NORTH PORT, Fla. - Gabby Petito, a woman who vanished after going on a cross-country trip with her fiance in a converted camper van, became the subject of a nationwide search after she didn’t return home.
Authorities later discovered the 22-year-old’s body in Wyoming — determined to have been the victim of a homicide. Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said a final autopsy revealed Petito’s cause of death was strangulation and confirmed the manner of death was homicide but couldn’t say if Petito was manually strangled or strangled by an object. He believed Petito’s body was left in the wilderness for three or four weeks before being discovered.
Petito had last been in contact with her family in late August when she and Brian Laundrie were visiting Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Their social media posts documenting the trip abruptly stopped, and Laundrie returned to their Florida home in the van — alone, according to investigators.
Laundrie, who has not cooperated with the police, hasn’t been seen himself since Sept. 14, according to authorities. A federal arrest warrant has been issued for him in connection to the case.
Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito’s disappearance:
The couple embarks on their cross-country trip, first driving from Florida to New York and later to the West Coast and western national parks. They were traveling in Petito’s converted camper van, a white 2012 Ford Transit van with a Florida license plate, and documenting their journey on YouTube and other social media platforms.
The couple posts regular updates about their journey to their Instagram accounts.
On July 10, Petito shared a photo of her at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is in southern Colorado.
On July 16, she shared another set of pictures of her at Zion National Park in southwest Utah. "The past two nights camping in Zion have been so cool, literally," she wrote in part.
On July 26, Petito shared another photo of her lounging in an outdoor bathtub at Mystic Hot Springs in Utah.
The pair gets into some type of altercation near Moab, Utah. A witness called police reporting a possible domestic violence situation between the two, prompting a response by area police.
The police report and body camera video later released shows responding officers pulled the van over and had an encounter with the couple for over an hour. An emotional Petito sat in the back of a patrol vehicle on the side of the road and Laundrie remained outside their camper van as law enforcement officials sorted out what transpired.
While the report and video show possible mental health concerns and tension between the two, officers ultimately determined the events did not add up to chargeable crimes. They also took steps to separate the pair for an evening in an effort to prevent escalation.
That same day, Petito posts photos on Instagram showing Arches National Park, also in Moab, Utah.
"We decided to take the path less traveled on the other side of the arch," she wrote in part in the caption.
A video uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 19 titled "VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey" highlights the couple’s travels in their converted camper van. The 8-minute video, on their channel called "Nomadic Statik," shows the pair in various locations on the California coast, driving through the salt flats in Utah, tent camping and cooking meals in their converted camper van.
Near the end of August, Petito’s regular contact with her family stopped.
The last confirmed sighting of Petito was when she checked out of the Fairfield Inn and Suites on Aug. 24 in Salt Lake City, according to reports.
Her mother said she last saw her daughter over Facetime around the same time that Petito and Laundrie were believed to have left Utah for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Nicole Schmidt, Petito's mother, speaks to her daughter for the last time on the phone. Petito said they had stopped in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming before a planned trip to Yellowstone.
"I don't know if she left Grand Teton or not," Schmidt later told FOX News. "I did receive a text from her on the 27th and the 30th, but I don't know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn't verbally speak to her."
Petito’s final Instagram post is also published on Aug. 25, featuring several photos of her standing in front of a mural wall.
Schmidt receives a text message from Petito’s phone, which states: "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls," according to a search warrant later filed and made public.
This is later referred to as an "odd text."
"The reference to ‘Stan’ was regarding her grandfather, but per the mother, she never calls him ‘Stan.’ The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter," according to the state search warrant, which also revealed Petito and her mother had discussed growing tension between the pair on the trip.
Laundrie arrives in North Port, Florida with the van — alone. He returns to the home where he lived with Petito and his parents.
Gabby Petito’s father was involved in a "public service" incident at the Laundrie home, according to heavily redacted police reports.
Nearly everything but the time and address was redacted due to the open investigation, but the documents link Joseph Petito to a police response at the home where his daughter lived with Laundrie and his parents at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 10.
Petito’s family reports the 22-year-old missing to the Suffolk County Police Department in New York at approximately 6:55 p.m. The North Port (Florida) Police Department has since become the lead agency in the case.
Laundrie declines to speak with investigators, who are instead provided with information for the family’s attorney. The couple’s converted camper van is recovered by North Port police at the home shared by Petito, Laundrie and Laundrie’s parents, authorities said.
The converted camper van the couple was driving during their cross-country trip and later recovered in North Port, Florida, by police. (Credit: Provided / North Port police)
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, and stepfather hold a tearful press conference begging for the public’s help in finding the 22-year-old.
"At least three times a week, we would FaceTime, call, text — frequently. She kept me updated on this whole trip," Schmidt told reporters.
"The first couple days I wasn’t getting responses, I believed she was in a place with no service. It was day eight, nine that I really became concerned."
The Laundrie family shares a statement through their attorney:
This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family.
It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito- in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family.
On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."
The FBI also processes the converted camper van, according to North Port police.
Brian Laundrie is named "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.
Petito’s family releases a new statement through their lawyer:
Every day the search for Gabby continues the Schmidt and Petito family becomes more desperate. They are frantically searching for answers and information in their daughter’s disappearance while Brian sits in the comfort of his home.
Brian claims he wants to sit in the background while we search for Gabby in the wilderness of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.
Brian left Gabby in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves while he sits in the comfort of his home. In his home!
Brian, how could you do this to Gabby? You selfishly remain silent while Gabby is all alone in the wilderness.
Brian, your silence is reprehensible! We beg you to do the right thing and help us bring Gabby home.
Brian, whatever happened in Wyoming, happened. The only thing you can control is what you do now. Tell us where Gabby is.
You tarnish your love for her with your silence.
Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, also travels from New York to Jackson, Wyoming, to help in the search.
The National Park Service — Grand Teton and Yellowstone — post about Petito's disappearance on social media, while the body camera video from the couple’s encounter with Utah police is officially released. Laundrie’s attorney declines to comment about the video in an email to FOX 13 News.
Authorities say in a news conference that the investigation remains a missing person case — and not a murder investigation — and that no intensive searches have begun because it's unclear exactly where authorities might look.
"We're still trying to nail down geographic areas," North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said. "There's a lot of information we are going through. Our focus is to find Gabby."
In a separate news conference, an attorney representing Petito’s parents and stepparents reads a letter penned by the group to the Laundrie’s parents. They plead with Christopher and Roberta Laundrie to tell law enforcement what they know about the last time their son saw Petito.
"We are writing this letter to ask you to help find our beautiful daughter. We understand you are going through a difficult time and your instinct to protect your son is strong. We ask you to put yourselves in our shoes. We haven't been able to sleep or eat and our lives are falling apart," the letter reads. "We believe you know the location where Brian left Gabby. We beg you to tell us. As a parent, how could you let us go through this pain and not help us? As a parent, how could you put Gabby's younger brothers and sisters through this?"
Petito’s father arrives in North Port to plead with the community to keep looking for his daughter. Demonstrators stand outside the Laundrie home on the evening of Sept. 16, holding signs reading, "Bring Gabby home," "Truth always comes out #JusticeForGabby", and "Would she bring you home?"
"We’re standing up for somebody who’s lost that's in our city, and we’re a big family in our city, in North Port. And we are definitely going to do whatever we can to help the family find this missing daughter," one protester tells FOX News. "We all have children. If it were our child, we would want everyone to gather up and help us find our child too. So we’re going to do whatever it takes."
Meanwhile, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office in Utah says it’s "actively looking into any connection" between a double homicide of newlyweds at a campground outside Moab in August and Petito’s disappearance — which is later determined to be unrelated.
The newlyweds, 38-year-old Crystal Turner and 24-year-old Kylen Schulte, were found shot to death at a campground southeast of Moab on Aug. 18. Schulte worked at Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab, which is the same location that Petito and Laundrie got into a fight on Aug. 12 — prompting the police response captured in bodycam video.
Police say they are working around the clock on the investigation and have some new leads.
"Of course, the frustration remains with one of the two people that went on this trip that we know is right back here in this community," North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor tells FOX 13 Tampa earlier in the day, adding that investigators will continue to ask Brian and the Laundrie family to cooperate.
"That whole narrative can change at any moment," Taylor says. "Brian can walk right through these doors and we will go through the complete, professional process of asking him, ‘What the heck has happened here?’"
On the evening of Sept. 17, police speak with the Laundrie family "at their request," but still not with Brian. The police presence prompts a crowd of protesters to gather outside the home, holding signs and chanting.
FBI agents remove property from the home in an effort to help find him, according to FOX 13 Tampa Bay reporter Evan Axelbank.
Authorities in Utah also officially rule out a connection between the double homicide of two newlyweds at a campground outside Moab last month and Petito’s disappearance.
Police search a vast Florida wildlife reserve for Laundrie after his family tells authorities they believe he entered the area earlier in the week. More than 50 North Port police officers, FBI agents and members of other law enforcement agencies help in the search of the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota, Florida area of the Gulf Coast.
Authorities use drones, scent-sniffing dogs and all-terrain vehicles in the reserve, which has more than 100 miles of trails, as well as campgrounds. The search is later called off in the evening.
"Our search of the Carlton is being called this evening due to darkness. Nothing found. Efforts will begin again Sunday morning," North Port police write on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the FBI field office in Denver says agents are conducting ground surveys at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, with help from the National Park Service and local law enforcement agencies, seeking clues to Petito's disappearance.
YouTubers share a video showing what they believe to be Petito's white van in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area on the edge of Grand Teton National Park on Aug. 27. The FBI also issues a call for anyone in that area between Aug. 27-30 to speak with them if they believe they may have had contact with Petito or Laundrie.
Screenshot provided by Red White and Bethune
In the evening, FBI officials announce that a body had been found by law enforcement agents who had been searching camping sites in the area of Spread Creek. Specifics on where and how the body was found are not disclosed.
The cause of death is yet to be determined, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Charles Jones says.
"Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100% that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified," Jones tells reporters. "This is an incredibly difficult time for (Petito’s) family and friends."
Following the announcement, Gabby’s family asks for space to grieve. Their attorney releases a statement thanking the various agencies in Wyoming, Florida and New York who worked the case: "Your tireless work and determination helped bring Gabby home to her parents. The family and I will be forever grateful."
Separately in Florida, more than 50 law enforcement officers continue searching for Laundrie at the more than 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve throughout the day. Police in North Port say in a statement that they are heartbroken to learn of the discovery of the body and pledge to continue searching for answers in the case.
Agents announce a "search warrant" twice before removing Chris and Roberta Laundrie from their home and placing them in a van on their lawn, FOX News reports from the scene. Police also cordon off the area and clear the street a minute before the FBI arrives, telling people "you’re in a crime scene."
The attorney for the Laundrie family schedules a press conference for Sept. 21 but later cancels the event following a conversation with the FBI, according to FOX 5 New York. Details of the conversation are not released.
The North Port Police Department also announces that there will be no continued "major search" at Carlton Reserve for Laundrie after having "exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there."
In Utah, the 911 call from a witness reporting a "domestic dispute" between Petito and Laundrie is obtained by FOX News, which ultimately prompted the police response on Aug. 12 that was shown in the bodycam video. The caller can be heard telling a dispatcher that "the gentleman was slapping the girl."
"He was slapping her?" the dispatcher was heard asking.
"Yes, and then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off," the caller added.
The coroner confirms the remains discovered in Wyoming are that of Petito and that his "initial determination" of her manner of death is homicide, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Denver Division.
"Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999," the FBI writes on Twitter.
The preliminary autopsy report prompts anger from the Laundrie family’s neighbor across the street in North Port, Florida.
"I’m really upset now because … [the Laundries] should have absolutely come forward now," Neighbor Charlene Guthrie tells FOX News Digital. "I mean, I just … can't believe they didn’t do something. I’m really angry now that they … let this go. And that everything was so natural and they remained so normal through the whole thing, you know, while they were here, till he went on the run."
Meanwhile, North Port police announce the search for Laundrie in Carlton Reserve is resuming, focusing on the Venice side of the 25,000-acre park, after briefly pausing the "major search" a day prior.
The search for Laundrie at Florida’s Carlton Reserve enters its fourth day, again focusing on the Venice side of the park, as Sarasota authorities work to dispel rumors that he had been taken into custody.
Neighbors of the Laundrie family tell FOX News that they saw Christopher and Roberta Laundrie and their son appear to go on a trip in a new camper about a week after Brian returned to Florida in Petito's van. The details were reported to law enforcement.
In the Blue Point community of Long Island, Petito’s hometown, teal ribbons line the streets in her memory.
"Everybody knew her," Seth Needelman, treasurer of Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce, tells FOX 5 New York. "Everyone knows the family. For something like this to happen, is very tragic."
The search for Laundrie at Florida’s Carlton Reserve enters its fifth day, while a federal arrest warrant is issued for Laundrie.
The FBI says the 23-year-old has been indicted by a grand jury on charges "related to Mr. Laundrie’s activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito," specifically his "unauthorized" use of a debit card in the wake of Petito’s death.
"While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide," The FBI says in a statement. "We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI."
Shortly before the FBI's announcement, a North Port law firm announces a $20,000 reward for information leading to Laundrie's location, adding pressure to anyone who may have information about the case.
New York’s Long Island community of Blue Point comes together to pay tribute to Petito in a vigil, with residents lighting up Blue Point Avenue with candles and luminaires at the edges of their driveways in memory of her.
Meanwhile, the search continues for Laundrie in Florida.
The search for Laundrie reaches its seventh day, which includes investigators from the North Port Police Department, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. North Port PD Cmdr. Joe Fussell tells FOX 13 Tampa Bay that authorities will continue to stay vigilant.
Separately, Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman says he is also entering the search for Laundrie, prompting a multitude of tips.
Meanwhile, mourners in North Port hold a vigil in Petito’s honor, lighting candles and releasing butterflies.
Petito’s funeral is held in Holbrook, New York, bringing family, friends and even complete strangers to the Maloney Funeral Home looking to pay their respects.
Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, speaks alongside her stepfather, Jim Schmidt, and urges mourners to not be "sad."
"Gabby did not live that way," he says.
Schmidt remembers Petito for loving life and being an example for "all of us to live by." He encourages mourners "to enjoy every moment in this beautiful world."
Because the FBI had not released Petito’s body to her family, an empty urn is used for the service.
Thousands of miles south, authorities continue the search for Laundrie in Florida.
Nine days into the search for Brian Laundrie, his parents say they do not know their son’s whereabouts. Their lawyer releases a statement, possibly in an effort to quell speculation that they may have somehow helped their son disappear.
Attorney Steven Bertolino says in the statement, "Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him. The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong."
"Dog the Bounty Hunter" tells FOX News he received a tip that Laundrie’s parents spent the night in Fort De Soto Park, a Florida campground some 75 miles from their home, with their son twice in early September. They’re alleged to have gone on Sept. 1-3 and Sept. 6-8.
"They were registered, went through the gate. They’re on camera. They were here," he tells FOX News. "We think at least if he’s not here right now, we are sure he was caught on camera as he went in the gate — that he was here for sure. Not over in the swamp."
He later adds: "Allegedly, what we’re hearing, is two people left on the 8th. Three people came in on the 6th, and two people left on the 8th. I think he’s been here for sure."
In Utah, the Moab Police Department chief takes a leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act. The announcement is made just days after the city announced it would be investigating officers’ handling of the possible domestic violence case involving Petito and Laundrie in August, which was captured on bodycam video.
Lisa Church, communications director for the City of Moab, declines to answer further questions regarding the reason for Police Chief Bret Edge’s leave of absence.
Petito’s family holds a press conference in New York, thanking law enforcement and many on social media who helped find their daughter and reveal they got matching tattoos with the words "Let it be" written across their arms — a tattoo Petito also had on her arm. They also announce the Gabby Petito Foundation, aiming to provide resources and guidance for families of other missing children.
Their attorney, Richard Stafford, also says the family believes justice will be served in the case. He calls the FBI "the premier agency in the country," which took the lead in investigating Petito’s death.
"The Laundries did not help us find Gabby. They sure as well won’t help us find Brian. To Brian, we are asking you to turn yourself in," Stafford says.
Hours later, the Laundries’ family attorney confirms that Brian and his parents went camping together between Sept. 6 and Sept. 7 at Fort De Soto Park in Florida days before the Petito family realized that Gabby was missing.
The Petito family reported Gabby missing on Sept. 11.
Fort De Soto visitor logs obtained by FOX 13 Tampa Bay show someone by the name of Roberta Laundrie checked in to a waterfront campsite at the Pinellas County park for two days on Sept. 6, which matches up with previously reported details that the family had left their home with a camper at that time.
"They all left the park," Family attorney Steven Bertolino says in a statement.
Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman contracts a private search and rescue K-9 team to search an island called Egmont Key off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida, in his search for Laundrie.
"We're out here at the island," Chapman says in a video posted on Twitter. "This would be and could be a perfect spot for him to hide, not too many people out here."
New bodycam video from a second Moab, Utah officer who arrived at the scene following an Aug. 12 altercation is released. In the video, Petito tells an officer that Laundrie hit her.
"He didn't like hit me in the face," Petito says in the video. "He didn't like punch me in the face or anything."
"Did he slap your face, or what?" the officer asks.
"Well he like, grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that's why it looks, I definitely have a cut right here," she says, rubbing her cheek. "I can feel it, when I touch it it burns."
The second video, obtained through public records requests from FOX News and FOX 13 Utah, reveals more details about the encounter just weeks before Petito was last seen alive in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
"He got really frustrated with me, and he locked me out of the car and told me to go take a breather, but I didn’t want to take a breather," Petito says in the new video. "And I wanted to get going. We’re out of water."
Laundrie’s alleged mistreatment of Petito parallels patterns of domestic abuse, numerous experts tell FOX News. And her reaction to the police presence – on the verge of tears and blaming herself the entire time – could be the signs of a victim being manipulated by her abuser, the experts say.
Laundrie’s sister, Cassie, speaks to protesters gathered outside her Lakewood Ranch, Florida, home. When asked if her parents were helping Laundrie evade authorities, she says, "I don't know" and that she hadn't been able to speak with them.
"I'm in the boat where I'm getting ignored by my family and thrown under the bus by my family's attorney," Cassie Laundrie says in a video shared by TikTok user @chroniclesofolivia.
When asked if she thinks Laundrie killed Petito, Cassie Laundrie replies, "I don’t know."
In a text message that night, Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino blames the media in response to Cassie Laundrie’s comments.
"I do not represent Cassie Laundrie," he tells FOX News Digital in a text message. "Cassie’s comments can only be attributed to the press twisting my words and hers, which were only given to clarify prior mischaracterizations by the press, with the hopes of further sensationalizing this tragic story."
Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino explains why Laundrie returned to Florida without Petito after their trip out west.
He releases the explanation to FOX 5 New York on Oct. 5, saying, "Brian flew home to Tampa from SLC on 08/17 and returned to SLC on 08/23 to rejoin Gabby. To my knowledge, Brian and Gabby paid for the flights as they were sharing expenses. Brian flew home to obtain some items and empty and close the storage unit to save money as they contemplated extending the road trip."
The statement does not explain anything that happened after Aug. 23.
The family attorney also confirms to FOX 13 Tampa Bay that authorities believe Laundrie left to hike a Florida reserve on Sept. 13 after confirming that his Mustang was spotted at the Laundrie residence on Sept. 15.
Laundrie’s father, Christopher Laundrie, joins law enforcement in the search for his son. Video captures Christopher arriving at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port with authorities.
The park is adjacent to the Carlton Reserve, where law enforcement has been searching for weeks.
"Chris Laundrie was asked to assist law enforcement in their search for Brian at the preserve today," Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino tells FOX News a day prior. "Since the preserve has been closed to the public, Chris has not been able to look for Brian in the only place Chris and Roberta believe Brian may be."
Blue shares further details on the ruling on Petito’s final autopsy report confirming the 22-year-old woman died of strangulation and the manner of her death was homicide.
Blue estimates that her body was left in the wilderness for three to four weeks before she was discovered on Sept. 19 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Yellowstone National Park.
"There will not be an exact date of death on the death certificate," he said.
Blue couldn’t elaborate on what led him to that conclusion and couldn’t say if Petito was manually strangled or strangled with an object.
Anyone with information regarding Petito’s disappearance is asked to call the FBI national hotline at 1-800-225-5324 or submit tips to tips.fbi.gov.
This story was reported from Detroit, Cincinnati and Los Angeles.