Who is Gabby Petito? Inside the heartbreaking story taking over headlines

"Who is Gabby Petito?" is the question on everyone's minds as a cause of death is tragically revealed

Gabby Petito, Who is Gabby Petito
(Image credit: Yellowstone National Park/Facebook)

What began as a road trip turned into a nightmare. "Who is Gabby Petito and what happened to her?" are the questions we're all wondering as the horrific story takes over news headlines. 

The travel influencer set off in July 2021 with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie of North Port, Florida, to partake in an adventure of a lifetime: an intended four-month trek across the US in a refurbished van. They planned to explore national parks and preserves throughout their trip. It all seemed picture-perfect, especially on social media where the two documented their journey.

However, upon Laundrie's return home to Florida on September 1, 2021—without Petito—no one was able to contact the influencer. Her mother, Nichole Schmidt, filed her as a missing person on September 11. On September 14, Laundrie—who is a person of interest in the case—set off for a hike through the Carlton Reserve in his hometown of North Port, and no one has heard from him since. 

On September 19, the story took a heartbreaking turn. Officials found human remains in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park that appeared to match Petito's description. Upon the news, her father, Joseph, tweeted a photo of his daughter saying, "#GABBYPETITO she touched the world."

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Following the autopsy that took place on September 21, the coroner has unfortunately confirmed that the remains belong to Petito. Her death has been ruled a homicide. 

A letter from the FBI posted on Twitter reads: "Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed that those are the remains of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner's initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results." 

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Gabby Petito: strangulation is the cause of death

Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue revealed in a press conference on October 12, 2021 that Petito's cause of death was strangulation. He also revealed that her body was likely left in the wilderness for three to four weeks. He declined to comment on the body's bruising and whether or not it had been buried. 

Many had asked, "Was Gabby Petito pregnant?" Dr. Blue said she was not pregnant at the time of her death.

Who is Gabby Petito?

The Long Island native, who relocated to Florida to live with her boyfriend and his parents, described herself on social media as a carefree spirit who decided to explore what's out there via #vanlife. A fan of "art, yoga & veggies," Petito includes a link to her YouTube channel, Nomadic Statik, in her Instagram bio. 

How old is Gabby Petito?

Born on March 19, 1999, Gabby Petito was 22 years old. Her fiancé Brian Laundrie is 23.

How did Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito meet?

The two met as teens on Long Island, and have always had a rocky relationship, according to friends. One minute, they were in love, the next they were fighting. Many used the term "toxic" to describe their love. 

However, despite their troubles, the two planned to wed and were engaged in 2020. "One whole years worth of adventures and stories down 🥂 & a lifetime to go ☆," Petito wrote on Instagram. 

What did Gabby Petito do for a living?

Petito was trying to establish herself as a travel influencer on social media and intended to document her four-month journey with her followers. She had been working as a pharmacy technician to save for her trip, according to The New York Times. 

Several years ago, she had lived in the south and worked at Smoke on the Water in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the community is currently mourning her loss. The restaurant's staff told CNN that she had a sweet disposition and that she "touched so many lives."

Gabby Petito YouTube videos

Nomadic Statik, the couple's YouTube page where they intended to document their trip, doesn't seem to fulfill its purpose. Laundrie returned to Florida on September 1—without his fiancée—and only uploaded one clip of their journey, though they documented their travels more thoroughly on their respective Instagram accounts, @gabspetito and @bizarre_design_. (Some are now suspecting whether or not Petito personally uploaded those images to her account.) 

 "We quickly realized we had to come up with a solution if we wanted to continue traveling and living nomadically, so that's why we handcrafted our own tiny van, a simple 2012 Ford transit connect, utilizing space with unique designs and features," the introductory video reads. 

It continues: "Creating a space for both artistic expression and distance hiking. Thank you so much for watching, and we hope you tag along on our journey wherever the van takes us!"

Utah dispute between Petito and Laundrie

According to The New York Times, the couple was involved in a domestic incident in Moab, Utah, on August 12. Allegedly, both parties told the police that they remained engaged to be married, despite the argument. In the police report, Petito is recorded saying she slapped her fiancé for fear that he was going to leave her in Moab without transportation. 

The police described Laundrie as the victim of the incident and arranged for him to stay in a hotel that evening, the Times further reported. Charges were not filed. 

Gabby Petito last contact

On August 30, Petito's mother received the reported last correspondence from her daughter, according to The Daily Mail

The text read, "No service in Yosemite," seemingly putting the couple in Yosemite National Park in California. However, Schmidt is suspicious of the location from where that text was sent, and of who sent it. 

"I do not believe the text on August 30th was from my daughter," she said. "The van was in Florida on the 1st [of September]. I think I can do the math."

The last Instagram post from Petito was dated on Wednesday, August 25 and showed the 22-year-old holding a crochet pumpkin against a wall mural with the caption "Happy Halloween". 

Brian Laundrie statement

Laundrie, who set out for a hike on September 14 in his Florida hometown, has been unreachable since. 

He was allegedly uncooperative in the search for his fiancée according to Petito's parents and step-parents, and he has not released a statement. This is despite being considered a person of interest, as he is reportedly the last person to see her before she went missing.

After a brief break, authorities have resumed searching for Laundrie as of September 23, though his whereabouts are unknown. There have been reported sightings of the 23-year-old along the East Coast. Sources also confirmed that he used Petito's credit cards as a method for getting back home to Florida. 

Brian Laundrie parents

Petito's parents have pleaded with Laundrie's mother and father to help assist with the case. On September 19, the family put out a statement: "The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family." On September 20, the FBI raided the Laundrie family home. 

Gabby Petito case: crowdsourcing 

Another way the FBI has been uncovering information? Crowdsourcing via social media. The FBI is putting out requests for anyone who might've been in contact with the couple during their cross-country trip. 

On September 18, a tweet from the FBI Twitter account read: "If you were in the area of Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, as identified in the attached map, during the timeframe of August 27-30, 2021, and saw Gabby and/or her boyfriend or their vehicle, please provide that information to the FBI."

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Additionally, TikTok user Miranda Baker claimed in a video on the platform that she and her boyfriend picked up Laundrie while he was hitchhiking in Teton Park on August 29. 

Bystanders have reported an alleged incident between Petito and Laundrie at  The Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming, on August 27. Although the altercation did not turn physical, those in the restaurant and in contact with the couple were shaken by their behavior, according to CNN.

Those with information are able to submit their responses to tips.fbi.gov

@mirandabaker_

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♬ original sound - Miranda Baker
Danielle Valente
Danielle Valente

Danielle is a writer for My Imperfect Life, where she particularly enjoys covering lifestyle and entertainment news. She was previously the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. When she's not working, you can find her reading a good book and enjoying a cup of coffee. Follow her @dvwrites.