Gabby Petito a Homicide Victim But Key Autopsy Detail Unclear; Dive Teams Help in Fiance Search

Police in North Port, Florida, are returning to the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve once again Wednesday as they continue to look for their prime person of interest, Gabby Petito's missing fiance Brian Laundrie

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What to Know

  • A county coroner confirmed human remains found in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park are Gabby Petito and ruled her death a homicide. It's not yet clear how exactly she died; that's pending more analysis
  • The FBI's prime person of interest, her fiance Brian Laundrie, has been missing for more than a week since telling his family he was going for a hike in a sprawling nature preserve
  • Cops returned to that swampy 25,000-acre area Wednesday for a second straight day as they continue their search for him

Gabby Petito was killed by another person, a Wyoming county coroner determined a day ago as the remains found in Grand Teton National Park over the weekend were confirmed to be the missing 22-year-old New York woman. But a key question — how exactly did she die — remains pending further analysis, officials have said.

Another all-important lingering question: Where is the FBI's prime suspect, her 23-year-old fiancé Brian Laundrie? He's been missing for more than a week now after telling his parents he was heading out for a hike in a sprawling nature preserve.

Police in North Port combed that 25,000-acre expanse with a new approach Tuesday and returned to continue their latest efforts on Wednesday. Nothing was found in an initial weekend search of the Carlton Reserve and nothing has turned up, through Wednesday, since police launched their renewed search this week.

Authorities are using helicopters, drones, dogs and heavily equipped officers in all-terrain vehicles to aid their search. About 75% of the search area is underwater; it is said to be snake- and alligator-infested, and the chances that Laundrie would be able to survive in the elements for more than a week were said to be "very slim."

A team of divers with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office was brought in Wednesday to assist in the investigation. Florida Fish & Wildlife officials have also been on scene to lend expertise and resources. Given the amount of water on the ground currently, Florida natives say that the only place Brian Laundrie could be is hiding on dry ground — presumably the first place police would look.

"Area resources are looking at large bodies of water, including dive teams, boats, and sonar equipment," North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor said in a Wednesday statement. "At this time, this does not mean anything has been found. It’s a part of the overall search process."

Taylor also confirmed that a possible self-inflicted death reported about a mile away from the staging area had nothing to do with the Laundrie case.

There were reports earlier in the day about a hunting camera picking up a man who appeared to look like Laundrie in Okaloosa County, which is hundreds of miles away. But the sherriff's office denied those reports, stating that "investigators found the man who was on the trail and he's a local."

Do you know anything that can help investigators? Call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit tips online here

Laundrie and Petito had been living with his parents at the North Port home before they set off earlier this summer on a cross-county road trip in a white van. Laundrie returned home in that van on Sept. 1. He was alone. Petito was reported missing by her mother 10 days later as the family grew concerned they hadn't heard from her.

Law enforcement officers recovered a hard drive from that van and have gained permission to search it for potential evidence connected to her case. No developments have been announced, at least publicly, on their findings just yet.

Earlier this week, FBI agents descended on the Laundrie family's home to execute another search warrant. They removed several boxes and towed away a car that neighbors said Laundrie's mother typically used.

In a brief statement Tuesday, the Laundrie family said simply, "May Gabby Rest in Peace" upon learning of the autopsy confirmation. An attorney for the Petito family said ahead of the coroner's report, which the family had expected to confirm her identity, that they'd grieve privately and issue a new statement once she "is home."

On Sept. 11, the family of 22-year-old Gabby Petito reported her missing to authorities in Suffolk County, New York. This is a timeline of events that led to the report and things that have occurred since.
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