Gabby Petito’s friend believes Brian Laundrie is “somewhere in the woods”

A massive manhunt continued this week for Gabby Petito‘s fiancé Brian Laundrie.

Authorities searched dense swampland in Florida. And the FBI has now issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie – charging him with unauthorized use of a bank card — withdrawing sums of money around the time Gabby went missing.

The warrant would also allow the FBI to arrest anyone aiding or abetting Laundrie if he is on the run. 

Last week, when Gabby’s remains turned up in a national forest in Wyoming, it upended what had begun with so much promise.

Joseph Petito:  Coolest chic you’ve ever met, man. By far, she’s going to make ya — she’s going to make you make you smile.

Joseph Petito is Gabby’s dad.

Joseph Petito:  Coolest chic you ever met. Simple as that.

petito-findgabby.jpg
“She’s a beautiful, free spirit,” Nichole Schmidt says of daughter Gabby Petito. FindGabby/Facebook

Gabby — a 22-year-old New York girl from Long Island with an appetite for adventure.

Nichole Schmidt: She knew she wanted to take this trip.

Nichole Schmidt is Gabby’s mom.

Nichole Schmidt: She had told me about it probably a year before it started.

Rose Davis: Brian’s very charismatic. And he always comes off as such a sweet person and just kind of, like, “I’m here.”

One of Gabby’s close friends is Rose Davis. They met soon after Gabby moved to Florida.

Rose Davis: She texted me one of the sweetest messages I think I’ve ever got from someone. … And it was just, like, “You seem so cool. I really wanna be your friend.” And I [laughs] was just …  “Absolutely,” you know?

They made TikTok videos together for fun. 

Davis says Gabby was good friends with Brian back in high school in New York. Then, after Brian moved to Florida, Gabby moved there too – to be closer to him.

Rose Davis: I always told her her life is kind of like a movie ’cause I was just, like, “This happens in movies.”

Soon, they were in love and living together. 

Rose Davis: She’d let me know what they did and, you know, He’d make her breakfast. And it was always such a cute little thing. And they did cute, little dinners.

petito-laundrie-anniversary.jpg
“Anyone that’s met the two of them has been, like, ‘They seem like such a nice couple,”  Rose Davis says of her close friend Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. “But a lotta couples look nice on Instagram.” Gabby Petito/Instagram

In July 2020 they got engaged. They even got tattoos together. 

But, in her first TV interview, Davis tells “48 Hours” Brian could sometimes exhibit what she calls “toxic traits.”

Rose Davis: When Brian wants something, he’s gonna get it.  And I don’t mean in a physical way, he’s gonna force it.  He’s just gonna … I don’t want people to say I’m calling him a full manipulator, but he’ll manipulate the situation to get what he wants out of it.  And, you know, he didn’t want her to go out one night with me and he stole her I.D. because you can’t get into the bar without your I.D. … and, you know, this was really upsetting to her, you know, you’re engaged.  It’s not, you know, it’s not supposed to be like that.          

But the couple seemed to put any drama behind them as they got ready for their adventure.  Gabby worked hard at a Taco Bell and with Brian at a Publix supermarket, saving money for their trip. 

Nichole Schmidt: They bought the van they converted it.

The goal was to spend four or five months crisscrossing the country, having adventures — even working on organic farms — and chronicling it all in real time on social media.

Rose Davis: She was just, like, “I wanna document this. This is so cool to be doing.” And she just kinda — yeah, kinda like a vlogger, just let everyone know what she was up to. 

Nichole Schmidt: She was excited starting her van life … Digital journey where she’s creating this whole, you know, following of van lifers, and that’s what she was really into at the moment.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
Briian Laundrie and Gabby Petito at the start of their journey on July 4, 2021. Gabby would document their adventure on social media. Brian Laundrie/Instagram

They rolled out officially on July 2. Gabby posted constantly — every little detail.

GABBY PETITO [“Van Life” video]: You can’t keep chocolate in Utah. Not in July [Gabby and Brian laugh].

Brian mostly gave her kisses, but sometimes said a few words.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE [“Van Life” video]: We’ve been lucky so far in all the places we’ve stayed but I’d say this is one of the best so far.

But all those selfies may have been hiding a darker story.

Rose Davis: It’s everything behind the scenes you don’t know, and this, this is, this looks bad. 

Six weeks into their trip, on the afternoon of August 12 near the Arches National Park in Utah, Gabby and Brian’s Instagram road trip came to a shuddering stop     

A CONFRONTATION

It was August 12 in Moab Utah, four weeks before Gabby Petito was reported missing, when a 911 caller reports seeing an alarming confrontation between Gabby and Brian:

OFFICER: Grand County Sheriff’s Office …

911 CALLER: We’re driving by and I’d like to report a domestic dispute …

911 CALLER: … a Florida license plate, white van …

OFFICER: What were they doing?

911 CALLER: We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl.

OFFICER: He was slapping her?

911 CALLER: Yes. Then we stopped, they ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her. Hopped in the car and they drove off.

Police are dispatched, and within minutes Gabby and Brian’s white van is spotted driving erratically outside Arches National Park. It was around 4:45 p.m., according to a police officer’s bodycam:  

OFFICER [bodycam video]: Driver is showing some obscure driving. Possibly intoxicated.

OFFICER: Currently doing 45 miles an hour, zone through here is 25. Oh — subject just hit the curb! Correction, speed limit is 15.

They’re pulled over.  It’s not clear if responding officers were given details of that 911 call, but we do know that Gabby and Brian tell a very different story. Gabby never clearly says that Brian hit her.

OFFICER: You wanna tell me what’s going on?

GABBY PETITO: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s just — some days I — I have really bad OCD and I just — I was just cleaning and straightening up the back of the van before. And I was apologizing to him and saying, “I’m sorry that I’m so mean …”

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Gabby Petito is seen  talking to a Moab, Utah, police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park on August 12, 2021.  Moab Police Department

GABBY PETITO: … and I’m trying to start a blog, I just have a blog. So — so I’ve been building my website. So, I’ve just been really stressed and … he doesn’t really believe that I can do any of it, so that’s kind of been like a — I don’t know, he’s like — I don’t know, we’ve just been fighting all morning and — and he wouldn’t let me in the car before, and then I –

OFFICER: Why wouldn’t he let you in the car? ‘Cause of your – ’cause of your OCD?

GABBY PETITO: He told me I — he told me I needed to calm down.

Brian walks over to the officers.

OFFICER: So, tell me, what’s going on?

BRIAN LAUNDRIE: Well, she just gets worked up sometimes. And I try and really distance myself from her. So, I locked the car. And I walked away from her.

Brian tells police that Gabby attacked him — scratching his face and his arm — as she tried to get back into the van.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE [to officer]: She had her phone and was trying to get the keys from me. So, I was backing away — I know I shouldn’t have pushed her, but I was just trying to push her away to go, “Let’s take a minute. Step back and breathe.” And you see, she got me with her phone [show sofficer his face].

While the officer wearing the bodycam places a call into dispatch, another officer continues to question Gabby.

OFFICER 2: Where’d you hit him?

GABBY PETITO: I was slapping him …

OFFICER 2: You slapped him first? Just on his face? … And then what? His reaction was to do what? … You were scratching him? Did he, did he hit you though? I mean, I mean it’s OK if you’re saying you hit him, I understand if he hit you, but we want to know the truth if he actually hit you. Cause you know —

GABBY: I guess — I guess, yeah, but I hit him first.

OFFICER 2: Where did he hit you? Don’t worry, just be honest.

GABBY PETITO: He like, grabbed my face like this, I guess.” [cups her chin with her hand]

That’s as far as Gabby would go in placing blame on Brian. But for his part, Brian seems to dismiss Gabby. 

Missing Traveler
This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrby Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park on August 12, 2021.  Moab Police Department/AP

OFFICER: Do you know if she takes anything?

BRIAN LAUNDRIE: She’s just crazy. No. [laughs] No I don’t think so.

In the video, the officers never ask Brian if he hit Gabby. But there was a second eyewitness that day.

OFFICER 2 [bodycam video]: The witness says I never saw him hit her, I saw him shove her but I couldn’t tell if it was an aggression against her or a defense against her … So at this point, from what — unless the guy’s screaming that he needs to go to jail and did something to this girl — it sounds to me like she was the primary aggressor.

OFFICER: Yeah.

For over an hour, the officers at the scene tell the couple they have no choice but to arrest Gabby; but then they take a different approach.

OFFICER 2 [bodycam video]: Gabby. This is a very, very important question. How you answer this question is going to determine what happens next. But the only person who can answer this question is you.

GABBY PETITO: OK.

They determine they may not have to arrest her if Gabby did not intend to harm Brian.

OFFICER 2: When you slapped him those times. Were you attempting to cause him physical pain or physical impairment? Is that what you were attempting to do to him?

GABBY PETITO: No. Never.

OFFICER 2: What were you — what were you attempting to do? What was the reason behind the slapping and stuff? What was it you were attempting to accomplish by slapping him?

GABBY PETITO: I was trying to get him to stop telling me to calm down.

OFFICER 2 [to the other officer]: Well, it doesn’t sound to me like she attempted to injure him.

Ultimately, she’s not arrested.

OFFICER: I’ve decided I am not going to cite you for domestic violence, battery, OK.

GABBY PETITO: OK. 

Police then separate them for the night. Gabby remains with the van. And because they think Brian is the victim of domestic abuse, they arrange a hotel for him.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE: I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

OFFICER: No problem. Nice meeting you Brian. [officer shakes Brian’s hand]

Weeks later when the bodycam tapes were released, the account of what happened and the sight of her close friend crying horrified Rose Davis.

GABBY PETITO [to officer on bodycam]: But I’m so calm, I’m calm all the time and he really stresses me out.

Rose Davis: It takes a lot for her to get her that hysterical. And so, when I saw the bodycam, I knew it was more than a little argument. She’s not gonna slap him for no reason.

And she wasn’t the only one concerned.  When that 911 call became public, the Twitterverse exploded:

“…my blood is boiling at how they failed this poor girl.”

All I Know is this didn’t have to end like this. Police missed an opportunity.”

They had enough to arrest him. They gave him the benefit of the doubt. They could’ve saved her. Her poor mother.”

Domestic violence experts say the officers seemed to miss classic signs of domestic abuse — such as Brian describing Gabby as “crazy” and Gabby accepting the blame:

BRIAN LAUNDRIE [to officer]: She’s just crazy. No. [laughs] …

GABBY PETITO [to officer]: And I was apologizing to him saying, ‘I’m sorry that I’m so mean.”

Jim Winder: It is unfair for anyone evaluating this case to blame those two officers for something that there is no way they could’ve known.

Jim Winder was the Moab Police chief until 2019.

Jim Winder: They did the best job they possibly could do given the resources they had. 

He says officers often do not have all the information relayed during 911 calls and do not always have the chance to follow up with witnesses. 

Jim Winder: These officers are there making real life decisions … they’re seeing what they see, they’re hearing what they’re hearing and they’re trying to make the best decision possible for both parties involved.

The officers involved did not respond to “48 Hours”‘ request for an interview. The City of Moab issued a statement saying it will investigate how the police department handled the incident – the city said it is not aware of any breach of policy at this time.

Just days after that traffic stop, Gabby and Brian were back on the road headed north to Salt Lake City.

On August 19, Gabby posted an edited eight-minute video showing their journey together.

GABBY PETITO [“Van Life” video]: Hello, hello and good morning … It is really nice and sunny today.

The video showed no signs of any tension between Gabby and Brian.

Later, Gabby told her mom they were leaving Utah and driving to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Nichole Schmidt: She was happy, she was excited to keep going on her journey and that was the last time I spoke to her. Verbally.

Gabby Petito
One of the series of photos in Gabby Petito’s last Instagram post. Gabby Petito/Instagram

On August 25, Gabby posted a series of photos on Instagram in front of a butterfly mural in Ogden, Utah. It would be her final post on Instagram.

AUGUST 25 TO SEPTEMBER 11

While the Instagram post from August 25 is believed to be the last time Gabby Petito was seen on social media, it may not have been the last time she was seen in public.

Sonnie Mason: A girl came in with long blond hair, with a guy and they ordered a milkshake … and our employees had mispronounced her name saying “Gahby” instead of “Gabby,” which is why it stood out.

Mason was working at a popular tourist shop, Victor Emporium, in Idaho, where she believes she spoke with Gabby on either August 25 or 26. The store is located about 30 miles from the Grand Tetons.

Sonnie Mason: I noticed her flower tattoo, which I always liked, so we were talking a little about her tattoo.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito photographed at Bryce Canyon National Park on July 21, 2021.   Gabby Petito/Instagram

She says Gabby talked about visiting national parks, with Yellowstone next on their tour.  It was an ordinary conversation — the type Mason has with many customers. But one thing did stand out she says — it was Brian’s behavior.

Sonnie Mason: It felt kind of weird because he — it felt like he almost prompted her to mention to me that she was engaged.  And we get a lot of engaged couples and it doesn’t usually come up that way. It just felt kind of odd like it was a reminder to her to be, like, “Oh look, we’re engaged.” … It felt like he felt slighted for her not talking about her engagement, or not like being excited.

Odd was also how Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, would describe a text message she received from her daughter’s phone on August 27. It read, “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” Stan is Gabby’s grandfather. But Nichole says Gabby never referred to him by his first name. It was out of character and concerning, but as far as the Petito family knew, Gabby and Brian were still together on their trip.

MIRANDA BAKER [TikTok video]: Hi, my name is Miranda Baker and on August 29th, my boyfriend and I picked up Brian at Grand Teton National Park at 5:30 at night at Colter Bay. 

Two days after Gabby’s mother received that cryptic text, Miranda Baker says she and her boyfriend picked up a man who she believes was Brian Laundrie. She says he was alone.

MIRANDA BAKER [TikTok video]: He approached us asking us for a ride, ’cause he needed to go to Jackson. … Before he came into the car, he offered to pay us like $200 to give him a ride like 10 miles, so that was kind of weird. … He then told us that he was camping for multiple days without his fiancé — and that she was working on their social media page back at their van.

Suddenly, says Baker, things took a turn when there was confusion over where they were going.

MIRANDA BAKER [TikTok video]: He freaked out — he’s like, “Nope, I need to get out right now. Like pull over” We dropped him off at 6:09 p.m. on August 29th.

Meanwhile, Gabby’s mother and stepfather, Jim, hadn’t heard from their daughter since that worrisome text message from August 27. Nichole, though, did receive one more text.

Nichole Schmidt: The last text I received from her phone was August 30th.

Jericka Duncan: And what did that text say?

Nichole Schmidt: I can’t comment on that.

Jericka Duncan: Are you confident that was from her or you’re not sure?

Nichole Schmidt: I can’t comment on that.

The text, according to some reports, read, “no service in yosemite.”

During Gabby’s travels, she had been staying in touch with her friend Rose Davis. Davis was expecting to hear from Gabby on her birthday. 

Rose Davis: So, we talked and my birthday’s August 29th. So, we decided, “Call me then …”

Rose Davis and Gabby Petito
Friends Rose Davis and Gabby Petito Instagram

But no birthday call, or text came.

Rose Davis: I honestly didn’t think anything of it when she didn’t text me or anything ’cause … she’s traveling cross-country. And, you know, once it got — it got later into it — around, like, the — the — 8th and 9th of September … that was the point where I was, like, “She woulda called me … Why haven’t I heard from her yet?”  

What Davis did not know was that on September 1, Brian Laundrie was back in North Port, Florida. He had driven the van there — and he was alone. The Petito family knew none of this, but they had already become alarmed when they stopped hearing from Gabby altogether, and her cellphone had stopped working.

Jericka Duncan: Did you ever reach out to her boyfriend to figure out what happened and where — where your daughter is?   

Nichole Schmidt: We can’t comment on it.

Jim Schmidt: We’re not commenting on that.

But Gabby’s mother did reach out to police.

Nichole Schmidt: It was actually Friday, the 10th, that I decided to call police because I had had 10 days, 10 — almost 11 days was enough for me to not hear from my child. And I got the runaround. Nobody wanted to report her missing. She’s an adult. She’s traveling. … As a mother, I said it’s not like her. Finally, that Saturday, I went personally to Suffolk County Fifth Precinct and a wonderful detective decided to take the case.

Gabby Petito was officially declared a missing person on September 11, 2021. As the nation remembered so many lives lost 20 years earlier, the Petito family focused on one life — that of their missing daughter.      

Nichole Schmidt: We’re looking for her and only her, not the van, not the two of them, just — just her. Keep your eyes out and we’ll find her.

And soon, the cross-county journey documented on social media, turned into a cross country virtual search party. From Instagram to Twitter to TikTok, the question was: where was Gabby Petito?

THE SEARCH FOR GABBY GOES VIRAL

What happened to Gabby Petito? On Monday, September 13, the story of her disappearance hit the news.

WINK NEWS REPORT: A woman disappeared on a cross country trip with her boyfriend.

KRISTINE JOHNSON | WCBS: The parents of a missing woman from Long Island need help finding her.

Gabby’s mom and stepfather, Nicole and Jim Schmidt, held up her photo for reporters.  

Gabby Petito's mother and stepfather
On September 11, 2021, Nicole Schmidt, Gabby Petito’s mother, files a missing person’s report with Suffolk County, New York, Police Department. Schmidt and husband Jim appeal for Gabby’s safe return. WCBS

JIM SCHMIDT: Gabby is 22 years old. She is an absolutely beautiful, beautiful soul inside and out.

Rose Davis was devastated to see her friend’s mom on TV.

Rose Davis: My mom called me into her room, and uh, Gabby’s face was all over the news. … and uh, I kinda just went into shock.   

The last place Gabby was seen was reported to be Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Along with her mom and stepfather, her father, Joe Petito, and stepmother Tara set up a “Find Gabby” website where people could post tips and information. 

Jericka Duncan: What are you hoping comes out of this?   

Joseph Petito: Our child is missing.   

Nichole Schmidt: We want her home.    

Joseph Petito: We want her home safe and sound.  

Rose Davis: I immediately, immediately — made, like, a collage of all of our photos, edited it for a TikTok and posted the information and sent it out there. … Facebook, Instagram, everything.  

Tanya Chen: The early social media presence surrounding the case was kind of a small fire at first.  

Tanya Chen writes about internet culture for BuzzFeed News. She says people instantly connected with Gabby

Tanya Chen: It was maybe like minutes after the news broke that people were already kind of compiling what they were seeing online into these videos.

TIKTOK VIDEO: I’m sure you’ve heard of this by now, but Gabby Petito is missing.

TIKTOK VIDEO: … going to be going to the Grand Tetons to see if there’s anything that we can do to help in the search of Gabby Petito.

Tanya Chen: I was being fed them ahead of reports that I was seeing, you know – so that was something new for me. 

Chen says she’s been stunned by how quickly finding Gabby became an internet sensation.

Tanya Chen: Online sleuths instantly elevate an event or headlines.  The more they talk about it the more other people are paying attention and learn about it. … In this case, it galvanized millions of people instantly to follow what was happening and to talk about it and to find answers for themselves.

One person who wasn’t helping: Gabby’s fiancé Brian Laundrie. North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor said the police were frustrated. Brian had driven the van back without Gabby, but neither he nor his parents were talking to police, even though Gabby had lived with them.

Josh Taylor: We were essentially handed the information for their attorney. That is the extent of our conversation with them.   

Rose Davis: First word that popped in my brain was “coward,” to be honest with you. You’re supposed to love her. You’re supposed to marry her. Where is she?   

Police confiscated the white Ford van, searched it for evidence and then released it, posting that Brian was now a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance. Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino spoke briefly to the press:   

STEVEN BERTOLINO: On behalf of the Laundrie family, our hope that Miss Petito is located and that’s she’s reunited with her family.

For Gabby’s family, it wasn’t nearly enough. Two days later, their attorney, Rick Stafford, read a scathing letter from them to Brian’s parents:

RICK STAFFORD [reading the letter]: … We believe you know the location of where Brian left Gabby. We beg you to tell us. As a parent, how could you let us go through this pain, and not help us?   

On Friday, September 17, the Laundrie family reported that they didn’t know where Brian was. They said he’d left for a hike at the Carlton Reserve three days earlier. The next day, police began to comb the huge local park, with its miles of bike trails and alligator infested waters. The hunt for Brian began.

MICHAEL GEORGE [“CBS Evening News” Tuesday, September 21]: A massive search. More than 50 officers and FBI agents combing a 24,000-acre park near Sarasota, Florida, looking for Brian Laundrie.    

Protesters outside of Laundrie home
Protesters gather outside of the home of Brian Laundrie’s parents in North Port, Florida, on September 20, 2021. Police served a search warrant at the home. WINK

Anger at Brian and his family’s silence spilled over when protestors gathered outside the Laundrie home demanding answers and shouting: “Where is Gabby, where is Gabby, Brian?”  

Chen says that while all the attention focused on finding out what happened to Gabby is admirable, it also highlights a disparity – concerning race – about how missing persons cases are treated.

Tanya Chen: The fact that it’s garnered this level of attention is largely due to the fact that she is a pretty, young white woman. … as there are hundreds of indigenous people, of black and brown people who go missing across this country every single day … it should beg us to ask ourselves why those names and faces are not plastered everywhere across social media, across TV screens — why don’t they become household names?

Gabby’s father says the attention on Gabby has been unique.

Joe Petito: I’ll tell you, I’m very fortunate. … all the social media, the media attention. I mean it’s really hard to deal with, you know, but it is needed, and I’ll tell ya, I’ve — I haven’t seen this type of attention on something like this. And I am extremely grateful.

One van life couple had been paying close attention to Gabby’s story — Kyle and Jenn Bethune.  

Kyle Bethune: So, we’re trying to find a spot on this bumpy-ass road…

It turns out the Bethunes had been in Wyoming’s Teton National Park around the time Gabby’s family last heard from her. On August 27, the Bethunes drove around a campground there looking for a place to park with GoPro cameras rolling for their YouTube channel. 

Jennifer Bethune: We’re driving down this road … this van … and it had Florida plates … we’re Floridians. And so, we wanted to stop and say hi to whoever was there. However, the van was completely dark … we assumed that they were just out hiking or doing something else.     

Once the Bethunes left the park, they didn’t think about the van again until late on September 18, when Jenn checked her phone and was stunned to learn authorities now believed Gabby had been in the Tetons the very same night the Bethunes were there. Jenn instantly remembered the white van.  

Jenn Bethune: And I immediately got goosebumps all over my body. I rushed back to the computer … and I saw that white speck of van, and I was like, please keep going, please keep going, [crying] and it did, and it got bigger and bigger.     

Kyle Bethune: … we just some reason instantly knew … that it was hers.

Jenn Bethune: When I called the FBI I was like, “I have found Gabby’s footage — patch me across to somebody — this is huge” … because I knew deep down what it was, and I knew how important this footage would be to finding Gabby.    

As instructed, the Bethunes uploaded their footage to the FBI website. They also posted it on YouTube and Facebook.   

Is this Gabby Petito’s Van caught on Youtuber’s Camera? READ DESCRIPTION by Red White & Bethune on YouTube

On Sunday morning, Jenn says she received a request to call Gabby’s mom Nichole. More than most people, Jenn understood what Nichole might be going through. She had lost her son Ethan in a car accident 10 years earlier. And his birthday was that very day.

Jenn Bethune: You know, we didn’t talk specifics, she just uh, thanked me … and we both sat on Facetime and we had a good mama cry, heart to heart.

Just hours later, came the devastating announcement.

THE HUNT FOR BRIAN LAUNDRIE

It was the news the nation did not want to hear.

Eight days after 22-year-old Gabby Petito was reported missing, an FBI supervisor announced the tragic end to the search that had riveted the country.

CHARLES JONES [takes a breath]: … on behalf of the FBI personnel and our partners, I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby’s family — Joe and Tara Petito and Jim and Nicole Schmidt.  …  Earlier today, human remains were discovered, consistent with the description of Gabrielle” Gabby” Petito … 

GAYLE KING [ CBS Mornings | Monday, September 20]: Authorities say they have found a body in northwestern Wyoming, and it’s believed to be Gabby. 

The FBI says Gabby’s remains were found at the Spread Creek camping area inside Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. An autopsy confirmed the remains were Gabby’s and the coroner determined her death was a homicide.

CHARLES JONES: We have no additional comment.

Gabby’s family asked for privacy, but her father Joe sent out a Tweet that summed up the moment. It read simply “She touched the world.”

A lawyer for Brian’s parents — who initially refused to speak with investigators—released a statement via text. It read: The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.

After hearing that Gabby was found in the campground, internet sleuths gave Jenn and Kyle Bethune a lot of credit for coming forward with their footage of Gabby’s white van.

Kyle Bethune: I don’t want to take credit for that … We feel we did the right thing that anyone would have done in our shoes.

But they prefer to credit the millions of people who viewed their video and all the others who came forward with tips.

Jenn Bethune:  I absolutely think the amazing community on social media came together and found Gabby, one million percent it was social media.

“He didn’t count on the goodwill of strangers”

“The internet is unbelievable.

“Gabby’s body may have never been found”

“48 Hours” analyzed a map showing the location where the Bethunes say they spotted the van. It’s within walking distance from where searchers discovered Gabby’s remains.

Jenn Bethune:  It’s a very emotional case because Gabby touched so many people and she had no idea that she was doing it, she just knew inside her that she wanted to live the life of her dreams and she did it.

Jenn Bethune grew emotional as she recalled talking with Joe Petito. 

Jenn Bethune [emotional]: … he said that he will never be able to repay us for what we’ve done. … he doesn’t want his daughter’s life – for her to die in vain.  … And he wants everyone’s help to find Brian because this family deserves … justice and they deserve answers.

The discovery of Gabby ended one mystery, but a big one remained: where was Brian Laundrie? Josh Taylor is the spokesman for North Port Police.

Josh Taylor: I think at this point anything’s on the table … we certainly think Brian has some explaining to do.

Hours after it was announced Gabby had been found, over a dozen FBI agents and police officers swarmed the home of Brian’s parents.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS | CBSN: There’s been a flurry of activity today at the Florida home of Gabby Petito’s fiancé …

JERICKA DUNCAN [at the scene]: … police arrived, the FBI arrived, they were carrying a battering ram … they also announced they had a warrant …

The search warrant revealed that police were looking for one or more computers and the cops also towed away Brian’s Mustang.

The next day, North Port Police, the FBI and other agencies, returned to the nature preserve near Brian’s home to continue the search.

POLICE OFFICER: The terrain is very difficult. 75% of it is underwater.

The manhunt was back on.

POLICE OFFICER:  I tell ya, these guys … are motivated and they’re hungry to find Brian Laundrie.

Brian Laundrie
Brian Laundrie Brian Laundrie/Instagram

Rose Davis says Brian is no stranger to the outdoors.

Rose Davis: He’s good with nature. He can go into nature. So, my first thought was he’s — he’s in the woods. He’s somewhere in the woods …

Manhunt continues for Brian Laundrie 00:33

Searchers spent days combing the nearly 25,000- acre nature reserve looking for Brian but could find no trace of him. 

Brian was the focus of the police investigation but, from the beginning, Gabby’s friends were thinking mostly about her.

Rose Davis: … there’s no words to even describe her. Saying she’s great or caring, it’s just not enough to describe … how great and how caring she truly, truly is.

This past summer, Gabby Petito set out to cross America with the man she loved …

Gabby Petito
A smiling Gabby Petito at Zion National Park on July 16, 2021. Gabby Petito/Instagram

Rose Davis: I’ve always described her as this light, you know? … she’ll do everything to bring the light out in you. And if she can’t she’ll give you some of hers.

…and somewhere her light is shining … still.

Gabby’s family aims to help others through the  The Gabby Petito Foundation.

HAVE INFORMATION?

Anyone with information on Brian Laundrie is asked to contact the FBI:

Call: 1-800-CALL- FBI | Online: tips.fbi.gov 


Produced by Chuck Stevenson, Chris Young Ritzen, Ruth Chenetz, MaryAnn Rotondi and Paul La Rosa. Mead Stone and Mike McHugh are the producer editors. Tamara Weitzman is the coordinating producer. Cindy Cesare and Ryan Smith are the development producers. Richard Fetzer and Emily Wichick are the field producers.  Chelsea Narvaez, Jordan Kinsey, Liz Caholo and  Emma Steele are the associate producers.  Danielle Arman  is the broadcast associate. Atticus Brady, Gary Winter, Phil Tangel, Marlon Disla, Michelle Harris and Joan Adelman are the editors. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.