Wyoming coroner examines Gabby Petito's bones while the search for Brian Laundrie continues
An autopsy is expected for Tuesday on a body discovered in Wyoming that officials believe matches Gabby Petito's description, as investigators continue to look for her fiance, Brian Laundrie, nearly three weeks after he returned on a cross-country van trip without her.
The Teton County coroner will evaluate if the remains discovered Sunday in a remote area of western Wyoming's Bridger-Teton Global Forest are those of the 22-year-old whose disappearance garnered national attention. According to the FBI, no cause of death has been determined in the case, and no other information on the remains has been published. Authorities stated that they cannot establish definitively that the body is hers until a forensic examination is conducted.
Brent Blue, the coroner for Teton County, did not reply immediately to a request for comment early Tuesday. According to Blue, the autopsy should be completed by Tuesday. According to CNN, officials would authenticate the identify of the suspect using DNA, pictures, or personal identification.
It is unknown when the autopsy results will be made public.
As the hunt for Laundrie resumed Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said that officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would assist detectives in combing the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve wilderness area near North Port, Florida.
“I have directed all state agencies that fall under my jurisdiction to continue assisting federal and local law enforcement with their search efforts,” DeSantis stated Tuesday. “Gabby Petito deserves justice.”
Laundrie, 23, is being investigated as a "person of interest." He has not been charged with any crime, but he refused to cooperate with detectives in the days following Petito's family's report of her disappearance on Sept. 11. According to Laundrie's relatives, he has not been seen since Sept. 14.
According to his parents, Laundrie intimated to them a week ago that he intended to go alone across the swampy reserve.
Laundrie's search was first halted Monday, after authorities "exhausted all avenues" in examining the grounds there, according to North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor.
The relocation occurred concurrently with the FBI's presence at Laundrie's family's North Port house early Monday as part of the Petito investigation's "court-authorized search warrant." FBI agents were spotted taking boxes from the residence. Local news teams observed Laundrie's parents being escorted out of the home shortly before returning.
The agency announced Monday that the search had concluded but that the probe will continue.
Laundrie's attorney, Steven Bertolino, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. He said Monday that he would hold a news conference on Long Island Tuesday afternoon, but postponed it later that day, citing a chat he had with the FBI.
Numerous issues remain over the young couple who documented an apparently blissful "van life" on social media. Petito's and later Laundrie's disappearances drew widespread interest, notably on social media, where the couple chronicled their van-based trips extensively. Laundrie returned from the trip without Petito on Sept. 1.
Authorities believe they may have discovered the body of 22-year-old Gabby Petito in the Wyoming location where they were searching on September 19. (Reuters)
According to a newly unsealed Florida search request for Laundrie's hard drive, Petito's last text message to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, on Aug. 27 was "strange" and left Schmidt feeling "concerned." The phone was turned off that day, and Petito "ceased publishing anything about their trip on social media," authorities allege.
The warrant alleges that the text message said, 'Can you assist Stan? I keep receiving his voice mails and missed calls,' “The reference to 'Stan' was in reference to her grandfather, although according to her mother, she never addresses him as 'Stan.' The mother was anxious that her daughter was ill.”
“This, according to her family, was not typical conduct for the subject, and they were increasingly concerned about her,” authorities noted.
According to recordings acquired by The Washington Post, a caller reported a confrontation between a couple driving a white van with a Florida license plate.
“As we passed them, the gentleman slapped the girl,” the caller stated. “Then we came to a halt. They took turns running up and down the sidewalk. He then struck her, climbed into the car, and they drove away.”
According to 911 dispatch audio acquired by The Post, a witness reported a dispute between a couple driving a white van with a Florida license plate on Aug. 12. (Sherriff's Office of Grand County)
The caller, who requested anonymity, mentioned that the "domestic dispute" occurred near a store where Petito and Laundrie allegedly battled. Authorities have not confirmed that the individuals he described are Petito and Laundrie.
Following Petito's disappearance, Utah police released body-camera footage of a traffic encounter involving the couple on the same day as the 911 call. Petito seemed to be sad and weeping in it. According to Laundrie, the pair had a "little altercation" after Petito became enraged at him for entering the van with unclean feet. Police found that Petito was the aggressor who was "slapping at him," and they separated the couple for the night, sending Laundrie to a hotel and Petito to the van.
Melissa Hulls, Arches National Park's visitor and resource protection supervisor, said she has replayed the couple's Aug. 12 altercation in her mind. On Monday, she told the Deseret News that she had informed Petito that her relationship with Laundrie appeared to be "toxic."
“I was definitely more honest than I should have been with her,” Hulls admitted to the publication. “I was pleading with her to reconsider the relationship, asking her whether she was content with him, and basically telling her that this was an opportunity for her to pursue another road, to make a shift in her life.”
Hulls, who stated that police believed they made the correct decision last month when they left the pair, added, "This was not a nice day for anyone."