A Nation of People Search for Answers After the Death of Gabby Petito and her Fiancé

The Strange Case of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundire


gabspetito on Instagram

Picture of Gabby Petito

Madeleine Miller, Staff Writer

Twenty-two year-old named Gabby Petito, who embarked on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, was reported missing on September 11 and her remains were found in Teton, Wyoming on September 19. Currently Petito’s fiancé, Brain Laundrie is considered a “person of interest” in the case.


Petito and Laundrie started their cross-country road trip together in June 2021 in Petito’s white Ford van to the west coast, visiting national and state parks. At the time, Gabby and Brain were engaged and living together in the same house as Brain’s parents. Petito was originally from New York and that is where her parents are now. The road-trip would normally be a great way for an engaged couple to get out and visit different parts of the country and just enjoy being with each other; this is not how it went for this couple. 


Dr. Brent Blue was the one to perform the autopsy on Petito and he confirmed that she died of strangulation, a couple weeks prior to her body’s discovery. Petito was reported missing after her parent’s received an abrupt stop of communication between them and their daughter near the end of August. The last message they received from Gabby was on the 30th, but it was told that the family do not believe the message was actually from their daughter. 


The text message read: “No service in Yosemite.” It was interesting to read this message and take note of the fact that Gabby was, while on this trip, starting a personal blog, and around the time of her death was active in the social media scene. 


Two days later, on September 1, Laundrie returned alone to his home in North Port, driving the white Ford van that the couple had been traveling in, which was, in fact, under Petito’s name and not his. The van was later recovered at the Laundrie family house. When Gabby was reported missing, the Petito’s attempted to reach out to the Laundries, the people whom their daughter had been living with, under their roof, engaged to marry their son. The Laundries refused to talk to Gabby’s family despite how hard they tried. 


Attention was first brought to the couple on August 12 when Laundrie, driving the Ford, was pulled over by the police in Moab, Utah. The officer reported the two of them “engaged in some sort of altercation.” After talking with both Petito and Laundrie, the officers on site said that the two of them took part in a physical altercation to some degree, leaving scratches on Laundrie’s face and forearms. But both of them also said that they are in love and engaged and neither of them want to press charges on the other. Petito and Laundrie were separated for the night by the police, Petito getting the van and Laundrie taking a hotel room. 


Body-cam footage on the incident in Moab was released, all personal information censored out, but it did show when the officer pulled the couple over after the van was speeding and jumped the curb. It also showed as they were questioned separately, what their behaviors were and what they had to say in answer to the officer’s questions. The video was enlightening in the way of determining the relationship between Petito and Laundrie, while understanding a little more about their lives. In the footage, Laundrie’s behavior was particularly interesting as he was extremely calm, almost serene, while his fiancée was in tears, in the back of one of the officer’s vehicles. 


There have been other reports on Petito and Laundrie arguing in public throughout the duration of their road trip, despite the fact this was supposed to be an exciting and fun vacation for the loving couple. 


Between August 30 and September 1, Brian Laundrie has been suspected of using a debit card and pin to access someone else’s accounts for over $1,000 and as of September 23, the FBI has had a federal arrest warrant out for him on debit card fraud. There have been no further charges addressed to Laundrie. 


A few days after Laundrie’s return from Teton, Wyoming—where Petito’s body was found—on September 6 to September 8, the Laundrie family, including Brian and his parents, went on a camping trip 75 miles away from their home, for no apparent reason. 


Days later, Petito was reported missing on September 11 when the North Port authorities attempted to talk with the Laundrie family but were immediately told to contact the family lawyer, Steven Bertolino.


On September 17, Brian’s parent’s, Roberta and Christopher Laundrie, finally told the police that they haven’t seen their son since September 14. The FBI continued to look for both Gabby and Brian. During the search for Petito and Laundrie, more bodies were discovered and were identified as missing persons unrelated to the Gabby Petito case, from missing person cases that were created even years before. It wasn’t until later in October when Laundrie’s parents admit that their son, in fact, left on the thirteenth, rather than the fourteenth as they originally told the authorities. 


On September 21, Gabby Petito’s identity was confirmed as the body found in Teton, but it wasn’t until October 12 that cause of death was ruled as strangulation. Dr. Brent Blue, the man who performed the autopsy on Petito, said that Gabby’s body was left out in Teton for roughly three to four weeks after she died of strangulation. It was then that Gabby’s death was declared a homicide. 


Police and other authorities continued to look for Brian Laundrie in North Port, Florida. On October 20  the police were searching a Florida park for Brian with his parents and found human remains near multiple items of Brian’s. The next day, dental records confirmed that the human remains were Brian Laundrie. The curious thing about having found Laundrie’s remains was that the police had already been thoroughly searching the park before Brian’s parents joined the search party, but the day that they did, they found his body. 


Brian’s autopsy was ruled as “inconclusive” and the remains were sent to anthropologists for further examination. The area that Laundrie was found had been submerged in water along with surrounding areas in the recent weeks making a multitude of causes for his death possible.


Although confused by his death, police suggest that Brian Laundrie “probably” died of suicide, even without an established cause of death. Many questions about this case are left unanswered following Laundrie’s death, along with various strange occurrences that happened throughout the duration of this case, including the mix up with the police’s surveillance of the Laundrie family’s house when they mistaked Brian for his mother. 

This case has been full of mistakes and strange discoveries. Everything from the misjudgement on the police’s part when Petito and Laundrie were first pulled over in Moab, to the bodies of missing persons unrelated to this case found in the search for Petito and Laundrie. Two young people are dead and police are being probed for answers that they do not, and may never, have.

This case went from a simple missing person case to a complicated homicide, concerning the whole nation in the face of domestic abuse, police efficiency, and all those over-zealous people carefully following the Petito-Laundrie case.