Brian "went camping" with his parents for three days.
update 9/23/2021 7:10 AM PT
Brian Laundrie's neighbors say he and his parents went on a camping trip together the weekend Gabby was reported missing.
Charlene and William Guthrie, who live directly opposite the Laundrie home, told Fox News the family bought a new camper attachment for the back of their pick-up truck, loaded it up and disappeared for three days.
They said this happened "about a week and a half" after they saw Brian and Gabby's van return; police say Brian Laundrie returned to his Florida home, alone, exactly 10 days before Gabby's family raised the alarm.
"I was doing some work in the front yard, and I noticed they got a new camper for the back of the pick-up," William Guthrie said. "I didn't think anything unusual, you know they got a new camper, so they wanted to put their own touch inside of it, I saw them doing some work. Then when they prepared for their trip I saw them loading the camper."
"I saw them loading it up, and so I assumed they were preparing for a camping trip with their new camper," he said, with his wife adding all three "were gone for the weekend."
They didn't think this unusual — until the FBI showed up on their doorstep to tell them they were working on a missing person's case.
"Also which struck me as odd was the parents going on a trip, I can see that; but taking their 23-year-old son in a small camper that's on the back of the truck, struck us as odd," William added.
Charlene Guthrie also told the outlet that in the ten days between Brian's return and Gabby being reported missing, he acted as if nothing was amiss.
"He mowed the lawn. Him and his mother went for a bicycle ride around the block," she said. "I mean, everything was just normal life once he came back. And I just can't get over the fact that they — it seemed like nothing bothered him. How can you do that?"
"I'm really upset now because … [the Laundries] should have absolutely come forward now," Charlene added. "I mean, I just … can't believe they didn't do something. I'm really angry now that they … let this go. And that everything was so natural and they remained so normal through the whole thing, you know, while they were here, till he went on the run."
"I have children, and I know that you do what you can to protect your child, but, you know, that can go so far, and you gotta do the right thing eventually. You have to."
On Tuesday, former America's Most Wanted host John Walsh blasted Laundrie's parents and their lawyer, accusing them of lying and covering up to give Brian time to escape.
He claimed the story Brian went to the Carlton Reserve as "a ruse", and that he never went there at all.
"His family has helped him." he said, "And this lawyer, I hope that this Steven Bertolino has had enough of his Johnnie Cochran / OJ Simpson 15 minutes of fame, and he starts to do the right thing."
"They called the cops last Friday and said 'Well, he left the house on Tuesday distraught, with a backpack, and went out to this preserve so he could meditate.' And then they went to see the car, they were lucky to find the car, the parents they left a note for him in case he was sad and if he needed any help, and then they brought the car home on Thursday, and then this lawyer, this wonderful lawyer, called the cops on Friday and said: 'We're doing the right thing, we're gonna tell you that Brian went to that reserve."
"You know what it was? It was a red herring," Walsh claimed. "They bought Brian four more days to get away. They bought him four more days to run. It's disgusting."
He also slammed investigators for failing to keep Brian Laundrie under surveillance.
"How the hell did this boy get out of the house? I think the FBI and the North Port police have gotten a lot of questions to answer," he said. "How did he get out of that house and get away?"
"It's the public that will solve this case, and I believe the public will catch this guy," he added.
Nevertheless, police continue to comb the nature reserve, and on Wednesday morning brought in a ten-man underwater dive team to aid in the search.
Meanwhile, Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office have confirmed the man spotted on a deer cam 500 miles away in Florida matching Laundrie's description was in fact not him:
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update 9/22/2021 7:00 AM PT
As the hunt for Brian Laundrie continues, more witness accounts of his movements before — and after — Gabby's last sighting have begun to emerge.
A written statement provided to Moab Police — obtained by Fox13 — gives another account of the couple's fight right before they were pulled over on August 12. The witness, identified only as Chris, said he saw the pair involved in "some sort of dispute" near the Moonflower Community Cooperative, and were talking "aggressively."
He said the fight appeared to be over a phone, and that it looked like Laundrie had taken Petito's. Afterwards, he said Laundrie tried to prevent Gabby from getting back into the van, and that she was "was punching him in the arm" to try get back in, eventually climbing over the driver's side to get into the passenger seat. "Why do you have to be so mean?" he said he heard Gabby say after getting in.
The witness said it was "hard to tell if they were sort of play fighting, but from my point of view, something definitely didn't seem right." Chris said it looked to him as if Laundrie was trying to take her phone and leave her behind.
The witness concluded the statement by saying another person called 911; a previously released 911 call heard another witness claim Laundrie had been "slapping" his fiancée.
Meanwhile, another van-lifer claims she spotted Laundrie on August 26 — alone.
In a series of TikTok videos, Jessica Schultz said she believes her tip-off to the FBI was what led them to ultimately finding Gabby's body. "So I saw Brian Laundrie parking his van August 26 at Spread Creek," she said. "So I had already reported to the FBI what I had seen."
'And I wasn't 100 per cent sure, but now that there is dashcam footage of the van where I saw it, I'm 100 per cent certain that I did see him parking his van," she added. "And he was very kind of awkward and confused. And it was just him. There was no Gabby."
Having lived for the past four years in her Airstream trailer, Jessica said she took notice as a fellow van-lifer, to see if it was a couple or a "solo dude."
"So it was a solo dude, as far as I could see. Unless she was in the back somewhere. But when I pulled up he was driving still and hadn't yet pulled over," she continued. "So I was like, hey, what are you going to do? Are you going to let me pass because it's only one car width of a road. And he kind of pulled over like half way, and made me drive half out into the road to go around him."
"So I thought it was just really weird. And for a timeline, it was parked on the 26th, I believe."
She said that all her friends whom she was camping with at Spread Creek from the 22nd to the 29th had independently noticed the van after it parked.
"I noticed it particularly because I had seen it trying to park. And also because it wasn't actually parked in a designated spot," she said. "The Spread Creek camping area is a series of designated spots and you're not supposed to camp outside those spots, and this van was not in a real spot, so I figured that he would get booted by the people who patrol the area. But the van was there for several days and nights and it did not get booted."
"The weirdest part about it was that there was no indication that there was anybody actually at the van," she added. "Usually small van people have their doors open, they're outside, they have a hammock, something. But we didn't see any signs of actual life at the van."
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Schultz told the San Francisco Chronicle that the FBI called her back and credited her with providing the vital clue. "I've talked to hundreds of people, but you guys are the ones that really tipped us off to the right place, so thank you," she said the agent told her.
"We're triumphant — we were right and we led them in the right direction," she added. "But then, of course, it's not something you like to be right about. It's been emotionally exhausting for sure."
On Tuesday night, Gabby's uncle Steve Petito lashed out at the Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino, in the wake of his five-word statement on the identification of Gabby's body: "May Gabby rest in peace."
"As far as the law is concerned this law firm may be immune due to attorney/client privilege," Steve wrote in a since-deleted post. "But in the eyes of the public you are as guilty and complicit with this massive cover-up and stalling tactic."
"We don't require nor want [your] empathy. By you trying to show compassion here at this moment is beyond disgusting."
Meanwhile, internet sleuths have uncovered what they believe is Laundrie's Pinterest account, which appears to share albums with Gabby's, including a "Life Goals" board suggesting plans for a wedding and possible children.
The albums also appear to be shared with both their mothers.
update 9/21/2021 2:00 PM PT
An autopsy has confirmed the body is that of Gabby Petito.
Richard Stafford told Insider Tuesday that the Teton County Coroner's Office had positively identified the remains found at Bridger-Teton National Forest Park on Sunday.
The FBI confirmed the sad news in a tweet; it said Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue had ruled the death a homicide.
"The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results," it added.
Stafford said the family would be making a statement "when Gabby is home."
Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results. pic.twitter.com/JoHenMZ9UU
The Laundrie family lawyer has canceled a hastily-scheduled press conference on the day the autopsy on the body believed to be Gabby Petito was due to begin.
On Monday, Steven Bertolino sent out a last-minute notice he was holding a press conference in New York the following day, 1PM ET. But that same evening, he abruptly canceled it after speaking with the FBI.
"As per my conversation with the FBI this evening there will be no press conference tomorrow," he told the New York Post. He insisted it was "not true" the Bureau had advised him to cancel: "Just not in my clients' best interest," he added in a text.
The press conference would have taken place the same day the Wyoming autopsy begins on the body found in Bridger-Teton National Forest Park; it is expected to confirm the identity as that of missing Gabby, as well as the cause of death. Results could take as much as two weeks.
On Tuesday, Florida police announced for the first time the case is now officially a "criminal investigation," as the search for Brian Laundrie continues, one week after he was last reported seen by his family.
"This is an FBI-led criminal investigation and North Port Police are assisting our federal partner in any way we can to bring this investigation to a close," North Port PD spokesman Josh Taylor said in a statement.
Investigators are now returning their search to the Carlton Reserve, where Laundrie's family said he was last headed, and his abandoned car was discovered. Police had previously said they had "exhausted all avenues" in their initial search of the 24,000-acre nature reserve, but are now conducting a second sweep, pointing out that it is painstaking and dangerous work.
"Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently waste deep in water in many areas. This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails," they said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a park ranger who was present when the couple was pulled over by police in Moab, Utah on August 12 said she warned Gabby the relationship was "toxic."
In an interview with Deseret News, Arches National Park Ranger Melissa Hulls said that after hearing the call come in over the radio, she arrived on the scene and immediately focused on Gabby, knowing women are usually more comfortable talking to female officers in domestic violence situations.
"I can still hear her voice," Hulls said. "She wasn't just a face on the milk carton, she was real to me."
"I was probably more candid with her than I should've been," she said. "I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life."
"She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida."
Gabby ultimately stayed with her fiancé.
"This wasn't a good day for anybody," Hulls said. "We thought we were making the right decision when we left them."
"I honestly haven't looked at my body camera footage for that night. It's hard to think about now because I feel like I could've said more to help her," she added. "It's hard not to second-guess myself, and wish I said more, or wish I had found the right words to make her believe that she deserved more."
Meanwhile in the area where the body was found, somebody erected what appears to be memorial: a simple cross made of stones.
An "odd text" appears to be Gabby Petito's final communication, as it is widely assumed that a body discovered on Sunday is hers. The reveal of the last text message sent from her phone came as part of the unsealing of a search warrant in Florida.
That filing was used to search a hard drive found in Petito's van. Gabby's boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, returned home September 1 from a lengthy road trip without his fiancée and refused to cooperate with authorities investigating her disappearance. He then left himself for an impromptu camping trip, according to his parents, and has not yet been found.
According to the warrant by Officer Daniel Alix, as reported by E! News, Gabby's final message was sent to her mother, Nichole Schmidt, on August 27 (before Brian returned home without her). Describing it as "odd," the text reads, "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls."
Gabby's grandfather is named Stan, but Nichole says Gabby never called him that and the message was received by Nichole. There is also no context to indicate who she's referring to about "voicemails and missed calls," or even definitively if it was Gabby who sent the message. There has been some speculation that later messages sent from Gabby's phone might have been sent by someone else.
According to the warrant, Gabby's family became more and more worried as she stopped posting pictures from her journey on social media and "her cellphone was no longer operational" after this message.
Schmidt told Alix that there were talks and text messages prior to this final one wherein "there appeared to be more and more tension between her and Laundrie." Laundrie is currently a person of interest in Gabby's disappearance, but has not been seen since he left his family home last Tuesday. His family did not report his absence until Friday.
Autopsy results on the body discovered Sunday, that purportedly matches Gabby's description, will be made available on Tuesday.
update 9/20/2020 7:05 AM
Brian Laundrie's home is now officially a crime scene.
On Monday morning several FBI agents stormed the North Port house with guns drawn, before erecting crime scene tape around the residence.
Both parents were removed from the home and detained in a unmarked van, before being allowed back inside the house as the search continued, CBS reported.
"The #FBI is executing a court-authorized search warrant today at the Laundrie residence in North Port, FL relevant to the Gabrielle 'Gabby' Petito investigation," the agency tweeted. "No further details can be provided since this is an active and ongoing investigation."
#UPDATE: The #FBI is executing a court-authorized search warrant today at the Laundrie residence in North Port, FL relevant to the Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito investigation. No further details can be provided since this is an active and ongoing investigation. @FBIDenverpic.twitter.com/uxrtVNIZ4u
An autopsy scheduled for Tuesday is expected to confirm the identity of the body found on Sunday to be that of Gabby's — and to possibly reveal the cause of death.
Following the grim discovery, the Laundrie family attorney released a brief statement:
"The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking," he wrote. "The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family."
In a separate statement Brian's sister Cassie said: "Right now my husband and I would like to express our condolences and prayers to the Petito family. Gabby was a fun and loving influence to 'the boys' as she always referred to them. We will cherish all the time spent with her."
Meanwhile Gabby's father paid tribute on Twitter with a photo of his daughter:
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In a Facebook post, Gabby's uncle Mike Schmidt urged others to "trust their gut" if they ever get a bad feeling about family members' friends.
"I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and help. I can't acknowledge everyone individually so to all, thank you," he wrote.
"Hug your kids tighter tonight. Take an interest in all they do, even if it’s not your thing. Tell them you love them. Meet and get to know their friends. And trust your gut. If you don’t get a good feeling, trust it."
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Meanwhile, a search of the 24,000 acre wildlife reserve close to the Laundrie home — where missing Brian Laundrie was believed to be headed — came up empty handed.
The Carlton Reserve was closed to the public as police combed the area on ATVs, after Laundrie's car was found there. But the driver was nowhere to be found.
"The North Port Police Department currently has no plans to conduct a major search of the Carlton Reserve today," investigators told ABC7. "At this time, we currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there. Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Brian Laundrie."
The family told the outlet Brian left the home on Tuesday with a backpack. They went looking for him in the Reserve on Wednesday, when they saw his car with a note from North Port PD saying it needed to be removed.
They left the car there on Wednesday night "so he could drive back," their attorney said; when Brian didn't return, they went to retrieve the car Thursday morning.
As the search for Brian Laundrie continues, people online have been poring over the couple's videos — with some eagle-eyed would-be detectives noticing he was reading "Annihilation" by Jeff VanderMeer, about a group of women who go missing while exploring an uninhabited area:
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update 9/19/2020 3:20 PM
A body has been found in the search for Gabby Petito.
Although the FBI have yet to forensically confirm the identity, they have informed the family it matches the description of the missing 22-year-old.
"Earlier today, human remains were discovered consistent with the description on Gabrielle 'Gabby' Petito," an emotional FBI Supervisory Agent Charles Jones told a press conference Sunday afternoon.
"Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found Gabby; but her family has been notified of this discovery," Jones added. "The cause of death has not been determined at this time."
Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed earlier Sunday that the remains had been discovered by investigators at Bridger-Teton National Forest Park in Wyoming, where the search had been concentrated.
The whereabouts of her fiancé Brian Laundrie remains unknown.
BREAKING: Officials say human remains were found earlier today consistent with the description of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito. pic.twitter.com/FcOD93Sbi6
The ongoing search for Brian Laundrie, the fiancé of Gabby Petito who initially returned from a cross-country camping trip in her van without her, has narrowed its focus on a sprawling nature reserve in Florida.
North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said during a press conference on Saturday that Laundrie has an "enormous amount of pressure" to provide answers following Petito's disappearance, per CNN.
The search resumed on Sunday morning after halting late Saturday night due to darkness. Authorities are using drones and bloodhounds who had sniffed some of Laundrie's clothing to pick up his scent. Laundrie's family said he had left home with his backpack on Tuesday and told them he was going to the Carlton Reserve near Venice, Florida. They did not report this to police until Friday.
Prior to that, the family had not been cooperating with police at all, nor was Laundrie himself. He was not listed as a suspect in any crime at the time, but a "person of interest" they would have liked to talk to as the person most likely to be able to provide any clues as to Petito's whereabouts.
As to why the family waited three days to report Laundrie's departure, Taylor's response was only, "That's a great question. "You know we've obviously been trying to reach the family to get answers in this case since (last) Saturday."
According to Taylor, the family finally reached out because they'd become concerned about Laundrie's whereabouts.
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Another person authorities spoke to is a woman who went viral on TikTok after she claimed that she'd picked up a hitchhiking Laundrie back in August.
According to the woman identifying herself as Miranda Baker, she picked up Laundrie back on August 29 in Grand Teton National Park. After hearing about Petito's disappearance, People confirmed that Baker had been in touch with North Port Police about the case. In a subsequent video, she said she's also spoken with the FBI.
In her videos, Baker says that she and her boyfriend picked up Laundrie on August 29 at 5:44 p.m. on their way to Jackson, which is where they were also heading. They said he offered them $200 to take him the ten-mile trip.
According to Baker, Laundrie told her and her boyfriend that he'd by that point been camping for multiple days "without his fiancée," as she was "working on their social media page back at their van."
Baker said things got weird when she and her boyfriend mentioned they were also going to Jackson Hole. At that point, she claims he "freaked out" and wanted out of the car immediately. The couple allegedly dropped him off at Jackson Dam, not far from Colter Bay, at 6:09 p.m.
"He kind of, like, hurried out of the car and was like, 'Okay, I'm just going to find someone else to hitchhike [with],'" said Baker in her video. "We were like, 'Okay.' It was a weird situation."
"I first heard about this on TikTok a few days ago, which is why I'm putting this up on TikTok," said Baker in her final video. "To hopefully reach out to someone who also might have seen him that day and picked him up before or after we did.
"I'm just really hoping this helps find Gabby and bring her home safe."
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update 9/17/2021 7:00 AM
Florida police are now searching for Brian Laundrie, who is a person of interest in his girlfriend Gabby Petito's disappearance.
On Friday, after refusing to speak with authorities since the search for Gabby began, the Laundrie family contacted the FBI to tell them they had not seen Brian since Tuesday.
"We understand the community's frustration, we are frustrated too. For six days, the North Port Police Department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian's fiancé Gabby Petito. Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail," read a statement from the North Port Police.
While speaking with CNN on Friday during a televised interview, Petito's stepfather, Jim Schmidt, learned about Laundrie's parents' claim.
"It's the first time we're hearing it," he exclaimed. "I am very caught off guard about hearing what we just heard."
The Petito family attorney later issued a statement, saying, "All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing."
Laundrie's lawyer, Steven Bertolino, issued a statement as well, confirming Laundrie was missing. "Be advised that the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie are currently unknown. The FBI is currently at the Laundrie residence removing property to assist in locating Brian. As of now, the FBI is looking for both Gabby and Brian."
Police stressed that Laundrie was still not considered a suspect in Petito's disappearance.
"It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime," a statement read. "We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing person investigations."
Authorities issued a description of Laundrie as a "white male, 5'8 160lbs, brown eyes, short brown hair, trimmed facial hair, last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap."
UPDATE 9/18/21 AT 6:46AM
Brian Laundrie's sister is just as puzzled as everyone else.
In an interview with ABC7, Cassie Laundrie said she hasn't spoken to her brother since he returned from the trip without his missing fiancée.
"We haven't been able to talk to him... I wish I could talk to him," she said. "I've cooperated every way that I can, I wish I had information that I could give more... this is all I have... I gave to the police."
"Obviously me and my family want Gabby to be found safe," she added. "She's like a sister and my children love her, and all I want is for her to come home safe and found and this to be just a big misunderstanding."
She said the police-released body cam video showing the aftermath of their fight was "typical" of them. "It looked typical of both of them... whenever they would fight they would take a little break and come back and be fine," she said. "Because that's what you do in a couple."
She added: "He's a wonderful uncle, he's always been there when I needed him. Like, he's been there every time Gabby's needed him."
Reacting to her comments, Gabby's father Joe Petito said somewhat sarcastically they "made a lot of sense."
"That was a very nice, well-written statement," he told NewsNation.
"It does explain, if that’s that family’s version of love, to just ignore and not care that someone's gone, and people are looking for them, an entire country's looking for them, I mean, that explains how we got to where we are today. Because I mean, look at their version of what they call love."
Meanwhile, the friend that Gabby was supposed to meet at Yellowstone said it was not like her to just ghost her.
"[The] last time I talk[ed] to Gabby was the beginning of August when we were planning for me to meet her in Yellowstone after my birthday," the friend — who wished to remain anonymous — told The Sun. "That was the next spot. At least when we planned it. I was the only one going to see them."
"She wouldn't wander off and not contact her family. I know that for a fact. She wouldn't blow me off either. She's my person. And I can't stop thinking about how scared she must be."
She said Gabby was supposed to call her on her birthday on August 29 to nail down the plans — but the call never came. Just a day later, Gabby's mom received the curious "No service in Yosemite" text from Gabby's phone, which would place it some 800 miles away from where she was supposedly headed.
"She was supposed to call on my birthday and we were going to figure it all out then because her trip wasn't on schedule," the friend said. "The whole thing is odd. My birthday is the 29th. I don't know why she’d send that text [to her mom] and not message me. I also don't think she'd text her mom 'no service'. She'd call as soon as she had service, in my opinion."
She said she also considered Brian Laundrie a friend, but wishes he would cooperate with the police. "We really just want to focus on finding her," she said. "I wish Brian and his family would do the same ... the truth will come out and I hope for everyone's sake sooner rather than later."
On Wednesday, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison called on Laundrie's lawyer Steven Bertolino to help arrange a conversation with his client:
Protesters have also begun gathering outside the Laundrie home insisting he come forward.
Meanwhile, police in Utah say they are not ruling out a connection between Gabby's disappearance and the recent unsolved murder of a couple who were camping near Moab — the same city Gabby and Brian were pulled over after their fight.
Crystal Turner, 38, and Kylen Schulte, 24, were last seen at Woody's Tavern on Main Street in Moab on August 13, the day after Gabby and Brian were stopped. The bodies of the camping couple were found five days later, both shot to death.
"We're looking at everything, I mean, anything and everything that was suspicious around that time or we're not ruling anything out at this time," a spokesman for the Grand County Sheriff's Office told Fox News. "So we're just investigating the information as it comes in."
The murdered couple had moved campsites after reporting to friends they were freaked out by a "creepy man"; the Sheriff's Office left local residents bewildered when it insisted there was no ongoing danger to the public — despite not having any suspects in custody.
Moab City Police Department in Utah have released body cam footage of their interaction with Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito, two weeks before Gabby's last sighting.
An officer driving behind the van claims he saw it veer across the double yellow lines before striking a curb. Pulling it over he found Petito sobbing in the passenger seat, and Laundrie in the driver's with cuts to his face.
Separating and interviewing them, the officers discover they have had a fight, and determine that Petito was the aggressor — and Laundrie the victim. Sitting in the police car, Petito explains that she is "OCD", and was tidying the van and apologizing for being in a bad mood -- before adding that she was very stressed having a lot of work to do on her computer.
She admitted yelling at and hitting Laundrie, conceding he had not hit her back, but grabbed her face. She said neither had been under the influence, as they do not drink. Explaining his side separately, Laundrie concurred his fiancé was "a little OCD", and had become angry because he had climbed into the van with dirty feet, which sparked the argument.
"We just had a little disagreement, she got a little worked up," he said. "Just little things... there's a lot of little things."
He insisted he didn't get "overtly physical", and was just trying to hold her off while she "swung" at him, with her nails and her rings. While he was clearly trying to play it down, the cuts to his face were still obvious. "I was trying to make her calm down, 'Look everyone's watching!' he told the officers.
Discussing what they had learned away from the couple, the officers said the only discrepancy in their stories was Laundrie claiming she had grabbed the wheel — which had caused the van to hit the curb — while she denied it. However the officers concluded that he was trying not to say she had hit him while he was driving, to prevent her from being charged with assault.
Nevertheless, the officers point out that the situation is no different than male-on-female domestic violence, and that they may have no choice but to arrest her — even if Laundrie doesn't want to press charges. The police then discuss the account of the witness who called it in, which they point out seems to line up with the couple's stories.
The witness said they did not see the Laundrie hit Petito; he saw him lock her out of the van, and her trying to get back in, eventually "clawing" her way in through the driver's door. He also said he saw Laundrie shove her, but couldn't tell if it was aggressive or defensive. "It sounds like she is the primary aggressor," the officer tells his colleagues.
"We cannot treat this - because he's bigger and stronger, and even if he's not wiling to press charges - we can't treat this differently than if it was male on female charges. And we're going to have to charge her," he adds.
The option for merely issuing a citation, which the officers appear to want to do, is blocked because per law, they cannot guarantee they are "not going to further risk each other's safety... but the problem is they live in the same vehicle."
The officer tells Laundrie that when enforcing the law, they "don't have discretion on domestic assault. At this point you are the victim of domestic assault."
"I definitely don't want to pursue anything, I love her and it was just a squabble," Laundrie tells them, even volunteering to go to jail in her place. The officers all discuss how to resolve the situation, clearly keen on letting the pair go, despite the law insisting Petito be detained and charged, and the couple separated.
"She doesn't want to not be with him tonight," one female colleague tells the lead investigator. "There's no choice in the matter," he tells her. The officers then appear to arrive at a solution: if they can determine Petito wasn't trying to hurt her fiance when she hit him, they can let her go.
"This is a very very important question; how you answer this question is going to determine what happens next," one of the officers slowly explains to her. "Think very hard before you answer the question. Do not answer it quickly. Think very hard: When you slapped him those times, where you attempting to cause him physical pain or physical impairment? What were you attempting to do? What was the reason behind the slapping? What were you attempting to accomplish by slapping him?"
"No," she immediately replies. "I was trying to get him to stop telling me to calm down."
"Doesn't sound like me like she attempted to injure him," the officer then tells the lead investigator, apparently satisfied. "It's your call. It's 100 percent you call. I support you either way."
After discussing the technicalities of the legal definition of assault at length, the officers ultimately decide they can let the couple go free. Delivering his decision, the officer tells Petito he is not citing her for domestic assault, but is separating them for the night — Petito in the van, Laundrie in a hotel — advising them not to contact each other until the next day
"If he doesn't have enough sense to stay separated, it's on him," one officer tells his colleagues out of earshot.
After driving him to his hotel, the officer leaves Laundrie with a final piece of advice: "Just remember my requests — I think it will make a big difference in your guys' next couple of weeks, at the very least."
Speaking with the Daily Mail, Petito's mother said the incident was "irrelevant." She added, "Two people traveling together with each other 24 hours a day, it's not going to be perfect, it was an argument, and that's all I'm going to say about it." At one point int he video, Gabby does appear to be talking to her parents on the phone.
update 9/15/2021 10:56 AM
Brian Laundrie is now officially a "person of interest" in the the disappearance of Gabrielle Petito, per law enforcement.
Police are keen to stress there is no evidence a crime has taken place. When asked why Laundrie had been named a person of interest, North Police police spokesman Josh Taylor replied: "I think most people would come to that conclusion in this case. He was the last person that we have information was around her. How you define person of interest is up to you, but certainly we are interested in talking to him."
"If she's out there we're doing everything in our power to bring her home," added Taylor.
On Tuesday, Laundrie finally broke his silence, via a statement by his lawyer Steven Bertolino.
"On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family," it said. "On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."
But according to police, that's not good enough. "They put out a release yesterday saying they remain in the background," Taylor told press. "That's not good enough. We need the details."
Meanwhile, a lawyer for the Petito family issued a statement of their own, urging Laundrie to reveal whatever he knows.
"Everyday the search for Gabby continues the Schmidt and Petito family becomes more desperate," the statement read, per ABC7. "They are frantically searching for answers and information in their daughter's disappearance while Brian sits in the comfort of his home."
"Brian claims he wants to sit in the background while we search for Gabby in the wilderness of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Brian left Gabby in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves while he sits in the comfort of his home. In his home! Brian, how could you do this to Gabby? You selfishly remain silent while Gabby is all alone in the wilderness. Brian, your silence is reprehensible!"
"We beg you to do the right thing and help us bring Gabby home. Brian, whatever happened in Wyoming, happened. The only thing you can control is what you do now. Tell us where Gabby is. You tarnish your love for her with your silence."
In an interview with Daily Mail, Gabrielle's mom Nicole revealed the final text that came from her daughter's phone; but not necessarily, she believes, from her daughter herself. "No service in Yosemite," the August 30 text reads, sent three days after Gabrielle was last seen, 800 miles away heading for Yellowstone, Wyoming.
"That text was NOT from Gabby I know it!" Nicole told the outlet. She believes other texts from the phone may have come from Laundrie, "which may not be the truth, but it's a possibility."
"It was just a little bit weird, the things that she was saying," the mother said. She also said she had texted both Laundrie and his mother since — but got no replies.
On Tuesday, it also emerged that Utah police had been called to an "incident" involving the couple, two weeks before she disappeared, but nothing came of it. "Our officers did respond to an incident involving Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito on 12 August 2021 however, neither Brian or Gabrielle were the reporting party," Moab Chief of Police Bret Edge told Fox News.
"Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges," added Edege. Nicole, however, told Daily Mail this may not have been a sinister event.
"It's irrelevant. Two people traveling together with each other 24 hours a day, it's not going to be perfect, it was an argument, and that's all I'm going to say about it," she said.
Meanwhile, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison has joined those calling on Laundrie to share what information he has.
"As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby's family is going through," he said. "We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering the investigation. The answers will eventually come out."
According to police, Laundrie returned home to Florida, alone, on September 1 - ten days before Gabrielle's family reported her missing. While he was initially described as her boyfriend, several outlets report the couple are engaged.
update 9/14/2021 7:11 AM
Brian Laundrie's parents are reportedly refusing to let police speak to him.
"We have not talked with him, we would love to talk to him,' said North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor told Daily Mail.
"He is under no obligation to talk to us – and he has not. And we don't even know yet if a crime happened."
When asked if officers had turned up at the home to request to ask him about Gabrielle's disappearance, he replied: "Of course."
"We did not actually talk to him. We talked to his parents. And they did not want to make him available to do that."
Police have removed the van however to scan it for clues.
"We have the vehicle, we took it away very late Saturday night into Sunday," Taylor added. "We take it, we process it for evidence – fingerprints, any evidentiary value that we think is possible"
"So we have that vehicle. We are continuing to try to piece the things together. The situation is obviously very fluid."
In a statement, North Port Police confirmed it was working with Suffolk County PD on the missing persons case.
"We currently have no definitive information that a crime took place here in North Port. With that said, the circumstances are odd."
original story 9/13/2021 9:43 AM
The family of a 22-year-old New York woman are pleading for information after their daughter went missing during a "van-life" cross country camping trip.
Gabrielle Petito was reported missing on Saturday by her mother Nichole Schmidt, after her daughter's boyfriend returned home from the trip without her.
Petito and her partner — identified on their social media as Brian Laundrie — set out on July 2 together in their converted van, documenting their travels on Instagram and YouTube.
"Recently we decided to downsize our life into a little Ford transit connect to travel across the United States!" they wrote on their Nomadic Statik YouTube channel:
They travelled from Florida to New York, to Utah to Wyoming, and planned to finish up in Portland, Oregon; but Petito hasn't been seen since stopping at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Her boyfriend has since returned to Florida in the van, alone.
Her mother told Fox News she Facetimed with her daughter on August 25, the last time she spoke with her directly. Although she received texts from her daughter's phone up until August 30, she cannot be sure who was sending them.
"I don't know if she left Grand Teton or not," she said. "I did receive a text from her on the 27th and the 30th, but I don't know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn't verbally speak to her."
Her parents told Newsday she was traveling with her boyfriend, but couldn't comment any further on him due to an ongoing investigation.
"[It's like] drowning with your hands tied behind you," Gabrielle's father Joe said. "You can't describe it. There's nothing you can do. You can't control anything."
Suffolk County Police Department in New York, in Petito's hometown, are now investigating the disappearance.
They describe her as 5'5" tall and 110lbs, with has blonde hair and blue eyes. She has several tattoos, including one on her finger, and one on her forearm that reads "let it be."
Detectives have also since recovered the van. Laundrie has yet to make a statement on the disappearance; according to Daily Mail, he has since hired an attorney.
"I can't say much, but she's no longer with the van," Gabrielle's mom told Fox. "I don't want to say anything more than that but for people looking for her, I want them to look for her now, not look for that van anymore."
Gabrielle's last Instagram post was shared on August 25 — the last day she spoke to her mother — at the Monarch Wall in Ogden, Utah:
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Laundrie's last post meanwhile came on August 13, in Moab, Utah:
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A GoFundMe to aid in the search has already raised $7k.
"While we are working with the FBI, multiple law enforcement agencies, and outside resources to pursue any and all leads the family will need funds and resources to travel and pay for expenses related to an investigation and search on the other side of the country, any help is appreciated," it reads.
"She's very, very free spirited," her father said. "Clothes didn't impress her. Cars didn't impress her. Experiences — that's what impressed her."
"I just want people to keep looking and not stop until we find her," her mother added. "She's out there somewhere. … We won't stop until we find her."