Gabby Petito: What Really Happened?

The story behind the death of Gabby Petito

Isabella Rosette, Staff Writer

It’s time to answer the question on everybody’s mind right now: what exactly happened to Gabby Petito, and who exactly was she? Well, the story begins in July, with both Gabby Petitio and her fiance, Brian Laundrie.

In early July, Petito and Laundrie embarked on what would be a cross-country road trip in Petito’s van for their YouTube channel: Nomadic Statik. They planned to travel to the West Coast of the United States and visit as many national parks as possible, hoping to reach Portland, Oregon by October 31st. Petito kept her travels documented for her loyal Instagram followers and even remained in touch with her family throughout the trip. The 22-year-old seemed to be having the time of her life with her fiance, but things were not as perfect as they may have seemed. 

On August 12th, a 911 call was placed. A witness claimed they had seen the couple get into an argument, and they claimed they had even seen Laundrie hit Petito. 

According to CNN, the 911 caller reported, “the gentleman was slapping the girl. Then we stopped… they ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”

Moab, Utah police officers were dispatched and they eventually pulled over Petito’s van. Police questioned Petito and Laundrie separately, and police body cam footage showed Petito upset and crying, while Laundrie remained calm throughout.

Despite the 911 call reporting a physical altercation, both Petito and Laundrie decline to press charges. At the suggestion of the police, the two are separated for the night, Laundrie staying in a hotel while Petito stays in the van for the night. 

In the police report, Officer Daniel Robins reported, “After evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis.” according to CNN. 

Then, on August 19th, Petito uploaded a video to her channel, Nomadic Statik, titled “Van Life”. This was and is the only video uploaded to her channel and it offers a glimpse into the work that went into the planning of the trip. In the video, Laundrie and Petito can be seen laughing together and even kissing throughout the video. All seemed well for the adventurous couple.

Petito’s last social media post was on August 15th, and her van was spotted in Grand Teton National Park. Then, two days later, according to CBS, Petito’s mother received a strange text from her daughter that read, “can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls”.

The text struck Petito’s mother as strange, as she claims Stan was Petito’s grandfather, and she never called him by his first name. This seemed to be out of character and quite concerning to Petitio’s mother. Two days later on August 29th, a TikToker named Miranda Baker posted a TikTok, claiming to have picked up Laundrie, who was hitchhiking, according to CBS. 

August 30th, Petito’s mother received her last text from her daughter, which simply said “no service in Yosemite”, according to some reports. September 1st, Laundrie returns to his home in North Port, Florida, where he and Petito lived. However, he was alone. 

September 11th, Petito is officially reported missing by her family, who had not heard from her and lived in New York. The North Port authorities head to the Laundrie home in hopes to find out more about Petito’s disappearance, but according to the police spokesperson, they were simply handed the information of Laundrie’s attorney. 

Two days after Petito is reported missing, Laundrie leaves his home to go for a hike in the Carlton Reserve. The next day, Petito’s family issued a statement, accusing Laundrie of withholding information about where he last saw Petito. However, the Laundrie family then issues a statement from their lawyer, saying they intended to remain in the background of the situation, according to CBS. 

September 15th, due to Laundrie’s lack of cooperation with authorities, he is named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance. The next day, a police conference is held by North Port Police, where the Petito family attorney reads a letter from the family, begging the Laundrie family to help them in their daughter’s disappearance. According to the family attorney, the Petitos had contacted the Laundrie family earlier in the month, asking for any information they may have had on Petito’s disappearance. The Laundrie family, however, did not respond.

“We haven’t been able to sleep or eat, and our lives are falling apart.” the Petito family said. 

September 17th: another twist to the story. North Port Police are called to the Laundrie home, where the family reports that they have not seen or heard from Laundrie since September 14th. So, on the 18th, authorities conducted a search for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve, where he had gone hiking four days prior. According to CBS, “roughly 50 law enforcement officers from five local agencies and the FBI are searching for Laundrie”, while the FBI conducted investigations for Petito in Grand Teton, where she was last seen. 

Remains are found. On September 19th, human remains were found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, where Petito and her van were previously spotted. During a press conference that day, authorities said that while the remains were consistent with descriptions of Petito’s, there was no solid evidence to prove the remains were her at that time. The Petito family was notified of the discovery. 

The next day, there was an FBI raid on the Laundrie home. Laundrie’s parents are questioned by the FBI. Meanwhile, authorities searched the Laundrie home for hours and his car and hard drive were seized. 

September 21st, a gutting confirmation was made. The remains found two days prior were confirmed to be that of Gabby Petito. According to CBS, the initial manner of death is labeled as homicide, although the cause of death is still unknown. On September 23rd, an arrest warrant was issued for Laundrie, while the search for him continued. Laundrie is charged with the unauthorized use of debit cards, which he used to withdraw over $1,000 while Petito was missing. 

On October 12th, the official cause of death was reported: strangulation. The manner of death is still ruled as a homicide, and the coroner reports that Petito’s body had been outside for 3-4 weeks before being found. However, Laundrie still remains missing at this time. 

Eight days later, more human remains were found at the Carlton Reserve. Special Agent Michael McPherson reports that several other personal belongings of Laundrie were located around the remains, including a backpack and notebook, according to CBS. The next day on October 21st, the remains are identified as Brain Laundrie. The discovery of Laundrie’s remains ends the manhunt. The cause of death has not been determined. 

While that’s all we know about the Gabby Petito case so far, memorials all over the states have been held for Petito and her family. In her hometown of Blue Point, New York, a vigil was held for Petito. The candlelight ceremony was held on September 24th and the next day, The Gabby Petito Foundation was established by her father, Joseph Petito. Petito’s father said that with the creation of this foundation, he hoped to help others who may be in similar situations as Gabby. 

On September 26th, in Long Island, over 1,000 people attended a public memorial service for Petito. This service was also streamed online.

Petito was young and adventurous, excited to share her travels with the world. November 19th will mark two months since Petito’s remains were found and the family continues to mourn the loss of the 22-year-old from Blue Port, New York. However, the family hopes that Gabby’s death will inspire others in domestic violence situations to seek help before it is too late.