Looking back at the Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie investigations

Published: December 22, 2021 3:00 PM EST
Updated: December 22, 2021 10:51 PM EST

The death of Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in her death, was a whirlwind story that captured the nation and hit close to home, with part of the search taking place in North Port.

22-year-old Petito was reported missing by her parents in September after Laundrie returned home from a road trip without her. The couple had quit their jobs and bought a van to live in, starting out on what they believed was the adventure of a lifetime. The pair were stopped by police in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12.

A frantic Petito was introduced to the world in a bodycam video.

“We’ve been fighting all morning,” Petito said at one point. “And he wouldn’t let me in the car.”

A 911 call from earlier reported a domestic dispute and described a white van with a Florida license plate. The caller said they were driving by and saw “the gentleman slapping the girl.” When officers pulled Laundrie and Petito over in Moab, they suggested the couple separate for the night. It is assumed the couple rejoined each other before Laundrie flew to Tampa from Salt Lake City on Aug. 17.

According to the Laundrie family’s attorney, Brian Laundrie returned to Salt Lake City on Aug. 23 to rejoin Petito again. On Aug. 27, a Louisiana couple vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming, said they saw Petito and laundry involved in a “commotion” as they were leaving a restaurant.

Petito’s family told police they were last in contact with her during that week. A text reading “no service in Yosemite” was sent from Petito’s phone on Aug. 30. Her parents do not believe that message was from their daughter.

Laundrie found his way back to Florida, and the white van the couple bought was found at his childhood home in North Port. Meanwhile, the search for Gabbie Petito intensified in the last place she was seen, Grand Teton National Park.

Then, on Sept. 17, Brian Laundrie was reported missing by his parents. He had gone hiking at a nearby preserve and had not come home.

A body was found in a shallow grave in Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19. It was later identified as Petito, and the cause of death was determined to be manual strangulation.

Crews continued their search for Brian Laundrie, then considered a person of interest in Petito’s death. They searched Carlton Reserve in North Port, the last place Laundrie’s car was found and where his parents said he was hiking. It would take weeks of thorough searching before Laundrie’s body was eventually found.

An autopsy report ruled his death a suicide by a gunshot wound to the head.

A notebook was found near Brian Laundrie’s remains in the Carlton Reserve, but its contents have yet to be released.