A tragic turn in the missing person case that has gripped the nation occurred on Sunday when authorities announced they believed that they have found the body of 22-year-old Gabby Petito who disappeared last month while on a trip through western U.S. national parks.
The grim news was delivered by the Denver FBI which had been conducting a search for Petito as questions swirled about what role her fiancé Brian Laundrie may have played in her disappearance; he returned alone to Florida and has refused to cooperate with law enforcement.
Credit for locating what almost certainly is the young woman’s remains goes to YouTube channel Red White & Bethune which posted a video of the couple’s vehicle at a remote campground in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
While driving through the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the video bloggers came across the white van with Florida plates on August 27, days after Petito last spoke with her mother.
Red White & Bethune realized that it was Petito’s van while they were editing the video and notified the FBI.
One Twitter user marveled at the work of Red White & Bethune, “That was truly a needle in a haystack found by the internet,” he tweeted.
The internet is unbelievable, man. YouTube vlogger spotted Gabby Petito & Brian Laundrie’s van while editing footage, reported it, police searched the area & sadly (but fortunately for the investigation) found her body. That was truly a needle in a haystack found by the internet pic.twitter.com/3a0ovcsg4n
— KFC (@KFCBarstool) September 19, 2021
At the press conference where the terrible news was conveyed to the public, FBI Denver’s supervisory agent extended his condolences to Petito’s family before he announced that the body which matched her description had been discovered.
FBI Denver's supervisory senior resident agent in Wyoming Charles Jones extended condolences to Gabby Petito's family before announcing the discovery of a body matching her description in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area.https://t.co/PfotvBbOVk @WFLA #GabbyPetito pic.twitter.com/VSV6EC4kmN
— Justin Schecker (@WFLAJustin) September 19, 2021
Following the FBI announcement, Richard Benson, the lawyer for Petito’s family issued a statement asking for respect from the media at a time of grieving.
“I am making a personal request to members of the press and news media to refrain from contacting the Schmidt and Petito family,” he said, “Due to today’s developments, we are asking the press and news media to have some decorum and sensitivity for Gabby’s family and allow them to grieve. I will be in contact with you when Gabby’s family is ready to make a public statement.”
An autopsy has been scheduled for Tuesday to positively identify the body as well as to determine the cause of death although that could be difficult considering exposure to the elements including the summer heat that would have hastened decomposition, eliminating any visible marks including possible lacerations and bruising.
A cryptic text that was sent from Petito’s phone to her mother on August 30 that there was “No service in Yosemite” which is in California, hundreds of miles away from Grand Teton, raises the question of foul play. Nicole Schmidt does not believe that it was sent by her daughter.
As of Sunday, the search continues for Laundrie who was named as a person of interest and has also disappeared with his whereabouts believed to be inside of a massive wildlife reserve in Sarasota County, FL.
The second day of the hunt for Petito’s boyfriend with law enforcement combing the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve, a 25,000 area of swampy ground and dense foliage where he may have fled to was called off due to darkness and will resume on Monday.
Our search of the Carlton has concluded for the evening. Nothing to report.
— North Port Police (@NorthPortPolice) September 19, 2021
Now that a body has been found, there will be an intense focus placed on locating Laundrie who is the only person who has the details on Petito’s final days and is on the run.
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