, tweeted a picture of her saying, “She touched the world.”
— joseph petito (@josephpetito) September 19, 2021
Investigators in the disappearance of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito announced Sunday that they have discovered a body fitting the description of the “van life” blogger in the national forest in Teton County.
The discovery of the body comes days after Petito’s family reported the 22-year-old missing on September 11th, and weeks after they last heard from her while she was visiting the national park with her now-missing fiancé Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in her disappearance.
The FBI, Jackson Police Department, Teton County Sheriff’s Office, and the National Park Service confirmed the news at a press conference Sunday afternoon. While the coroner had not 100% positively identified Petito’s body, her family was notified of the death. “Cause of death has not been determined at this time,” the FBI’s supervisory senior resident agent Charles Jones said, visibly emotional. “This is an active investigation.”
The live update has concluded and we will share a recording soon. Our statement is attached & we have no additional comment at this time. #FBIDenver & our partners extend our condolences to Gabby's family. We thank the public for your generous support of this investigation. pic.twitter.com/kZiSVmJtqv
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 19, 2021
A representative for Laundrie did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
Laundrie returned home to Florida on September 1st with Petito’s van, but without his fiancée. After failing to get an explanation from the 23-year-old Laundrie about the status of their daughter, Petito’s family filed a missing person report on September 11th. Laundrie lawyered up soon after and refused to speak to police about what occurred.
On Friday evening, September 17th, Laundrie’s parents allowed North Port, Florida, police officers to enter their home; it was at that point that they revealed they hadn’t seen their son Brian since Tuesday, September 14th. As of Sunday evening, Laundrie was still missing.
“For six days, the North Port Police Department and the F.B.I. have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian’s fiancée, Gabby Petito,” the North Port Police Department’s statement said. “Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail.”
In the week since Petito was declared missing, social media, and especially TikTok, became fixated on the case, with the hashtags #findgabby and #gabbypetito generating tens of millions of views. (One TikTok user, in a series of videos, also detailed an encounter she and her boyfriend allegedly had with a hitchhiking Laundrie — but not Petito — on the evening of August 29th near Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park.)
On Saturday, the FBI announced they were beginning search efforts in the vicinity of Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area within the Grand Teton National Park:
The #FBIDenver Field Office and its Wyoming Resident Agencies, in coordination with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Teton County Sheriff's Office & Jackson Police Department, have been conducting ground surveys at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area. pic.twitter.com/95HjWcEuDU
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 19, 2021
According to an August 12th police report, the pair had fought in the weeks before Petito was reported missing. In Moab, Utah, a person called the police after witnessing “some sort of altercation” between Petito and Laundrie outside a shop. Officers pulled them over in the van, and decided the incident had been more of a “mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault.”
Laundrie and Petito both told officers Petito suffers from “severe anxiety.” According to a statement they made to officers, they had argued, and Laundrie had told Petito to take a walk and calm down. She had not wanted to be separated from him and had slapped him. He “grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van.” Laundrie had tried to lock her out of the van but she entered through the driver’s side door and climbed over him as he drove away.
Neither Laundrie nor Petito wanted to file charges against each other, so officers separated them for the night, sending Laundrie to a hotel and leaving the van with Petito.
Petito’s family last received a text message from their daughter’s phone on August 30th, “No service in Yosemite.” Yosemite is approximately 900 miles away from Yellowstone, Petito’s last known location. Petito’s parents believe their daughter did not send that text message.