(Trends Wide) — The case of Gabby Petito’s disappearance took a tragic turn this Sunday when police found human remains during their search. Authorities are working to determine whether the discovery could answer questions about what happened to the 22-year-old.
Teton County, Wyoming Medical Examiner Dr. Brent Blue told Trends Wide that an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, saying officials would confirm the identity of the remains through photographs, personal identification or DNA.
Petito had been traveling with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, on a road trip through several western states. Laundrie returned home to North Port, Florida, without her on Sept. 1, according to police, and her family reported her missing on Sept. 11.
His family has been notified of the discovery, though a full forensic ID will be needed to confirm he’s Petito, said Charles Jones, a supervising resident agent for the FBI Denver in Wyoming.
Authorities must also identify the cause of death, he said. The investigation is active and ongoing.
The area around the Spread Creek campground will be closed to the public until further notice, and authorities continue to seek advice from anyone who has seen Petito, Laundrie or the vehicle they were traveling in, Jones said during a news conference Sunday.
Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, tweeted a picture of her this Sunday night and said, “She shook the world.”
— joseph petito (@josephpetito) September 19, 2021
Richard Stafford, an attorney representing Joseph Petito and his mother, Nicole Schmidt, asked that the family be given space, said in a statement obtained by Trends Wide affiliate WABC, saying: “I will contact you when Gabby’s family is ready to make a public statement. “
Laundrie’s family called the discovery of remains in Wyoming “heartbreaking.” “Laundrie’s family prays for Gabby and her family,” read a statement from Laundrie’s family attorney, Steven Bertolino.
Florida police are searching for Laundrie, whom his family said they have not seen since Tuesday. The statement added that they do not know his whereabouts.
Petito and Laundrie’s journey
Petito and Laundrie were on a road trip to national parks.
Petito is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when her family was last in contact with her, North Port police said.
The two began their road trip in June with a plan to visit state national parks in the western United States, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said last week.
She was excited to share her journey with her family and others on social media, she said.
“He maintained regular contact with his family members during his travels, however, that communication was abruptly cut off at the end of August,” added the police chief.
Police had an encounter with the couple in Moab, Utah, on August 12, where officers described them as “involved in some kind of altercation.”
Although the two are described as physically fighting after an argument, “both the man and the woman reported that they are in love and engaged to be married and that they did not wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” said a report from Officer Eric Pratt.
At the suggestion of police officers, the couple separated at night, according to the report, which described Petito as “confused and excited.”
“After evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation has risen to the level of a domestic assault as much as a mental health crisis,” wrote police officer Daniel Robbins in the police report. No charges were filed.
On Aug. 24, Petito FaceTimeed his mother and told her he was leaving Utah and heading to the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming, Stafford said.
For the next three days, Petito and his mother exchanged text messages, he said. They received one last message on Aug. 30 that said “No service in Yosemite,” but his family doubts he wrote it, Stafford said.
The search for Laundrie
The FBI said Monday it is executing a search warrant at Brian Laundrie’s home in North Port, FL. “The FBI is executing a court-authorized search warrant this Monday at Laundrie’s residence in North Port, FL, relevant to the Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito investigation. No further details can be provided as this is an active and ongoing investigation, ”the FBI said in a tweet on Monday.
Over the weekend, Florida authorities searched a local nature preserve in search of Laundrie. The North Port Police Department said Monday it has moved its search away from the Carlton Reservation after having “exhausted all avenues in the search for land there.”
Laundrie returned to North Port, Florida, without Petito on Sept. 1, according to police. Later, authorities found the truck the couple had been riding in at the home Petito shared with Laundrie and his parents in North Port, a city in Sarasota County about 80 miles south of Tampa.
Police visited Laundrie’s family home after Petito’s disappearance was reported, but Laundrie’s family declined to speak, Taylor said last week, instead giving authorities the information for his attorney.
The home was searched Friday night after Laundrie’s family told police they hadn’t seen him in days. He left home with his backpack Tuesday and told them he was heading to a local nature preserve, North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor said Saturday.
Trends Wide’s Joe Sutton, Artemis Moshtaghian, Laura James, Chris Cuomo, Travis Caldwell, Andy Rose, Jenn Selva, Alta Spells, Shawn Nottingham, Christina Maxouris, Aya Elamroussi, Rob Frehse, MiSeon Lee, Jon Passantino, Gregory Lemos and Deanna Hackney to this report.