The Crazy Case of Gabby Petito

The Shocking and Sad Story That Fascinated the Internet


In July of 2021, 22 year old Gabby Petito and 23 year old Brian Laundrie left for what was supposed to be a four month cross country road trip. Instead Brian Laundrie arrived back to his home on September 1st with satisfaction of a road trip well done and zero sign of Gabby Petito. Since then, this true-crime documentary in the making has completely captivated the internet, going viral on social media and leading many online users to become pseudo detectives in the case. So what exactly happened in the search for Gabby Petito and did the Internet really help in the discovery?

The first sign that things were not going well for Gabby Petito was a domestic disturbance call on August 12th in Moab, Utah. In the call a witness described that Laundrie had hit Petito and then hit her again after running up and down the sidewalk. After a few minutes the couple drove off, but the witness went further, saying that it looked like Laundrie was trying to take Petito’s phone and leave in the van without her. The police responded by forcing a traffic stop on the van around 20 miles north of Moab. Officers describe that Petito was crying heavily in the passenger seat, saying she was struggling with personal issues. Laundrie admitted that the emotional tension between the two had been building up and claimed that Petito had struck Laundrie. The officers treated Petito as the suspect, but no charges were filed as the police arranged for Laundrie to spend a night in a hotel and Petito to stay in the van.

Gabby’s Petito’s mother received her last FaceTime call from her on August 24th. The next day she made her last Instagram post. Over the course of the next two days Gabby Petito’s mother received several texts but was uncertain if her daughter had really sent them. The final text message sent was on August 30th and said, “No service in Yosemite.”

On September 1st Laundrie and his van returned to his home in Florida with no Gabby Petito. Since Petito’s family lived in New York they were unaware that Laundrie was home from the trip, but they ended up reporting Gabby Petito missing on September 11th after being unable to contact her for several days. At this point the news of Petito started to spread rapidly through the internet.

On September 14th Laundrie and his lawyer released a statement saying that he and his family wanted to continue remaining in the background on the advice of counsel during the investigation. ¬†Juts a few hours later the Petito family released a response statement begging Laundrie¬† to talk to the police and help in the investigation. The statement implored Laundrie and his family to help, and explained that, “Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her,” and, “Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida.” On the same day police seized the van from Laundrie’s family to search for evidence.

The next day, police officially named Laundrie as a person of interest in the case. The Petito family released another statement after this news, but this time much more scathing. The statement slams Laundrie for leaving Gabby, “in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves while he sits in the comfort of his own home.” The statement then takes a more heartfelt tone, “Whatever happened in Wyoming happened. The only thing you can control is what you do now. Tell us where Gabby is. You tarnish her love with your silence.” On September 17th people gathered outside the Laundrie family house to protest his silence in North Port, Florida.

As the case gained worldwide attention more and more people reported sightings and footage of them together on the road trip. Jenn and Kyle Bethune found and posted dash cam footage from August 27th that shows a white van matching the description driving through Wyoming near Grand Teton National Park. Another witness, Miranda Baker, claimed that on August 29th she gave Laundrie a ride after seeing him hitch-hiking alone. He reportedly offered 200 dollars for a 10 mile ride, but freaked out and left after finding out the family was heading to Jackson Hole, Wyoming instead of Jackson, Wyoming.

On Jessica Schultz’s trip to the Grand Teton National Park she encountered a white van who seemingly had no idea where they were going. Schultz explained that the van was moving very slowly down a one lane road, much to the irritation of Schultz. The van then pulled halfway over with half of the nose off the road in a non designated pull out area. As she passed the van she noticed a generic young white guy alone in the van. After hearing about the case, Schultz decided to report these details to the FBI along with the coordinates of the location.

Within days the FBI found human remains in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, the same spot Schultz saw the van, that matched the description of Petito. Two days later, on September 21st, a coroner confirmed that the found remains belonged to Petito and that the initial determination on the manner of death was homicide.

On September 17th, Laundrie’s parents reported him missing, saying that he had gone camping in nearby Carlton Reserve, but they had not seen him in 3 days. There is some skepticism, however, about Laundrie’s parents helping the FBI after maintaining silence with him earlier. One neighbor reported that he had seen the family leaving for a camping trip in a new camper after Gabby Petito was first reported missing. Laundrie’s parents still insist that they have no idea the whereabouts of their son at the current time.

After an intense week long search through Carlton Reserve, Florida officials and the FBI reported that they would stop searching through the reserve and switch to an intelligence based search and investigation.

The disappearance of Gabby Petito has exploded through the nation with nonstop media and social media coverage throughout the entire story. While others follow along intently, others argue that this much media attention is wrong citing “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” This term used by social scientists refers to the disproportionately high amount of attention white women and girls receive when missing compared to non white women or men. While the case has been exciting to follow, you can’t help but wonder if this much media attention would have helped the 710 indigenous people who have gone missing in Wyoming over the last 10 years, often with little coverage and few resources for the investigation. Although the saga has almost wrapped up, Laundrie, the one loose end, could finally fill the holes in this true crime story.