Helene MacBeth | Writer
September 23, 2021
On July 2, 2021, Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie departed New York City in Petito’s white van to begin their four month road trip across the United States. The engaged couple ventured to a variety of locations—including multiple national parks—documenting and posting their trip on the internet.
On August 25, Petito spoke with her parents like any other day, telling them that she and Laundrie were heading to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Little did they know, this would be the last time they would speak to their daughter.
After this call, Petito’s contact with her family “abruptly stopped.” A few days later—on August 30—Petito’s parents received an abnormal text message from her, reading “No service in Yosemite,” though the couple had no plans to visit Yosemite (New York Times).
On September 1, Laundrie returned home with the white van that they had used over the course of their roadtrip without Petito. When asked about Petito’s whereabouts, Laundrie remained silent and hired a lawyer.
Petito’s parents grew concerned, but could not report the case until September 11 due to her “out of town” status. The moment September 11 arrived, the police and FBI became involved and began to search for her.
Laundrie and his family remained silent until September 17, when his family reported him missing. They stated that they hadn’t seen their son in four days, claiming that they had no information on his whereabouts.
On September 19, Petito’s remains were found in Bridger-Teton National Park. An autopsy was planned, and the search for Laundrie continued.
Two days later, on September 21, Petito’s autopsy revealed that the cause of her death was a homicide.
On September 23, an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie was issued for using “a Capital One debit card and PIN with ‘intent to defraud’ between August 30 and September 1 in Wyoming and elsewhere with a value of $1,000 or more” (ABC News).
With officials still looking for Laundrie, there is no telling when this case will be resolved. Many details remain a mystery until further investigation ensues.
Although the couples’ posts on Instagram depicted a happy and healthy relationship, a significant portion of their relations appeared to be toxic.
“They had very high highs and very low lows,” a friend of Petito, Alyssa Chen, said, revealing that the relationship was not as perfect as their social media posts portrayed (Insider).
The unsettling nature of their relationship was confirmed by a 911 call on August 12, when a man called the police after seeing Laundrie slapping his significant other, elaborating that “they [Laundrie and Petito] ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off” (Fox News).
When the police arrived, they witnessed Laundrie speeding and driving recklessly in the van.
The police pulled the couple over and saw Petito crying hysterically, hyperventilating. She immediately rolled down the window and told the cops that her and Laundrie had been fighting all morning. “I have really bad OCD,” she said. “I was just cleaning and straightening up… I’m sorry that I’m so mean… because sometimes I have OCD and sometimes I get so frustrated” (Fox News).
The cops noticed that there were scratches and red marks on Laundrie’s body, and asked Petito where the red marks had come from. Petito claimed that she was trying to get Laundrie to stop telling her to calm down, and scratched him without any intention of harm. The police declared that no charges would be filed after both Petito and Laundrie stated that they wanted to maintain a happy relationship without any charges. However, officials did separate the two for the night, sending Laundrie to a hotel and having Petito remain in the van.
With the case circulating throughout social media and countless news articles, many opinions have been developed regarding the findings.
“There are thousands of people missing,” junior Brenna Geer stated. “Why do we have to focus on Gabby?” This question has been the subject of many discussions pondering the reasons behind Petito’s attention.
Some believe that she has gotten the attention because she is a white, conventionally attractive female. It should be recognized that missing indigenous people, black people, and members of other minority groups do not receive the same attention that Petito has been garnering.
However, others argue that she has gotten so much attention due to her frequent social media posts. Due to her significant following before going missing, her followers were able to spread her story through social media, which eventually expanded to the news.
Along with people trying to determine why her case is so widespread, others wonder how she was murdered. While the majority blame Laundrie, others attempt to protect him.
With Laundrie refusing to speak—and going missing shortly after official investigators became involved—many people point their fingers at him. He did not mention anything about Petito’s whereabouts, and continued on with his normal life as if his fiancé was not missing. “He mowed the lawn. Him and his mother went for a bicycle ride around the block. I mean, everything was just normal life once he came back,” his neighbor, Charlene Gutrie, said (New York Post). Because of his lack of concern and involvement in trying to find Petito, many people have concluded that he is the cause of her death.
The fact that Laundrie recently disappeared caused even more people to lean against him. It has been said that he is not missing, but he is instead “hiding.” Whether he is indeed hiding from law enforcement remains uncertain, but the general public has done their fair share of investigating.
“Brian [Laundrie] was the last person to see her and immediately went into hiding,” senior Calista Pelkey said. “It’s obvious that Brian killed her. Who else would it be?”
Although most people share the opinion that Laundrie is the murderer, others take his side.
To defend Laundrie, people bring up the fact that he had just lost his girlfriend and was probably going through a lot. They sympathize with him, stating that the public shouldn’t assume he is a murderer by his refusal to talk. These people also bring up the fact that when the police were questioning Petito, Laundrie did everything he could to prevent Petito from getting arrested, proving that Laundrie still loved her.
Others on Laundrie’s side of the case believe that Laundrie ran away and committed suicide after suffering the grief of losing his girlfriend.
While there are many theories and opinions circulating through the media, none have been confirmed, and the search for the truth remains to be in place.
If you feel that you are in danger or if you are suffering domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available here.