Brian Laundrie is a Florida man who is a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito, who vanished while filming a YouTube series called “Van Life” with him.
The police chief in North Port, Florida, where Laundrie lives, took the unusual step on September 15, 2021, of tweeting at Laundrie and his lawyer and asking them to speak with authorities about Petito’s disappearance.
Charles Jones, supervisory resident agent in Wyoming for the FBI, said in a September 19, 2021, press conference, “I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby’s family.”
“FBI personnel in coordination with our partners…have been conducting investigative activity… earlier today human remains were recovered consistent with the description of Gabrielle, Gabby, Petito,” he said.
Full forensic identification is not yet complete. “The cause of death has not yet been determined at this time.” Authorities were searching a Wyoming area named Spread Creek camping area when the body was found. Jones described it as a “rugged area.”
It’s located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the border with Grand Teton National Park.
Brian Entin, a journalist with News Nation Now, says that Laundrie has gone missing as of September 17, 2021. “We have confirmed Brian Laundrie’s parents say they have not seen him since Tuesday,” he wrote. That news came after police entered Laundrie’s parents’ home, which he and Petito shared with them, and left with an evidence envelope, Fox News reported.
Chief Todd Garrison tweeted at Laundrie and his lawyer, “@NPPDPoliceChief Mr. Steven Bertolino, esq. the @NorthPortPolice needs your help in finding Gabby Petito. Please call us to arrange a conversation with Brian Laundrie. Two people left on a trip and one person returned! #wheresgabby #FindGabby #fbitampa #gabbypetito.”
Laundrie has not commented, although his family did release a statement, which provoked a sharply worded response from Petito’s family, who urged Laundrie to answer key questions in the case.
Petito, 22, of Blue Point, New York, is described by New York authorities as a “white female, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads “let it be.” The van she was traveling in has been recovered.” Blue Point is located on Long Island.
As of September 18, 2021, North Port police were conducting a massive search for Laundrie.
“The North Port Police Department, FBI, and agency partners are currently conducting a search of the vast Carlton Reserve for Brian Laundrie. His family says they believe he entered the area earlier this week. More details when available,” North Port police wrote on Twitter.
Police revealed in a statement that the attorney for Laundrie’s family called the FBI on Friday night (September 17) and indicated the family wanted to “talk about the disappearance of their son.”
The family “now claims that they have not seen Brian since Tuesday of this week,” police wrote. He was “last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap.”
Police said they are frustrated because, for six days, they pleaded with the family to contact investigators regarding Petito. “Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail. It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing person investigation.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police in Florida Say Laundrie Returned to North Port With the Couple’s Van 10 Days Before Her Family Reported Petito Missing – But She Wasn’t With Him
Laundrie lives in North Port, Florida, so the police department there is acting as the lead agency in the case. They wrote in a news release that he is now a “person of interest in this case.”
“The national search into the disappearance of Gabrielle Petito of North Port continues. Due to the parties in this case residing in North Port, Florida, the North Port Police Department will be the primary investigating agency, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. We will also continue to work with the Suffolk County Police Department, and we are thankful for their assistance,” the release stated.
“Several detectives are working around the clock to piece this complex and far-reaching situation together. Gabrielle’s vehicle was recovered here in North Port at her home on September 11th. A home shared with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie and his parents. That vehicle was fully processed for evidence along with FBI agents Tuesday evening. As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details.”
According to police, “We know Brian returned here to North Port on September 1st — ten days before her family reported her missing on September 11th. We have no information that a crime occurred here in North Port. Brian Laundrie is a person of interest in this case.”
“As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby’s family is going through. We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in the release.
“FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips. 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324). That is now our primary tip line. So far, we have received hundreds of tips which are being vetted through multiple agencies. If anyone has seen the van photographed and information which might be helpful, please let us know,” police wrote.
Viral videos by TikTok user Miranda Baker claim that she picked up Brian Laundrie while he was hitchhiking in Wyoming – without Gabby Petito – and she thought he was acting oddly.
That’s only four days after Petito told her family she was at Grand Teton National Park, where Baker says she picked up Laundrie. According to Fox News, police in North Port, Florida, where Laundrie and Petito lived, confirm they spoke with Baker.
“We have spoken with her and are potentially utilizing her info into our timeline,” department spokesman Josh Taylor said in an email to Fox News.
In a series of TikTok videos, Baker claims that she picked up Laundrie on August 29, 2021, on her way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He asked to get out about 6:09 p.m. when she mentioned that city, she says in videos.
“Once I said Jackson Hole he became agitated,” she said in a TikTok video. “He seemed like he needed to get out, he was kind of antsy. And that’s when things got weird.” She said he continued trying to hitchhike when he got out of her car. She thought it was weird he offered her $200 for a 10-mile ride, she says.
She added, “He kind of hurried out of the car, and then was like ‘I’m going to find someone else to hitchhike,’ and we’re like, okay.’ It was a weird situation.”
In the videos, she claims Laundrie suspiciously didn’t have a full backpack, noting, “You think if you’re going camping for days on end you’d want food and a tent and he had none of that.” She added that he claimed his fiancee was back in their van running their social media accounts.
“We were going south out of the park when he said he was camping north. He had told us that he and Gabby were not camping on a regulated camp site… they were camping out in the middle of nowhere out in the Snake River. He said he had hiked for days out in the Snake River… he said all he had was a tarp to sleep on.” She said he “looked clean and didn’t smell bad.”
She also posted a map showing the “whole journey with Brian” in one of her TikToks.
In another video, Baker stressed she was in contact with the FBI.
Here’s another video:
You can find her page on TikTok here. Some of her videos have been viewed millions of times.
2. Petito’s Family Last Had Contact With Her During the Last Week of August
North Port police revealed that, according to Petito’s family, “they were last in contact with Gabrielle during the last week of August. Prior to the last communication, Gabrielle is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Petito and Brian were traveling in a white 2012 Ford Transit van with Florida license plate QFTG03. Gabrielle, 22, is white, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads ‘let it be.’”
Petito’s family reported her missing because they considered it unusual not to hear from her while she was on the trip touring national parks, which began in July, Fox News reported.
“We had been in touch with her as she traveled,” Petito’s father, Joe, told The Daily Beast. “I’d speak to her once a week or so, her mom spoke to her two or three times a week. My son would talk to her often on Snapchat, FaceTime; my niece would be in constant contact with her.”
Petito’s dad has also been posting on his Facebook page urgent pleas to find his daughter. “Please Help Find Gabby. This is my daughter Gabby Petito. Please share and help find her. She was last seen headed to Yellowstone National Park from Salt Lake City, Utah,” he wrote with one plea.
A missing person’s alert for Petito was released by Suffolk County, New York, police. It says “Blue Point Woman Missing,” and added, “Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Date/Time: Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 6:55 p.m.”
The release states, “Suffolk County Police Fifth Squad detectives are investigating the disappearance of a Blue Point woman who went missing while traveling. Gabrielle Petito was traveling in a white, 2012 Ford Transit van with Florida license plate QFTG03 with a companion when she stopped communicating with friends and family.”
It adds, “Petito was reported missing to the Suffolk County Police Department by her family on September 11 at approximately 6:55 p.m. According to family, they were last in contact with her during the last week of August. Prior to the last communication, Petito is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.”
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, told Fox News she last spoke with her daughter on August 25. She received a text from her on both the 27th and 30th but now says “I don’t know if she left Grand Teton or not…I don’t know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn’t verbally speak to her.”
3. The Couple Featured Their Van Trip in a YouTube Series
The couple’s YouTube series is called “VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey.” One of their videos has more than 145,000 views.
It’s eight minutes long and shows the couple walking on a beach together. They appear close in the video, which shows them together during various travels. It then shows them on the road. They kiss in one scene; they’re eating sushi in the next. In one frame, they’re in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. In another, they watch the sunset together on the beach.
They do cartwheels on the beach in front of an amusement park and ride a ferris wheel together before kissing some more.
Their YouTube Channel, called Nomadic Statik, has more than 1.37 million users. The van life video is their only video.
“A glimpse into our van adventures! After our first cross country trip in a little Nissan Sentra, we both decided we to wanted downsize our lives and travel full time, but trying to fit everything for two people into the tiny little trunk of the car, also spending way too much on gas, food, and airbnb, was not the road to take,” the page says.
“We quickly realized we had to come up with a solution if we wanted to continue traveling and living nomadically, so that’s why we handcrafted our own tiny van, a simple 2012 Ford transit connect, utilizing space with unique designs and features. Creating a space for both artistic expression and distance hiking. Thank you so much for watching, and we hope you tag along on our journey wherever the van takes us!”
They added: “Follow our van life journey for some awesome van life ideas, tips, hacks, camping spots, and so many beautiful places to travel!”
The couple also had a website and a blog. The website, captioned Brian & Gabby, is password protected and sends readers back to the YouTube page.
4. The Couple Seemed in Love on Instagram, But Police in Utah Responded to an Earlier Altercation
The van trip was causing tension between the couple. You wouldn’t know that from Instagram, where Petito described herself as “Along for the ride…traveling the world in our tiny van…art, yoga, & veggies.” Her most recent post was two weeks before she disappeared, and it was about Halloween.
They were in Arches National Park on August 12.
In July 2020, she shared a photo with Brian and wrote, “Here’s a picture from our first date because I have so much love for you 🍣 Brian asked me to marry him and I said yes! @bizarre_design_ you make life feel unreal, and everyday is such a dream with you 🤍.”
In March of that year, she wrote, along with a picture of Laundrie, “One whole years worth of adventures and stories down 🥂 & a lifetime to go ☆.”
In May 2020, she wrote, “I can’t wait to get back to days like this, traveling the world with you and asking strangers to take our picture 🌧 never taking moments like this for granted again! Love you 🤍”
On his Instagram page, Laundrie wrote, “Take a hike everyday🌿Bug bites are better than being brainwashed by the media🌿 nature enthusiast🌿 Taking on #vanlife with @gabspetito.”
His most recent Instagram post came in Moab, Utah, on August 13, 2021. He wrote,
Humans are primates, great apes in fact but I don’t know all how great we are as a species. Chimpanzees share 98.8% of there DNA with humans, our closest living relative, but as I see it every living creature is in some way our relative even trees. Only 800 million years ago animal cells started appearing on earth comprised of mainly the same parts and following the same functions as plant cells. Requiring oxygen, solar energy, minerals, nutrients and water. This tree(Juniperus osteosperma)was surviving in only inches of soil, in an area of extreme heat and drought. I think our culture, our society has put itself above all living creatures, creating needs purely to support destructive economic practices. This tree doesn’t require an Apple Watch, it doesn’t stream its favorite shows, or have a microwave oven, pay health insurance or drink grande iced caramel macchiatos. It is just a tree but you rarely see geese riding jet skis or wearing designer clothing either. I think if we all want breathable air and drinkable water we all need to learn how to live with less🌏
However, according to CBS News, Moad, Utah, Police responded to a “dispute” between Petito and Laundrie on August 12. Police say both, including witnesses, say that Petito slapped Laundrie during an argument and Laundrie “grabbed her face and pushed her back.”
CBS News reported that the couple said they loved each other and didn’t want charges to be filed, so they weren’t; Laundrie told police the road trip caused arguments and “emotional strain” on the couple, the network reported.
Two women, Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner, were murdered around the same time at a campsite in Moab; one worked at a coop near where the argument occurred. Authorities there now say the cases are not relayed.
5. The Families Released Warring Statements
Both families have now released statements.
According to CBS News, Laundrie’s family released this statement: “On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Petito’s family then released their own statement, according to CBS: “Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers.”
People have filled Laundrie’s last Instagram post with comments about Petito. “Where is she, Brian?” wrote one person.
“Hoping you find the courage to do the right thing and bring her home,” wrote another.