A body matching the description of missing woman Gabby Petito has been found by crews searching a national park in the US state of Wyoming. “As every parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for her family,” FBI agent Charles Jones told the media, choking back tears.
“The cause of death has not been determined,” he added. Ms Petito, 22, was visiting the Grand Teton National Park with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, when she disappeared. Mr Laundrie was declared a “person of interest” in the case, but not charged with any crime. He declined to speak to police, and disappeared a few days later.
The FBI said that while forensic examinations were yet to “confirm 100%” that the human remains were those of Ms Petito, they were consistent with her description. Ms Petito’s father, Joseph, posted a photo of his daughter on Twitter shortly after the news conference. Mr Laundrie and Ms Petito had set out on a nomadic cross-country campervan trip in July, documenting their adventures on social media.
They filmed themselves smiling, kissing, and running on beaches in a Youtube video which has now been viewed more than 2.3 million times. But on 1 September, after a month of travelling, Mr Laundrie returned home to Florida with their white van and without Ms Petito. Her family reported her missing 10 days later.
On Friday, police said Mr Laundrie’s family told them they had not seen their son since Tuesday, and that investigators were “frustrated” by the developments. A search team spent the weekend scouring a 25,000 acre wildlife reserve in Florida for signs of Mr Laundrie with police dogs and drones, but as of Sunday evening nothing had been found. His family released a statement through their lawyer, saying: “The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.”
Thousands of comments have been left on the couple’s Instagram pages, and protesters gathered outside the Laundrie family home on Friday yelling “where’s Gabby?” At the news conference on Sunday evening, Mr Jones said the tips police had received from the public had been “remarkable” and renewed the call for anyone with information to come forward.
Two weeks before Ms Petito went missing, on 12 August, police in the southern Utah town of Moab were called to a possible domestic violence incident involving the couple.
Police released bodycam footage which showed Ms Petito crying and complaining about her mental health to officers. She also said the couple had been arguing more frequently.
The officers recommended they spend the night apart but did not file any charges. It is not yet known what happened next.