Gabby Petito, 22, and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, went on a cross-country road trip in early August to see several national parks. Petito was very enthusiastic about the trip, according to friends and family, and she posted regularly on her social media accounts with updates about where the couple was going and what they had been doing.
Then, in late August, the updates suddenly stopped. Petito’s parents stopped receiving text messages from her, and Brian Laundrie returned to his home in Florida alone. He offered no explanation to Petito’s whereabouts, and both Laundrie and his parents, whom he still lived with, refused to cooperate with the police. Laundrie himself has not been charged with a crime, but he has gone missing: on September 14, Laundrie told his parents he was going backpacking at a nearby nature reserve.
He hasn’t been seen since.
In the meantime, authorities in Grand Teton, Wyoming, discovered remains that they thought might belong to Petito. An autopsy on Thursday confirmed their suspicions, with the coroner stating that he believes Petito was murdered. While authorities are searching for Laundrie, the search is currently a missing person’s case, not a manhunt. Laundrie has not been charged with any crimes.
A police report from early August indicates that an officer in Utah had to be called out to intervene with Petito and Laundrie, who were engaged in a physical confrontation after an argument got heated. Neither wanted to press charges for the fight, so no arrests were made at the time. Police recommended that the couple spend a night apart, which Petito apparently acquiesced to.
The two later met back up before continuing their road trip. Petito was last seen alive around the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, at some point between August 27 and August 30. This is around the time her social media and text message updates stopped.
Internet sleuths and commentators are convinced that Laundrie’s sudden reappearance at home without Petito and his subsequent disappearance aren’t just coincidences. Some people online have even alleged that Laundrie may have gotten into another argument with Petito while in the Spread Creek region and that he may have taken her life during this altercation.
While Laundrie hasn’t been formally accused of any crime, police are urgently searching for him. The timing of his disappearance is suspicious, to say the least. Police recently searched the Laundrie home, having secured a warrant after Brian’s disappearance. At the time of this writing, the search for Laundrie is ongoing.