Gabby Petito Ordeal Making National Headlines


gabspetito on Instagram

Photo via Gabby Petito’s Instagram

Ashleigh McAdam, Staff Writer

Gabby Petito was an Instagram blogger who set off on a cross-country road trip with her fiance, Brian Laundrie. Gabby and Brian are both from North Point, Florida, as well as both of their families. Gabby was 22 years old, who did not return from her last stop in her cross-country trip in Grand Teton National Park, which was the last place her family knew of her location. Her fiance, Brian Laundrie, returned to their home in North Point, Florida, which they have been living in since 2019. Gabby  did not. 

Gabby has been traveling the country since January 22, 2020. “Driving across the country all the way to California & Oregon was an absolute dream. Wish I was back running down the beach looking at the Pacific Ocean”, a caption on one of Gabby’s posts on Instagram reads. This year on July 2nd, she started off on her new cross country road trip with Brian, exactly a year after Brian asked Gabby to marry her, “Brian asked me to marry him and I said yes!”, a caption from her Instagram post which she announced her engagement on that day. Gabby uploaded a Youtube video titling it “VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey”, as they were taking on their trip traveling in Gabby’s van. In addition, she would post on Instagram for almost every stop. From July 4th – July 29th, the road trip remained perfectly normal as observers know. 

July 4th: Their first stop was the Monument Rocks Natural Landmark in Scott City, KS.

“There’s no place like the tiny home we built”, from Gabby’s instagram. 

July 8th: Their second stop was Colorado Springs, Colorado.

July 10th: Their third stop was Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado.

Gabby posed with her sandboard on her Instagram and mentioned in her caption that she fell a couple times.

July 16th: Next stop, Gabby and Brian went camping in Zion National Park, Utah. “We hiked up here in about 100 degree heat, and it was so nice coming back to our campsite”. Gabby also posted the tent they stayed in at their campsite, saying, “Brought a small piece of home to the canyons”.

July 21st: From there the couple drove up to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. “Such a beautiful drive here”, Gabby’s caption on her Instagram post reads. She also mentions in the post they made a stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah, sometime in between the 16th-21st, but no date has been provided as she did not post on Instagram for that stop.

July 26th: Gabby and Brian took a swim out at Mystic Hot Springs, Utah. She posted a couple photos of her relaxing in the Hot Springs natural mineral water, and a photo of her and Brian.

July 29th: Next stop, Canyonlands National Park, Utah for some more hiking. Gabby mentioned in her Instagram caption that Brian hikes barefoot everywhere they go. “@bizarre_design_ hikes barefoot everywhere we go!” Freak.

Next stop,  August 12th, was Arches National Park, Utah. But on the way, an “altercation” between Gabby and Brian was reported in Moab City, Utah. The police report states, “Laundire and Petito were described as having gotten into a physical fight following an argument” but “both the male and female reported that they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately did not wish to see anyone charged with crime”..”Police later released body camera footage of officers’ encounter with Petito and Laundrie, during which Petito is emotional and crying through much of the video.”Laundrie says the couple got into a minor scuffle that began when he climbed into the van with dirty feet. Petito admits that she slapped Laundrie when she thought he was going to leave her in Moab, and the couple also states that Laundrie did not hit Petito”.

After the altercation was over, Brian and Gabby separated for the night, as Brian stayed in a hotel. “We thought we were making the right decision when we left them…” Melissa Hulls, Utah Park Ranger, said.

August 30th was the last day that the Petito family heard from Gabby, an odd text that read, “Can you help, Stan. I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls”. “Stan” is Gabby’s grandfather, but she never calls him “Stan”. The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter.

On September 1st, Brian Laundrie returned to their home in North Point, Florida. “Police said that he had driven the van there and Petito was not with him”.

The search began on September 11th when the Petito family reported Gabby missing. The police in Florida were first to turn to where Brian and his family lived, but when they arrived at their home, “his parents handed them a lawyer’s phone number”. 

“We don’t know what Brian knows, that’s the bottom line,” Officer Taylor said, “we are hopeful to talk to him. He needs to talk to us. We need to know exactly where he was, where she was, their last locations, and the fact he was back here for 10 days. Again, the family reported her missing 10 days later. ”

A few days later, on September 15th, Brian Laundrie was officially named a person of interest. All the while, Brian had not made himself available to speak with any law enforcement. ”Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence”.

Brian Laundrie was reported missing on September 17th. The family claimed that they have “not seen Brian since Tuesday”

On September 19th, Gabby’s body was found in Wyoming.

“Authorities say a body discovered Sunday in Wyoming is believed to be Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito. The FBI said the body was found by law enforcement agents who had spent the past two days searching campgrounds. An FBI agent said the cause of death has not yet been determined”.

After Petitos family was notified, her father tweeted: “#GABBYPETITO, she touched the world”

September 21st: The body that was found in Wyoming was confirmed to be Gabby’s, the FBI released the autopsy report, “which show the manner of death was homicide”. Shortly after the press release, the hunt for Brian Laundrie began in “a massive nature preserve” in Florida.

The following day, September 22nd, divers joined the hunt for Brian along with search teams, following the information from Brian’s family saying, “He had gone there (Florida nature park) after returning home without Petito on September 1st”.

September 23rd: Arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie was issued in connection with his activities after the death of Gabby Petito. 

“The U.S. District Court of Wyoming issued the warrant and indictment on Wednesday, related to Laundrie’s unauthorized use of a Capital One debit card and pin code with “intent to defraud” between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 in Wyoming and elsewhere with a value of $1,000 or more”.

October 12th: Gabby revealed to have been strangled to death, with the manner of death still confirmed to be a homicide. 

October 20th: Laundrie family travels back with FBI to the State Florida Park, where they claimed was where they knew Brian was last, and found human remains found near a backpack. The backpack is believed to be Brian’s, and the “possibility is high” that the human remains are his as well.

October 21st: Brian Laundries remains identified, confirmed dead.

Gabby Petitos case got more media attention than most missing persons cases. While it’s important to pay attention to domestic violence in relationships, why did Gabby’s get the most attention? 

“It’s really important [that] while this case is getting a lot of attention, this is as common as one in three women experience domestic violence in their life and three women a day are murdered by their partners,” added Tibbert.”

“During the year of 2020, 543,018 people were officially reported as missing. As of December 31st 2020, there were 89,637 active missing persons cases. So why has this specific case gained so much attention?”

““So, this case is seeing a lot of attention and some of that may be the appearance of the victim. Gabby was an attractive white female and if you are an upper-class or middle-class person living in the suburbs she could be the girl next door,” added Tibbert.”

“There were lots of stories of white women in parallel and it goes back to the 1830′s and the rise of the newspaper and so it’s really a cultural thing. Yes it implicates inequality, but it also says a lot how gender and race have been framed since before the United states existed,” said Michael J. Socolow, University of Maine Associate Professor, Dep. of Comm. & Journalism.“

Criminologists said another reason for the surge of publicity around Petito’s disappearance is her race and age.

“The vast majority of people who go missing and are murdered are not young white females but people of color,” said Bonn. “How often do you hear about a person of color gone missing?”

As the frenzy around the case has mounted, news outlets have reported that Petito vanished in Wyoming, where over 700 indigenous people, primarily girls, have disappeared over the last decade. None has generated the same social media attention or news coverage.

710 missing indigenous people were reported missing in Wyoming, the same state as Gabby.

And many more across America. Indigenous families and lives matter too, and it’s important we pay attention to them as well.

Everything being said and the case officially closed, the Gabby Petito tragedy was an act of domestic abuse. Petito and her family will unfortunately never obtain justice or closure, but they are reassured that Gabby is in a better place now.

If you are in a toxic abusive relationship, please seek help. It is very possible for relationships to end up like Petito’s and so many others around the world. Awareness needs to be spread. Please protect yourself, and those around you.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: