NEWS
20/09/2021 17:47 BST

Gabby Petito Disappearance: What We Know So Far

Remains matching Petito's description were found in Wyoming, US, on Sunday.

Gabby Petito, 22, disappeared while on a road trip with her 23-year-old fiancé Brian Laundrie, and was reported missing on September 11 by her family.

The ongoing case has prompted international speculation as online communities try to unravel the mystery based on Petito’s blogs about her van life with Laundrie.

What is the latest development?

The FBI confirmed it had found a body matching Petito’s description in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park on Sunday.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, according to CNN, although a full forensic identification will be needed to confirm it is Petito.

The remains were close to the site where Petito and Laundrie’s van was reportedly seen by another couple, on August 25, although the two travellers themselves were not spotted.

How is Laundrie involved?

The search for Petito began when Laundrie returned from the trip without his fiancée on September 1.

Her family reported her missing ten days later after being unable to get in touch with her, while Laundrie declined to talk to investigators once the missing person case had been filed.

He then left his home in Florida on Tuesday with a backpack, and disappeared into the local area. He was last seen in a nature reserve near North Port city.

He has been named as a “person of interest” in the ongoing case.

Police say they have “exhausted all avenues” trying to find him – his family home is now being treated as a crime scene by the FBI as part of a “court-authorised search warrant”. His parents were escorted out before the search and brought back inside for later questioning.

They reportedly refused to talk and passed on their lawyer’s information when the police first began their investigation.

Police have since deployed drones and bloodhounds using Laundrie’s clothing to find him.

He is not currently wanted for a crime.

Octavio Jones via Getty Images
Tara and Joe Petito, Gabby's parents

What do we know about Laundrie and Petito’s relationship?

Petito and Laundrie were reportedly arguing and hitting one another according to a police report from Utah after they were spotted fighting in Moab City on August 12. 

Neither of them wanted the other to be charged when their altercation was captured by police.

In the report, officer Daniel Robbins explained: “I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis.”

The couple were on a road trip in a white van across western America throughout the summer, and would share snippets of their experiences on social media with the hashtag #vanlife.

Both stopped posting in late August and Petito stopped contacting her family around the same time.

via Associated Press
This combo of photos provided by FBI Denver via @FBIDenver shows missing person Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito.

Why has this missing person case had so much attention?

Petito’s disappearance has become an internet obsession for some – on TikTok, the hashtag #GabbyPetito has 501 million views.

Sadly, her case is not an anomaly – the National Crime Information Centre reported that there were nearly 90,000 active missing person cases at the end of 2020 – but Petito’s disappearance has captured the public’s attention on a wide scale.

Criminologist Scott Bonn, who studies why some crimes become cultural touchstones, told The Washington Post: “You’ve got this beautiful young couple, supposedly in love, making this romantic adventure across the country, and then something goes very bad.”

Others speculated that the case has escalated online because Petito is also the same age of many TikTokers, meaning they might identify with her disappearance.

Online accounts have analysed everything Petito and Laundrie posted during their road trip, from the change in their use of emojis to the camera angles.