Influencer Gabby Petito Missing After Boyfriend Returns From Road Trip Without Her, Nationwide Search Commences
The search is on for missing influencer Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito, who hasn't been seen since she last updated her social media back in August.
The 22-year-old Florida native and YouTuber, who has amassed over 164,000 followers on Instagram for her content about traveling, art and yoga, is missing following a summer road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.
Petito's family reported her missing on Sept. 11 after Laundrie returned from their cross-country road trip alone. Petito was last spotted in Wyoming, where she and Laundrie were living out of a van during the trip.
Laundrie has been classified as a person of interest.
In a statement to the press, North Port, Fla. police said that Laundrie "has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details." Authorities do know that Laundrie returned home to North Port on Sept. 1, 10 days before Gabby's family reported her missing.
Police inspected the van Petito and Laundrie traveled in during their trip, which was found at Laundrie's house. Authorities reportedly found material they will be analyzing further, but didn't go into further detail.
On Thursday (Sept. 16), police released bodycam footage of Petito recorded after an altercation between the couple, just two weeks before Petito was last seen in Wyoming. The footage was recorded on Aug. 12, when authorities were alerted by a third party.
The footage shows Petito crying in a police car as she tells officers that she slapped Laundrie. The officer in the clips says that he plans on separating the pair for the night. It's unclear what triggered the couple's altercation.
Petito last posted to her social media on Aug. 25, when she uploaded a series of photos in a gallery on her Instagram account. However, some social media users are skeptical if the post was actually uploaded by Petito herself, as it only reads "Happy Halloween" instead of one of the influencer's typical long, sincere captions.
On Aug. 30, Petito's mother Nichole Schmidt received a final text from Petito's cell phone, which was a message letting her mom know that she allegedly had no service in Yosemite. Schmidt is skeptical that her daughter sent the message herself. When asked if she believes Laundrie sent the text, she told The Daily Mail, "Yes, which may not be the truth, but it's a possibility." She says she last spoke with her daughter on either Aug. 23 or 24.
According to Schmidt, Laundrie flew home from Salt Lake City, Utah on Aug. 17 to help his father move his and Petito's belongings out of a storage unit and into his home so they wouldn't have to pay for the unit. Laundrie supposedly left Petito at the Fairfield Inn Hotel in Salt Lake City so she wouldn't be alone in the van. He flew back on Aug. 23; the couple allegedly left the hotel on Aug. 24.
Schmidt says she is unsure why the storage removal had to occur in the middle of a road trip. She also does not know where her daughter's belongings are currently.
According to Petito's mother, Petito and Laundrie were engaged.
Laundrie's attorney, Steve Bertolino, has released a statement on Laundrie's behalf after Laundrie refused to cooperate with the investigation by speaking to authorities. It reads:
“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. In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focus their attention on in cases like this and the warning that 'any statement made will be used against you' is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on the matter."
Richard Stafford, the spokesperson for Petito and the Schmidt family, also released a statement. Per ABC:
“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."