A documentary exploring the disappearance and death of American blogger Gabby Petito is set to air today, with exclusive interviews with Petito’s parents and step-parents.
Brian Laundrie, her boyfriend, took responsibility for killing Petito in a notebook found near his body, the FBI said on Friday 21 January.
The agency plans to close the investigation into her 2021 homicide.
In a statement, the FBI in Denver said their “investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito.”
“A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms Petito’s death,” the agency said.
The investigation also revealed that Laundrie had sent several text messages between his and Petito’s phones following her death in an attempt “to deceive law enforcement by giving the impression that Ms Petito was still alive.”
Laundrie was the subject of an FBI manhunt last year. In October 2021, human skeletal remains were found during the search, and these was confirmed to belong to Laundrie.
Petito, 22, disappeared in September, and her body was found at a national park in Wyoming on 19 September following a cross-country trip with Laundrie.
What else did the FBI say?
The FBI said they were closing the investigation.
“All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case,” FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said on Friday (21 January).
“The FBI’s primary focus throughout the investigation was to bring justice to Gabby and her family.”
Rick Stafford, an attorney for the Petito/Schmidt family, thanked the Wyoming, Denver, New York and Tampa FBI offices in a statement on behalf of Gabby’s family.
“Gabby’s family would like to thank the FBI’s Victim Services Department for all they have done for them,” he added.
“Victim Services has been there for support from the earliest stages of this investigation and helped their entire family navigate through the worst moments of their lives.”
Who was Brian Laundrie?
Laundrie was the fiancé of Gabby Petito, the blogger who was reported missing after the pair embarked on a road trip together in July.
Laundrie met Petito when they were both in high school, at Bayport-Blue Point High on New York’s Long Island, according to Petito’s stepfather Jim Schmidt.
The two began dating in March 2019, and in July 2020 it appears from their Instagram posts that they got engaged.
In one post, Laundrie wrote: “My biggest fear is that one day I’ll wake up and it will have all been a dream, because that is what every second has felt like since the moment we found each other.
“Till death do us part or until I wake up, I’m so happy the answer was yes, Love you hunny.”
Laundrie appeared to make money by selling his art online under the handle Bizarre Design. His Instagram shows artwork like linocut prints, bookmarks and drawings.
An anonymous former co-worker of Laundrie also claims that the 23-year-old is “well versed” in surviving in the wild.
Speaking to the New York Post, the unnamed source said: “In conversation about hiking … Brian talked about the longest time that he spent in the woods was six weeks and bragged about only having a large pack of either cheese or peanut butter crackers to sustain him for that time.”
Laundrie’s online presence indicates that he is a keen traveller and camper.
What happened on the road trip?
Laundrie and Petito documented their cross-country journey on Petito’s YouTube account, as well as across other social media.
While pictures on Instagram portrayed the couple as very happy and in love, witness reports and video evidence has painted a different picture.
Police video released by a Utah department showed that an officer pulled the van the pair were travelling in over on 12 August after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park.
Body cam footage showed an emotional Petito, who sat inside a police car while officers also questioned Laundrie.
Petito told officers she was struggling with her mental health, with the responding officer writing in their report that, "at no point in my investigation did Gabrielle stop crying, breathing heavily, or compose a sentence without needing to wipe away tears, wipe her nose, or rub her knees with her hands.”
Police decided not file any charges, instead separating the couple for the night with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the converted van, and characterising the incident as a mental/emotional health break instead of domestic assault.
In a new video released by the Moab city police department, Petito can be seen talking about a physical fight that happened between them.
An officer in the video asks if Laundrie hit her, to which Petito replies: “I guess, I guess, yeah.”
A witness also claimed to have seen Laundrie slapping and hitting Petito in Moab, Utah, weeks before she went missing.
Has Brian Laundrie been found?
Laundrie was reported as missing on 17 September by his parents, Christopher Laundrie, 62, and Roberta Laundrie, 55, and he has not been seen since 14 September.
The FBI issued a federal arrest warrant, charging him for the alleged “use of unauthorised access devices”. The indictment reported that Laundrie used a debit card and PIN number for accounts that did not belong to him.
He was labelled as a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance as he was believed to be the last person to have been with her before she went missing.
The search for Laundrie was mainly focused on the Carlton Reserve in Florida, which is close to his family home in North Port.
His parents said that he went to the Myakkakatchee Creek Environmental Park for a hike on 14 September. He drove there in a silver Mustang which has since been collected. According to Laundrie’s parents, he left with only a backpack.
After more than a month, investigators leading the search found “human remains” in the Florida park on Wednesday (20 October).
In a news conference, FBI special agent Michael McPherson confirmed that “what appears to be human remains” was discovered in the search of the Carlton Reserve area.
He said that the remains were found alongside some personal items of Laundrie’s, including a backpack and a notebook.
McPherson said: “These items were found in an area that up until recently had been underwater.”
Bertolino confirmed that Laundrie’s parents were in the area where the remains were discovered.
He said: “Chris and Roberta Laundrie were at the reserve when human remains and some of Brian’s possessions were located in an area where they had initially advised law enforcement that Brian may be.”
It has since been confirmed through the use of dental records that these remains were in fact Laundrie.
In a statement, investigators said: “A comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T Mabry Carlton Jr Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie.”
What happened to Gabby Petito?
Laundrie and Petito left to go on a cross country trek in a converted van to visit the national parks of the US West.
After leaving in July, Laundrie suddenly drove the van back to his parents’ home in North Port Florida. He was alone.
After 10 days, Petito’s family filed a missing persons report. Her last known contact with her family was on 25 August, when she was in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
While the two had been documenting the trip online, Petito’s regular social media updates abruptly ceased in late August.
It has been confirmed that Laundrie and his parents spent two days camping at the Fort De Soto Park on 6 September. The significance of this camping trip has been called into question, as it was around the same time that Petito’s mother was trying to contact Laundrie and his mother to figure out why communication with her daughter had suddenly stopped.
After Petito was reported as missing, Laundrie’s lawyer released a statement which said that his client would not be speaking to authorities “on the advice of counsel”.
Petito’s body was found in western Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, with the coroner ruling her death as a homicide in their preliminary findings.
Before Laundrie disappeared, he had avoided the authorities and did not divulge any information about what happened on the trip.
It is still unknown what happened to Petito on the road trip with Laundrie.
What have Brian Laundrie’s parents said?
Following the identification of Laundrie’s remains, his parents issued a statement via their lawyer which said: “Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian’s.
“We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundries’ privacy at this time.”
Laundrie’s parents have been criticised for staying quiet, instead only issuing statements through their lawyers. They have also rarely left their home in Florida after the news broke that Petito was dead.
Laundrie’s father, Chris, was briefly seen leaving the house on Saturday to tear down a sign from his garden that had been placed there by a protester.
According to Fox News, the sign read “What if it was Cassie?”, seemingly in reference to Laundrie’s sister Cassie Laundrie.
Through their lawyer, Steve Bertolino, the Laundries have said that their son had nothing to do with Petito’s death.
Bertolino said: “While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorised use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito’s demise.
“At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him.”
Speaking to Insider, Bertolino said that Laundrie’s parents were being “tortured in their own home by protesters”.
Protesters have regularly turned up at the Laundrie family home in North Point, leaving signs and even pictures of Petito.
Bertolino said that they were “being followed when performing basic tasks like food shopping” and that “all of the foregoing is occurring when they have no idea whether their son is alive or not”.
What have Gabby Petito’s parents said?
The Petito-Schmidt family attorney, Rick Stafford, said that they would not be making any statements regarding the discovery of Laundrie’s remains until they’re “emotionally ready”.
In an previous interview with 60 minutes Australia, Petito’s parents said that they want “vengeance and justice” for the loss of their daughter, and that they hope to see Laundrie in prison.
In the interview, Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, said: “We want vengeance and justice, and for him to pay for his crimes.”
Her mother, Nichole Schmidt, added: “I just want to get him in a cell for the rest of his life.”
Petito’s mother opened up in the interview and said that while she had concerns about her daughter going on the road trip, “it felt safe because she was with Brian and I felt that she would be okay”.
“I thought he would take care of her,” she said.
What’s Gabby Petito: The Murder That Gripped the World
Gabby Petito: The Murder That Gripped the World is a documentary about the disappearance and death of the 22 year old.
The summary for the programme reads: “The film tells the story of Gabby’s final few months through the prism of the internet and found footage, alongside interviews with her family.
“The programme follows her own videos and posts on Instagram and other sites, Brian’s pictures and posts - through to police bodycam footage and ultimately the online sleuths dedicating their lives to solving the mystery.”
It will air on Channel 5 today, Tuesday 1 February, at 10pm until 11:30pm.
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