Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman from Long island, New York, was reported missing on September 11th, 2021. Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, set out on a four-month cross-country road trip in July 2021, which quickly proved to cause tension between the couple. Intending to document their trip on Instagram and YouTube, Petito and Laundrie had planned to sleep in their van, visit national sites, and camp at various stops across the country. Almost one month into the road trip, a witness called 911 to report disorderly conduct between the couple, claiming that they saw Laundrie exhibiting physically abusive behavior towards Petito. Even though the couple separated for that night, no official arrests were made. This negligent behavior on the police officer’s end led to dire consequences for Petito.
Undoubtedly, the national coverage surrounding this case has allowed the public to piece together emerging facts and small details regarding Petito’s disappearance. As Petitio had been a vlogger, some of her fans noticed irregularities in her social media presence, or rather lack thereof. This odd behavior, coupled with hitchhiking rumors involving Laundrie, and uncharacteristic text messages from Petitio’s phone, all raised further concerns as to her whereabouts.
On September 1st, 2021, Laundrie returned home to North Port, Florida without Petito. As police worked to gather evidence for Petito’s missing person report, Laundrie remained a person of interest. Soon after the missing report was filed, Laundrie disappeared. His timely disappearance sparked protests, mass searches around Florida, and authorities to prioritize any relevant evidence they could find about Petito’s location. A day after the search began, human remains were found near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, later confirmed to be Petito’s. The manner of death determined as homicide, Petito’s case officially became a criminal investigation with an arrest warrant for Laundrie.
In recent news, a coroner in Wyoming announced that Gabby Petito died by strangulation. The autopsy results, having been released just two days ago, further confirmed the homicidal nature of this case. They were also able to confirm that Petito’s body had been discovered 3-4 weeks after death. While police continue to search for Laundrie, they encourage anyone with any information about his whereabouts or relation to this case to report immediately to authorities.
At large, Gabby Petito’s case has raised national conversations surrounding domestic violence, partner abuse, and power/control dynamics. In a country that overlooks indigenous and black missing person cases, this scenario also serves as an opportunity to evaluate the relationship between the criminal justice system, race, and media coverage.