A body found in the vicinity of a camping area in Wyoming on Sunday is "consistent with the description" of Gabby Petito, law enforcement officials said, just over a week after she was reported missing by her parents.
The coroner for Teton County — where the search was being conducted — told NBC News that a body had been found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which is right next to Grand Teton National Park. At a press conference shortly after, an FBI official said that a cause of death had not yet been determined.
"On behalf of the FBI personnel and our partners, I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby's family...as every parent can imagine, this is an incredible difficult time for the family," said Charles Jones, the supervisory senior resident agent for the FBI's Denver office.
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The body, which still has to go through forensic identification "to confirm 100 percent" it is Gabby, was found after law enforcement conducted an investigation of the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, said Jones. The family had been notified of the discovery, however.
The area around the camp site will remain closed to the public for the time being, Jones said, adding that it still is an active and ongoing investigation.
"We appreciate the tremendous support from the public, the public's response to the request for tips has been remarkable. We continue to seek information from anyone who utilized the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between the dates of Aug. 27 and Aug. 30. Anyone that may have had contact with Gabby or her boyfriend, or who may have seen their vehicle in that area, please share any new information with the FBI," Jones said.
Petito's father, Joseph Petito, tweeted a picture of his daughter saying "she touched the world." In an Instagram post, Petito's younger brother, TJ Schmidt, similarly posted a photo showing Gabby in front of a mural of painted wings, saying "I don't even know what to say. I'm at a total loss. My heart is shattered."
An attorney who has been acting as a spokesman for Petito's family asked in a statement that the family be given room to grieve. The attorney also indicated that the family would make a public statement at a later date, and he thanked officials with the FBI, Grand Teton Search and Rescue and other agencies that participated in the search for Petito.
“The family and I will be forever grateful,” Stafford said in a statement.
The North Port Police Department, which on Sunday completed its second day of searching a nature preserve in Florida while looking for Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie, tweeted that they were "saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased," and said they will continue looking for more answers.
The announcement came just after the police in Florida announced that they had ended their second day of searching a vast Florida wildlife reserve for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, Petito's fiancé who was named a person of interest in the case.
More than 50 North Port police officers, FBI agents and members of other law enforcement agencies started their search up again Sunday morning at the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota area of the Gulf Coast. Authorities used drones, scent-sniffing dogs and all-terrain vehicles in the reserve, which has more than 100 miles of trails, as well as campgrounds. Investigators took some of his clothing from his parents' home Friday night to provide a scent for the search dogs.
"His family says they believe he entered the area earlier this week," North Port Police tweeted Saturday.
Investigators in Florida were hopeful Laundrie was somewhere in the wildlife reserve. Depending on his skills, he could survive out in the reserve for some time, said police spokesperson Josh Taylor at a news conference.
"Certainly, we prepare for all different possibilities, but you know, our goal is to locate him and bring him back to North Port," Taylor said.
Laundrie's family earlier told officers that they haven't seen him since Tuesday. Police said the conversation Friday evening was the first time they'd spoken with the Laundries in detail about the case, and that the meeting came at the family's request. An attorney for the family called FBI investigators and said they wanted to talk about Laundrie's disappearance, police said.
The family's attorney also released a statement after officials announced that the body matching Petito's description was found at the Wyoming park, saying "the news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family."
Investigators were trying to verify the story told by Laundrie's family members that they believe the reserve is where he went with only a backpack, Taylor said. One mystery is how Laundrie got to the reserve. Family members told investigators he took his car, but the vehicle was found back at his family's home, not at the reserve.
The North Port Police Department said that they are treating the investigation as a missing persons case, adding that they "understand the community's frustration, we are frustrated too." The department also noted that Laundrie was not currently "wanted for a crime."
Laundrie is 5'8'' with brown eyes, short brown hair and trimmed facial hair, and was last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap.
In a statement released late Friday night, Petito's family was not exactly sympathetic to Brian or the Laundrie family.
"All of Gabby's family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding," the statement read in part.
The parents of Petito had their first inkling something may be wrong after receiving a text message from her in late August, the last communication they have had with her — or at least her phone.
According to an attorney for the Petito family, the 22-year-old said in a text to her mother "no service in Yosemite." That raised eyebrows because the last time they spoke to her, Petito and her fiancé Laundrie were on their way to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming — some 800 miles from the California park mentioned in the text.
Petito's mother, Nicole Schmidt, received that text on Aug. 30, and she still doesn't know for sure who texted it. Her husband, Jim Schmidt, helped lead the search in Wyoming for the missing Long Island woman, who disappeared during a cross-country road trip with Laundrie. For days he handed out posters throughout the area near Grand Teton National Park.
At least one person, a woman on TikTok, claimed that she and her boyfriend picked up Laundrie as he was hitchhiking in Grand Teton National Park on Aug. 29. In a series of videos, Miranda Baker said Laundrie stopped the couple in Colter Bay around 5:30 p.m. asking for a ride to Jackson, which she and her boyfriend agreed to give him. Baker said that Laundrie then offered them $200 for the short trip.
Once in the car, Laundrie told the couple that he had been camping for multiple days without his fiancée and that she was working on their social media page back at the van.
Shortly after, Laundrie "freaked out" when they said they were heading to Jackson Hole (which is the same place as Jackson), and had the couple pull over at Jackson Dam. Baker said he "hurried out of the car" at 6:09 p.m., telling them he would find another ride.
Baker also noted that for someone who said they had been camping for days, "he didn't look dirty, he didn't smell dirty, so that part was kind of weird." She also said she and her boyfriend did not see him with a phone, nor with any other normal camping equipment, like food and supplies. Laundrie told them he only brought a tarp to sleep on.
North Port Police confirmed that they have spoken with Baker, and are investigating her claims.
Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts in Suffolk County but moved from Blue Point, New York, in 2019 to live with his parents in North Port, which is about 34 miles south of Sarasota. The couple’s trek in the Fort Transit van began in July from Long Island. They intended to reach Oregon by the end of October according to their social media accounts, but Petito vanished after her last known contact with family in late August from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, authorities said.
Police video released by the Moab Police Department in Utah showed that an officer pulled the van over on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park. The body cam video showed an emotional Petito, who sat inside a police cruiser while officers also questioned Laundrie.
Ultimately Moab police decided not file any charges and instead separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the converted sleeper van.