What to Know
- Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11, months after the couple left on their cross-country trek; a body matching her description was found Sunday in a Wyoming national park, and a coroner confirmed on Tuesday that the body found is indeed Petito
- FBI agents and police swarmed Brian Laundrie's Florida home Monday as they investigate the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito. Investigators have also found a hard drive in the couple's van
- Laundrie returned home alone in that van on Sept. 1; he has been missing for a full week. Police resumed their search Tuesday of a vast Florida nature preserve where he allegedly said he was going to hike
A coroner in Wyoming confirmed on Tuesday that the body found in the park over the weekend is Gabby Petito, and has ruled that her death was a homicide.
The manner and cause of death are still pending the final autopsy results, the FBI said in a tweet. In a press release, the FBI said that the forensic search at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area ended on Tuesday. However, they are still looking for anyone who may have had contact with with Petito or her fiance, Brian Laundrie, or seen their vehicle between Aug. 27-30.
"The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito's death is held accountable for their actions," said Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. "Mr. Brian Laundrie has been named a person of interest. Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI."
While it occurred more than two weeks before she went missing, a witness report provided new details of a fight between Petito and Laundrie on Aug. 12. In written testimony provided to police in Moab, Utah, a witness said that "something seemed off" as he saw the couple having a fight, with the man seeming to take the woman's phone and lock her out of the van. At one point, the woman was "punching him in the arm and/or face & trying to get into the van."
The person who filed the report stated that 'it was hard to tell if they were sort of play fighting, but from my point of view, something definitely didn't seem right," saying that it seemed like the man (who police now know was Laundrie) was "trying to leave" the woman (Petito) and possibly take her phone.
The coroner's ruling came hours after the Petito family attorney released a brief statement to the media, in which he said that more will come from the family once Petito's body is returned home.
"I want to personally thank the press and news media for giving the Petito and Schmidt family time to grieve," lawyer Richard Stafford said, referring to Petito's mom, dad, stepfather and stepmother. "We will be making a statement when Gabby is home. I will contact you to arrange a time and location."
The Laundrie family's response to the coroner's confirmation was much more succinct: "May Gabby Rest in Peace."
The FBI had already said it believed the remains found Sunday in Bridger Teton National Forest, on the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park, were Petito's. A mysterious stone cross was discovered in the campground where the body was found.
Their biggest question right now: Where is Brian Laundrie?
Police in North Port, Florida, Laundrie's hometown, launched a renewed search for him in the 25,000-acre Carlton Preserve on Tuesday, a day after they said they were suspending the effort because they believed they had exhausted all avenues. They started searching early in the day. Law enforcement ended their search around 7 p.m., reporting that nothing had been found.
Laundrie's parents have said they haven't seen their son since last Tuesday, when he said he was going to the preserve for a hike. They have since spoken to law enforcement officers as federal and local agents intensify their search for answers.
Petito's family has said they believe Laundrie's family knew more than they let on.
In a previously released letter from Petito's parents to Laundrie's parents five days ago, the Long Island woman's family begged for help finding "our beautiful daughter."
"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," it read in part.
The Laundrie family, through their attorney, released a statement after officials announced the discovery of a body matching Petito's description in Grand Teton National Park, where the couple visited, calling the news "heartbreaking." They said they were praying for Petito and her family -- as they search for their own son.
The Laundrie family has said they hadn't seen their son in a full week, since they told officers he want to Florida's sprawling Carlton Reserve, a 25,000-acre park with difficult terrain, according to North Port police, for a hike and never returned.
North Port police scoured that nature preserve all weekend and came up empty. They said Tuesday their search would resume with a different locational approach.
It wasn't immediately clear what sparked the renewed search on Tuesday, but police for the first time called the case an "FBI-led criminal investigation" as they announced their plans.
More on the Gabby Petito Case
The mystery around the disappearances of both Petito and Laundrie has captured national headlines and drawn massive law enforcement attention in multiple states.
It's not clear when authorities expect to get results, including cause and manner of death as well as identification, from the medical examiner on the Wyoming body. It was said to have been found in an area not far from where witnesses told the FBI they saw the white van the couple had been using to travel cross-country.
Laundrie returned home to Florida alone in that van on Sept. 1, 10 days before Petito's mother reported her missing. A search of that van yielded a hard drive believed to contain evidence connected to Petito's disappearance, according to a filing of a search warrant in Florida. It's not yet clear what that drive holds.