FBI: Gabby Petito's body discovered, death initially ruled a homicide

·3 min read

A body discovered in Wyoming has been identified as Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old who was reported missing earlier this month, the FBI's field office in Denver announced Tuesday. The initial manner of death has been ruled a homicide but the cause of death remains pending final autopsy results, it said.

Brent Blue, the Teton County Coroner, performed the autopsy on Tuesday after investigators discovered the body in a camping area within Grand Teton National Park. FBI Denver said a forensic team completed its search on the campgrounds and is asking anyone who was in the area between August 27 and August 30 to contact investigators.

"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," the FBI in Denver said in a statement Tuesday. "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."

The office thanked the public for its support throughout the investigation and sent condolences to Petito's family: "FBI Denver appreciates the collaboration of all agencies and personnel who assisted in the search, recovery and identification efforts. We extend sincere condolences to Gabby's family, friends and all the people whose lives she touched."

Earlier Tuesday, attorney Richard Benson Stafford, who represents Petito's family, issued a statement Tuesday: "I want to personally thank the press and news media for giving the Petito and Schmidt family time to grieve. We will be making a statement when Gabby is home."

Investigators were searching for Petito's fiancé, Brian Laundrie, in Florida's Carlton Reserve on Tuesday — a week after his family said they last saw him. Law enforcement searched his home for eight hours on Monday, questioning his parents and collecting evidence that could tell them what happened to Petito.

An attorney for Laundrie's family issued a brief statement Tuesday in response to the news: "May Gabby rest in peace."

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito / Credit: North Port Police Department
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito / Credit: North Port Police Department

While the couple was traveling in Moab, Utah, police responded to a report of a domestic dispute on August 12. After speaking with the couple, officers classified it as a "mental health break."

In a police report, one officer wrote that Petito, Laundrie and a witness all said Petito slapped Laundrie after an argument, and Laundrie then "grabbed her face and pushed her back." The officer said neither Petito nor Laundrie wanted to press charges.

Petito's last known contact with family was in late August while she was in Grand Teton National Park, authorities said. She was reported missing on September 11 — 10 days after Laundrie returned home from the trip without her.

"(The) first word that popped in my brain was 'coward,' to be honest with you," Petito's friend, Rose Davis, told CBS News. "You're supposed to love her. You're supposed to marry her. I want to text him and just be like, 'Please, please give me something.'"

"48 Hours" goes inside the disappearance of Gabby Petito and the hunt for Brian Laundrie Saturday at 10/9c on CBS and Paramount+.

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