What We Know About The Mysterious Disappearance Of Gabby Petito

2021-09-16 19:39:24

Law enforcement and family members of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old lifestyle influencer who was reported missing last week under mysterious circumstances, are asking the public and pleading with her boyfriend to help track her down.

Petito’s parents say they last heard from their daughter, who lives in Florida, in late August while she was hiking in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park with her boyfriend, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie. She had been on an extended road trip since July 2, documenting her travels in a camper van for thousands of followers on Instagram

“We haven’t been able to sleep or eat, and our lives are falling apart,” Petito’s parents and step-parents said Thursday in a letter to the family of her boyfriend, who has returned home to Florida but is not cooperating with the investigation.

Here’s what we know so far about the increasingly high-profile case.

Petito’s family reported her missing last Saturday.

Petito’s parents, who live in New York, reported their daughter missing on Sept. 11, about two weeks after the last time they’d spoken with her on the phone.

While her family said it wasn’t uncommon for Petito to go off the grid for a few days at a time while traveling, she would always seek out internet or cellular reception after a few days to check in.

Police in North Port, Florida ― who are investigating Petito’s disappearance alongside police in Suffolk County, New York, and the FBI ― said when they took on the case that they had “no definitive information that a crime took place” but said the “circumstances are odd.”

Concern about Petito’s whereabouts grew when her parents and police discovered that her boyfriend, Laundrie, had returned on Sept. 1 to the Florida home he was sharing with Petito and his parents. Police say he arrived in the van without her. 

Two days earlier, Petito’s mother said, she had received a text message from her daughter’s phone saying: “No service in Yosemite,” the national park in California. For reasons the family and their attorneys haven’t disclosed, they do not believe it was actually Petito who wrote that text. 

Petito’s boyfriend is a person of interest in the case.

Police named Laundrie as a person of interest in the case on Wednesday and identified him as the last known person to have seen Petito.

Gabby Petito’s stepmother, Tara Petito, and father, Joe Petito, during a news conference Thursday about her disappearance.

On Sunday, when Petito was reported missing, police processed the van Laundrie drove home as evidence in the investigation. Police say that when officers knocked on the door to his house that day, Laundrie’s parents answered and handed them a lawyer’s phone number. 

Petito indicated on Instagram that she and Laundrie have been dating since March 2019. Laundrie also documented his travels in the camper van with Petito on Instagram and YouTube. A video he posted on Aug. 19 shows them traveling around Utah and some coastal regions in the van. 

Petito’s parents have since spoken out, saying they believe Laundrie and his parents “know the location of where Brian left Gabby.”

The boyfriend is not cooperating with the investigation.

Police looking into Petito’s disappearance say Laundrie is not making himself available to investigators and has provided no helpful details.

“We share the frustration with the world right now. Two people went on a trip, one returned. And that person who returned [has] not provided us with any information,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said on Thursday.

“He needs to talk to us,” Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the department, said Wednesday. “We need to know exactly where he was, where she was, their last locations and that the fact that he was back here for 10 days” before Petito’s family reported her missing. 

Her family went public with a plea for Laundrie and his parents to start speaking. 

“Please, if you or your family have any decency left, please, tell us where Gabby is located,” their letter says, adding: “Tell us if we are even looking in the right place. All we want is for Gabby to come home. Please help us make that happen.”

The Laundrie family’s attorney, Steven Bertolino, said this week that his client is staying silent on the advice of counsel. 

“In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance,” Bertolino said in a statement. 

Police recently responded to an altercation between Petito and Laundrie.

On Thursday, Utah’s Moab City Police Department released body camera footage of an altercation between Petito and Laundrie, which they responded to on Aug. 12 while the couple was traveling through the area.

The footage shows police attempting to calm a visibly distraught Petito, who tells officers she has been struggling with her mental health and with her boyfriend while living in the van’s close quarters. In the footage, Petito says that Laundrie locked her out of the van, and police question her about slapping Laundrie.

Laundrie told officers that day that Petito became “manic” in her fear that he would strand her in the desert during their road trip. 

Both declined to press charges but agreed to the officers’ request that they be separated for the night so that they could both calm down. 

In the police report, officers labeled the incident as a “mental/emotional break.” 

How can the public help?

People should look out for Petito on hiking trails, her parents urged. She is 22, white, 5’5” tall, around 110 pounds and has blonde hair and blue eyes. She also has several tattoos, including one of a triangle and flowers on her left arm and one on her right forearm that reads: “let it be.”

Anyone with information should call the FBI hotline at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).

Petito’s family has authorized two fundraisers to raise money for their search.

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