Gabby Petito case: Here are all the questions that left cops scratching their heads
September is about to end, but the case of Gabby Petito is nowhere near to getting closure. The 22-year-old Long Island YouTuber’s case attracted the attention of the whole country earlier this month after she was reported missing by her family on September 11. The missing report was filed at Suffolk County Police Department after her parents did not hear from her for days.
Gabby was on a cross-country trip with her 23-year-old boyfriend Brian Laundrie when she suddenly vanished. She last contacted her family on August 25 and was last seen alive on August 24 while checking out of a Utah hotel. Brian returned to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida on September 1, but did not tell anyone about her whereabouts. He even refused to talk to investigators after Gabby’s family reported her missing. His parents hired an attorney for him.
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But a twist came in the case when on September 17, Brian’s family reported him missing. The family said they last saw him on September 14, a day before he was named a person of interest in the case. “Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him,” the family’s lawyer Steve Bertolino said.
Soon, search efforts were launched for him. However, on September 19, authorities said they discovered a body “consistent with the description” of Gabby in the isolated Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. On September 21, her official identification was done and in a statement, the Denver Office of the FBI said: “Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results.”
Along with the cause of Gabby's death, there are a number of unanswered questions that have left people scratching their heads.
Is Brian Laundrie missing or on the run?
Brian’s whereabouts are not known for more than a week even after a massive manhunt has been launched for him in the 25,000-acre, alligator-and-snake-infested swampy Carlton Reserve by air and ground. North Port Police Commander Joe Fussell said on September 24: “We are not wasting our time out here. We are doing our due diligence to find Brian in an area that intelligence had led us that he could possibly be in.”
But again on September 27, the North Port Police Department said the search efforts will be resumed inside the reserve. A spokesman for the department, Josh Taylor told Insider, “I don't think you're going to see those large-scale types of efforts this week,” before adding: “I'm told it will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence. Hopefully, water will lower in areas hard to currently.”
Besides, anyone with any information leading to Brian or Gabby’s death has been urged to contact the FBI at: tips.fbi.gov, 1-800-CALL-FBI, or 303-629-7171.
How and when did Gabby Petito die?
Gabby and Brian embarked on the cross-country trip in July in a white 2012 Ford Transit van. The couple documented their trip across several states on social media. Their Instagram posts gave the impression that the pair were happily enjoying their trip. But after Gabby vanished, new details began emerging. For example, the August 12 incident that saw cops intervene.
Chief Bret Edge summarized the incident and reported: "The male tried to create distance by telling Gabbie to take a walk to calm down. She didn't want to be separated from the male and began slapping him. He grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van." However, later it was found out that Gabby was not the actual aggressor, Brian had allegedly hit him.
Several online sleuths speculated that Gabby was in an abusive relationship and Brian was behind her death. However, nothing has been officially confirmed yet. Even though her manner of death has been declared, the cause of death is still pending. And recently, experts warned that finding the cause of death may be quite a task for the authorities as her remains were left in the wilderness for weeks. Joseph Giacalone, a criminal justice professor at the City University of New York, said, “If she's strangled, the evidence is going to be limited. In the respect that you're not going to have blood everywhere and, you know, hair fibers or all that other stuff.”
George Kirkham, a professor emeritus at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said since Gabby’s body was in the wild for days, it is likely it has become “very skeletonized”. “I don't know what will be available in terms of forensic evidence after that stage of decomposition,” he added.
Have authorities found any evidence?
In terms of evidence, investigators reportedly only have the van in their custody and an external hard drive, which was found inside the vehicle. Cops said the van was “fully processed for evidence” and did not disclose any more details.
What about Gabby and Brian’s phones?
Authorities have not yet found Gabby’s phone, but regarding Brian’s phone his lawyer Steven Bertolino earlier said he left home on September 14 without his cell phone, wallet and has “no known means of communication”. Later, Bertolino confirmed that the FBI has Brian’s phone in their custody. However, no information has been shared by the authorities yet.
How was Gabby and Brian’s relationship?
The nature of their relationship has been portrayed as quite confusing since some people called them “couple goals,” while some defined Brian as the jealous type of boyfriend. Nicole Kalanich, an ex-colleague of the pair, has said that they never “complained” and were “happy and cheerful”, before noting: “They were couple goals for me.”
One of Gabby’s friends, Steven Evans, said: “I actually never got to meet him. When they did get engaged they actually asked me to photograph their wedding, but since then, I never really heard much about him and didn't even know what he looked like up until now.”
Another friend of the young woman, Nikki Passannante, added: “I never got the chance to meet him. They moved to Florida pretty early in their relationship and we're in Long Island and unfortunately, we never got to know a lot. But from what she says and what she posts, they seem to be pretty in love.”
But Gabby's best friend, Rose Davis, said Brian had “jealousy issues”. Recalling an incident, she told Daily Mail on September 17: “Brian took her ID just so she wouldn't be able to come out with me. He's got these jealousy issues and he struggles from what Gabby called these ‘episodes,’ where he would hear things and hear voices and wouldn't sleep. Gabby had to stay at my house a bunch of times because she just needed a breather and didn't want to go home to him.”
Also, Gabby’s mother Nicole Schmidt revealed that the couple was engaged for some time before calling it off because they believed they were too young to get married. “I think they kind of put that on hold just because they felt it was a little fast. They were excited at first, but then they were like, let's just wait, we're very young. So they were really just boyfriend and girlfriend,” Schmidt added.
Will Brian face sentencing if he is found?
Experts have predicted that if Brian is caught and charged with Gabby’s death, he may face the death penalty. Alfredo Garcia, a professor at St Thomas University College of Law and a former assistant state attorney in Florida, explained that since the young man is a Flordia-native and Gabby’s body was discovered in Wyoming, he could get the death sentence. Both in Florida and Wyoming, the death sentence is legal.
Harvey Morse, a private detective with Locators International in Florida, stated, “I hope that this person is found, and if he is the perpetrator, he pleads guilty and doesn't draw this case out which would cause so much pain to so many people.”
However, officially Brian has not been charged yet for Gabby’s death or disappearance. Currently, an arrest warrant has been issued for him after he apparently used a Capital One debit bank card, from August 30 to September 1 after the death of his girlfriend. The indictment alleged that he spent around $1,000 during those days.