Sept. 21 (Reuters) — A body found in a U.S. national park in Wyoming has been identified as Gabby Petito, the young woman who went missing during a road trip with her fiance and that her death was a homicide, the FBI said on Tuesday.
The confirmation is the latest turn in a story that has gripped Americans since Petito's family reported the 22-year-old missing on Sept. 11 - 10 days after the fiance, Brian Laundrie, returned home from the cross-country trip without her.
"Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide," the FBI's Denver office said on Twitter." The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results.
Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results. pic.twitter.com/JoHenMZ9UU— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 21, 2021
Investigators have called Laundrie, 23, a "person of interest" in the case. Laundrie has not been seen since leaving his family's home in North Port, Florida, last Tuesday. Before disappearing, Laundrie refused to speak with investigators and retained a lawyer.
Police and FBI agents on Sunday said they found a body that was "consistent" with the 5'5, 110-pound Petito in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest, less than 1,000 feet from where a pair of travel bloggers filmed the couple's white van parked along a dirt road near Spread Creek on the evening of Aug. 27.
Petito's father, Joseph Petito, posted a photograph of his daughter on Twitter on Sunday. The photo, which shows her standing between two painted wings, was captioned with a broken heart and the words: "She touched the world."
Laundrie's parents told FBI agents they last saw him a week ago, when he told them he was planning to hike alone in the nearby 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve wilderness area. North Port police said they learned from Laundrie's family only on Friday that he had been missing for three days.
North Port police said Tuesday that they had resumed their search of the swampy reserve. The police previously called off the search after "exhausting all avenues" to find Laundrie. Laundrie's family said they believed he entered the area last week, according to police
SEARCH WARRANT EXECUTED
On Monday, FBI agents searched the home of Laundrie's parents, executing a search warrant at the residence, taking away cardboard boxes and towing away a silver Ford Mustang.
The Laundrie family's attorney, Steven Bertolino, has canceled a news conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, multiple media outlets reported.
Petito and Laundrie left her home state of New York in late June or early July, heading west in the van with plans to visit national parks along the way and documenting their "van life" trip on social media.
Petito was last seen leaving a Salt Lake City hotel on Aug. 24 and posted her last photo to social media the following day. Her family believes she was headed to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when they last heard from her.
In seeking search warrants, investigators have cited an Aug. 27 text purportedly sent by Petito to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, which describes getting repeated calls and voice messages from "Stan," Petito's grandfather.
Schmidt told investigators that message was odd because the young woman would not usually refer to her grandfather by his first name. Petito's family has said a second text message also seemed suspicious.
Last week, police in Moab, Utah, released body camera footage of an Aug. 12 encounter two of their officers had with the couple during a traffic stop.
In the video, Petito is sobbing as she describes a quarrel with Laundrie that she says became physical at times. The officers did not detain the couple but insisted they spend that night separately, Petito in the van and Laundrie at a hotel.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, additional reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Leslie Adler, Alison Williams and Nick Macfie)