A 22-year-old woman has been declared missing and her fiancé is refusing to speak to police about what happened after he returned home early from their months-long road trip across the United States.
Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, hit the road earlier this summer with plans to live in their van and drive across the U.S., in an adventure that they documented on Instagram and YouTube.
Petito suddenly stopped answering video calls from her mom in late August, and Laundrie returned to their Florida home alone with their van on Sept. 1 — much earlier than expected. Laundrie’s parents also live at that home, police say.
Petito’s family, from Long Island, N.Y., reported her missing on Sept. 11, prompting a multi-state search involving several police departments and the FBI.
Police in North Port, Fla., have confiscated the couple’s van and are treating Laundrie as a person of interest in the case.
“As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details,” North Port police said in a statement on Wednesday.
“You had someone who was in constant communication with their family on a pretty regular basis. Then, all of sudden, nothing,” police spokesperson Josh Taylor said. “Then, all of a sudden, the person she was travelling with is back here and she’s not here. That person is unwilling to talk with us to this point. All of that is very, very concerning.”
Petito is described as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white woman with several tattoos. She stands five feet five inches tall and weighs approximately 110 pounds.
Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, says she last saw her during a regular video chat on Aug. 23 or 24.
Schmidt told CBS New York that they typically have FaceTime calls three times a week, and that she became worried when the days stretched out after their last call.
“The first couple of days, though I wasn’t getting responses, I believed she was in a place with no service. It was, like, day eight or nine when I really became concerned,” she said.
Schmidt says her last contact with Petito was a text message on Aug. 30, but she is suspicious about the message.
“I don’t know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text,” she told broadcaster WFSB. “I didn’t verbally speak to her.”
Petito was last seen on security footage with Laundrie in Salt Lake City, Utah, when the couple checked out of a hotel on Aug. 24. Authorities say the two were heading to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
The last post on her Instagram account is dated Aug. 25, and it shows her posing in front of a monarch butterfly mural. The photo appears to have been taken in Ogden, Utah, a city north of Salt Lake and west of neighbouring Wyoming.
Petito’s family is angry and concerned that Laundrie has refused to speak to police since she was declared missing. He’s also hired a lawyer.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family,” Laundrie’s lawyer, Steve Bertolino, said in a statement on Tuesday. “On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Petito’s family shared their frustrations in a statement of their own on Tuesday, in which they demanded that Laundrie co-operate with police.
“Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida,” they said. “How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located?”
Petito’s family blasted Laundrie in another statement on Wednesday, accusing him of abandoning her in the wilderness at Grand Teton Park, where a search is now underway.
“Brian, whatever happened in Wyoming, happened,” they wrote. “The only thing you can control is what you do now. Tell us where Gabby is.”
Laundrie and Petito have been dating for about two-and-a-half years, and they’ve been engaged since July 2020.
Their social media feeds paint a happy picture of two carefree spirits who were enjoying nature on their trek across the country.
Police in Moab, Utah, say they responded to an incident involving the couple on Aug. 12, though they did not provide many details.
“Neither Brian or Gabrielle were the reporting party,” Chief Bret Edge told KUTV. “Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges.”
The investigation is ongoing.
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