This police camera video provided by the Moab Police Department shows Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. (The Moab Police Department via AP)
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A Wyoming coroner has found that Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, the “van life” influencer whose disappearance and death has consumed the internet over the last few weeks, died by homicide, according to an initial determination.
The cause of death is pending final autopsy results. The FBI has also named Petito’s missing fiancé, Brian Laundrie, as a person of interest in the case.
“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,” FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a statement. “Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI.”
The fate of Petito, 22, has taken the internet by storm, as a horde of online sleuths have attempted to puzzle out what may have happened between her and Laundrie, 23. (The attention to Petito also throws into sharp relief just how many cases of missing Black and Indigenous people do not receive the same level of attention.)
Petito and Laundrie had been traveling together since early July, when they departed from North Port, Florida in a van—a part of the Instagram-friendly “van life” trend, where people relinquish many of their worldly possessions for a photogenic life on the road. The couple frequently shared online dispatches that depicted their life together as scenic and adventure-filled.
There are clues, however, that the behind-the-scenes was not so sunny. On Aug. 12, police in Moab, Utah encountered the couple, after Laundrie had “some sort of argument” with Petito. In footage of the incident, Petito can be seen crying, and said she hit Laundrie while admitting that she has anxiety. She was, she said, afraid Laundrie would leave her without a ride.
In his own, separate conversation with police, Laundrie can be seen smiling and saying that he loves Petito.
The couple told the police that they “desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” according to the New York Times. The incident wasn’t domestic violence, the couple said, but a “mental/emotional health ‘break.’”
In audio of a 911 call obtained by Fox News, a caller describes Laundrie as “slapping the girl.”
“We stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hop in the car, and they drove off,” the caller added.
Petito’s family last spoke to her on Aug. 25. After Laundrie returned home alone on Sept. 1, they grew suspicious and reported her disappearance to North Port police on Sept. 11. About a week later, the FBI discovered human remains believed to belong to Petito on the boundary of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
By Sept. 14, his parents had also reported Laundrie missing. He had previously refused to speak to police, CNN reported.
Correction: The coroner who found that Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito died by homicide is from Wyoming, not Utah.