How Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie's van may hold key clues to help investigators solve vlogger's throttling death
GABBY Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie were on a cross-country road trip when she went missing, and the van they were living in may hold the clues investigators need to solve the case.
The vlogger's remains were discovered just in front of the area where a tent and fire would have been near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Gabby's stepdad Jim Schmidt said her body would have been only a short walk from where the couple's Ford Transit van would have been parked.
"The dispersed campgrounds are basically just open land where anybody can go and camp and where their van was basically alongside what was a creek bed," he told Dr. Phil.
Gabby's mom Nichole Schmidt added: "It’s wasn’t far from the van, it would have been a five-minute walk."
Travel vloggers Jenn and Kyle Bethune said they saw the vehicle while traveling through Wyoming on August 27 – two days after Gabby reportedly last spoke with her family.
Kyle said that the van looked “abandoned” but it was “neat” to see travelers from Florida touring in the midwest.
Another TikToker, Jessica Schultz, also claimed she saw the vehicle several times between August 26 and 27 while camping at Spread Creek.
She said she was left surprised that its owners had seemingly not been asked to move it to a parking spot, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Schultz also claimed she spotted a “man acting weird” while at the campsite.
She reportedly went up to the van to see if he wanted to join the group but realized he was much younger than them.
The Tiktoker said: “He was just acting weird. You know, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, your hackles go up when you see something that’s out of the ordinary.”
Just weeks before Gabby was last seen, cops responded to reports that a 911 caller had seen a man slapping a woman in Moab, Utah, where they interrogated her and Brian.
Bodycam footage shows the chaos inside the white camper van, where the couple had been living since they embarked on their four-month trip in July.
A bed, pillows, sleeping bags and wooden furniture can be seen inside the cluttered vehicle.
Attached to the right door appears to be a small folding table that's used for eating and preparing food.
Some items seem to have been thrown into the van and it looks untidy.
It's a big contrast from how the van was arranged in a video uploaded to Gabby's YouTube page, where she offered viewers a tour inside, proudly showing it off.
In that video the bed is seen neatly made, with fluffy pillows, while the van's inside has been kitted out with lights and plants.
Books are stacked by the side while and storage boxes can be seen underneath the bed.
Photographs from the couple's adventures had been stuck onto notice boards, and the van had been decorated with pieces of colorful fabric.
Gabby and Brian decided to postpone college and instead put their money together to buy and renovate the van. They started their road trip on July 2 and planned to visit Portland, Oregon so they could visit a friend for Halloween.
They converted the van into a camper and documented their experiences on social media.
Gabby said living out of the van "was the best decision" the couple had ever made.
Brian helped build the van and knows where all the secret storage nooks are.
The fugitive drove it thousands of miles home alone, when he returned to Florida without Gabby and refused to speak about disappearance.
Gabby's mom Nichole Schmidt said that's when she knew her daughter was gone.
"I didn’t want to admit it but felt it the night I found out the van was in Florida," she said, adding that when she first reported Gabby missing on Saturday 11, she believed the couple could both be gone.
However, she learned that the van was back at the Laundrie family home in North Port that night when cops when to the house.
"It had to get there somehow," she said. "It's infuriating."
Cops found the van in North Port during the weekend of September 11 – when Gabby's parents reported her disappearance.
Authorities seized the van from the Laundrie's home on September 14.
Investigators said they found an external hard drive inside that they believed contained "evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed," NBC News reported.
At the time they stated the van would be tested for fingerprints and other forensic evidence, but have yet to give further details on whether anything was found.
Brian remains missing and is wanted on charges related to using Gabby's debit card.
He has not been named a suspect in her murder.
Gabby Petito timeline
Gabby Petito, 22, was last seen on August 24, leaving a hotel in Utah. Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito’s disappearance:
- June 2021 – Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie set off on a cross-country trip across the US.
- July 4 – Gabby posts photos of herself barefoot in Gove County, Kansas.
- July 8 – Gabby posts photos of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
- July 18 – Gabby and Brian post photos of themselves at Utah's Zion National Park.
- August 12 – Body camera footage was released in September showing an encounter Brian and Gabby had with police in Utah. Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.
- August 19 – Gabby and Brian post a video on their YouTube channel chronicling their trip.
- August 24 – Gabby is spotted leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- August 25 – Gabby Facetimes her mom, Nichole Schmidt, for the final time. In a later police report, Schmidt said her conversations with her daughter revealed "more and more tension" between her and Brian.
- August 25 – Gabby also posts her last Instagram. No location is given.
- August 27 – Gabby is seen for what's believed to be the final time. Witnesses claim they saw Brian in an explosive argument with staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, leaving Gabby in tears.
- August 27 – Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple's van "abandoned" on a dirt road.
- September 1 – Brian returns home to Florida without Gabby.
- September 11 – Gabby's parents report her missing to Suffolk County police.
- September 14 – Brian's family issues a statement saying he has retained an attorney and will not be cooperating with investigators.
- September 14 – Brian is allegedly last seen by his family. He reportedly told them he was going hiking in Cartlon Reserve but failed to return.
- September 15 – Florida's North Port police announce Brian is a person of interest in the case. He is not charged with any crime.
- September 16 – Utah police release body camera footage of the police encounter with Brian and Gabby.
- September 17 – Brian's parents say they have not seen their son in a couple of days and report him missing.
- September 18 – Police announce they were searching Carlton Reserve in Florida for Brian. Police announce they have not found anything.
- September 19 – Authorities in Wyoming say they found a body in Grand Teton National Park. The FBI announces the body was believed to be Gabby's but a full forensic identification needs to be completed first to confirm.
- September 20 – Police execute a search warrant on Laundrie's home, seizing his silver Mustang and a hard drive that may contain "evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed."
- September 21 – Officials announce they will be conducting an autopsy on the remains found in Wyoming to confirm whether or not they belong to Gabby. Police also resumed their search for Laundrie, this time on the Venice side of Carlton Reserve.
- September 21 – The FBI announced the body found in Wyoming was identified as Gabby's. The cause of death was not yet revealed.
- September 21 – The Teton County Coroner's office said Gabby's official cause of death was still pending but the initial manner of death is homicide.
- September 22 – Police continue to scour Carlton Reserve for a trace of Laundrie but yield no leads. A specialist dive team is called in to assist with the hunt.
- September 23 – Officials announced a federal arrest warrant for Brian was issued.
- September 26 – Gabby's funeral was held on Long Island, New York.
- October 12: Gabby's autopsy results were made public. Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed Gabby died by strangulation.
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