Autopsy scheduled for body thought to be Gabby Petito; fiance still missing By Reuters
© Reuters. Gabrielle Petito (22) was reported missing in 2021 while traveling around the US with her boyfriend in a van. They never returned home. In this undated photo, Brian Laundrie poses for a photograph with Petito. North Port/Florida Police/Ha
By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) – Medical examiners in North Port, Florida, were scheduled to conduct an autopsy on Tuesday on a body found in Wyoming, seeking to determine if it is Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old “van life” traveler whose disappearance has gripped Americans.
As police and FBI agents hunt for Brian Laundrie, the body was discovered in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton Forest.
In the case, Laundrie (23 years old) has been identified as a “person-of interest”. FBI agents told his parents that he last spoke to them one week ago. He told them he planned to go on a solo hike in the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve wilderness, close North Port.
North Port police later called off the search for Laundrie in the swampy reserve after having exhausted all other avenues.
The Laundrie’s home was searched by investigators who loaded boxes of cardboard into a van, and then tow away the silver Ford Mustang.
Petito and Laundrie departed her native New York State in the late summer or early juillet to head west in her white van. They planned to visit America’s national parks, and record their journey on social networks.
Laundrie, her van alone, returned to North Port on September 1. Petito’s relatives reported Laundrie missing ten days later. Laundrie was reluctant to meet with investigators, so she retained an attorney.
Petito was last seen by witnesses on August 24, as she left an Salt Lake City hotel. The next day, she posted the final picture of her trip to social media. Petito’s family thinks she was traveling to Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) when they last heard about her.
Her body was discovered at the park’s edge, less than 1000 feet (300m) away from where travel bloggers captured the white van that was stopped along the dirt road in Spread Creek the night of August 27.
A spokesperson for the FBI said that the body had been found “consistently” with Petito, who is 5’5″ and 110 lbs. On Tuesday, an autopsy will be conducted to identify and establish the cause of death.
Investigators sought warrants to search for Petito’s Aug. 27 text, purportedly written by Petito and sent to Nicole Schmidt. It describes Petito getting voice calls from Stan, Petito’s grandfather, repeatedly.
Schmidt explained to investigators that the message seemed unusual because she would never refer to her grandfather under his first name. Petito’s family said that another text message seemed equally suspicious.
Two officers from Moab police released video footage last week that showed Petito’s Aug. 12 interaction with Laundrie.
Petito is seen crying as she describes her quarrels with Laundrie. She says it got physical. They did not arrest the couple, but they insisted that they spent the night apart. Petito in the van, Laundrie in a hotel.
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