Several days after Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito's fiancé returned home early from their cross-country road trip alone, her family reported her missing to the police. The 22-year-old left for the trip with her partner, Brian Laundrie, in early July 2021, and her family members have not heard from her since late August.
The Long Island native was last seen checking out of a hotel with her fiancé in Salt Lake City on Aug. 24, though her last known location appears to be the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
What happened to Gabby Petito? Her loved ones are seeking answers, and her fiancé is reportedly unwilling to speak with the police.
What happened to Gabby Petito?
The Blue Point native, who had been living in North Port, Fla. with Lundrie, embarked on a cross-country road trip in July 2021. The couple, who had been together for about two-and-a-half-years, were driving and largely living out of their 2012 Ford van.
Brian Laundrie returned from the trip by himself, though the pair had originally intended to conclude the journey in Portland, Oregon in October. He is reportedly not discussing where he last saw his fiancée or the reason why he left her behind with police, or with Gabby Petito's family.
"You had someone who was in constant communication with their family on a pretty regular basis. Then, all of sudden, nothing. Then, all of a sudden, the person she was travelling with is back here and she's not here. That person is unwilling to talk with us to this point. All of that is very, very concerning," Josh Taylor, the North Port Police Department's public information officer, said to CBS New York.
Gabby Petito's mother, Nicole Schmidt, was used to speaking with her daughter via video calls about three to four times a week. She said that her last call with Gabby Petito took place on either Aug. 23 or Aug. 24.
Nicole Schmidt exchanged text messages with Gabby Petito's phone on Aug. 30, but she is no longer sure if she was really communicating with her daughter.
"I don't know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text," Nicole Schmidt told WSFB (an affiliate of CBS). "I didn't verbally speak to her."
Her family reported her missing to the Suffolk County Police Department at around 6:55 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11.
According to a Facebook post from the aforementioned police department, the van has been recovered.
The post then offered a description of the missing woman.
"Petito, 22, is white, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds," it reads. "She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads 'let it be.'"
Through his lawyer, Brian Laundrie shared his intention to "remain in the background" during the investigation.
Gabby Petito's family members have pleaded for him to be more cooperative with the authorities.
"The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives," the family said in a statement, per ABC7NY. "Their beautiful 22-year-old daughter is missing, and the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help. Brian Laundrie was traveling with Gabby in the Grand Teton-Yellowstone area. They were traveling together in Gabby's 2012 Ford Transit van. That is where we believe Gabby was last seen.
"Brian is refusing to tell Gabby's family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers. The Schmidt and Petito family beg the Laundrie family to not 'remain in the background' but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located?" it continued. "The Schmidt and Petito family implore Brian to come forward and at least tell us if we are looking in the right area."
The missing woman's father, Joe Petito, later reiterated that his family has not been in communication with Brian Laundrie.
"There has been no contact, so there is no story," Joe Petito said, per CBSNewYork.
The pair had a run-in with the authorities in the weeks leading up to Gabby Petito's disappearance.
A police chief in Moab, Utah confirmed to Fox News that officers had been called regarding an incident between Laundrie and Petito about a month before she was reported missing.
"Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges," Bret Edge, the Moab Chief of Police, shared in a statement. He did not elaborate on what the Aug. 12 incident was about.
It's unclear at this time what exactly happened to Gabby Petito. Brian Laundrie is a "person of interest" in the matter, but he has not been charged with anything yet (as of press time).
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito chronicled their van trip on the YouTube channel, "Nomadic Statik."
On Aug. 19, several weeks before she was reported missing, Gabby Petito vlogged about her van trip with Brian Laundrie in a video entitled "VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey."
The couple shared footage from their trip to Utah, and Gabby Petito gave a brief tour of the inside of the van. It is currently the only post on the "Nomadic Statik" YouTube page, but it is unclear if other videos have been taken down.
Both Laundrie and Petito chronicled their trip on their respective Instagram feeds as well. Gabby Petito last posted on Aug. 25, while Laundrie shared a set of photos on Aug. 13.
If you have information about Gabby Petito's disappearance, you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS, the North Port Police Department at 941-429-7382, or the FBI Tampa Field Office at 1-800-CALL-FBI.