Remains believed to belong to missing woman in Van Mystery are found

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Human remains believed to belong to a Florida woman were reported missing after her fiancé returned home after a month-long van trip without her, were found in a Wyoming national park on Sunday, the FBI said on Sunday. of a press conference.

“Earlier today, human remains were discovered, according to a description by Gabrielle (Gabby) Petito,” said Charles Jones, an F.BI. officer, adding that a full forensic identification had not been made to confirm the remains were those of 22-year-old Ms. Petito.

“On behalf of the FBI staff and our partners, I want to express my sincere condolences to Gabby’s family,” said Mr. Jones, who did not answer questions at the press conference. “As any parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We ask you all to respect their privacy as they mourn the loss of their daughter. “

The cause of death has not been determined, Mr Jones said.

The remains were found in the area of ​​the scattered Spread Creek camping area, located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park, Jones said, adding that the campsite would remain closed. . Anyone who was in the camping area between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30 has been urged to contact the FBI, Mr Jones said.

The discovery of the remains supposed to be those of Mrs. Petito appeared to end a missing person search as another continued for her missing fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, after his parents told police they had not seen him in days.

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Mr. Laundrie, whom police called a “person of interest,” declined through a lawyer to speak to investigators, police said. When his parents told the police that he too was missing, a search for him began which included scouring a large Florida wildlife refuge.

Lawyers for the Petito family and Mr Laundrie did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday evening.

Joseph Petito, the woman’s father, posted a photo of her on Twitter Sunday evening.

“She touched the world,” he said.

As police, FBI agents and National Park rangers searched for Ms. Petito in Wyoming, the woman’s last known location, her family said, officials in Florida searched for Mr. Laundrie at the shelter, a park in 24,565 acres in Sarasota County. called the Carlton reserve. Sunday afternoon police in North Port, Florida noted their search at the Carlton reservation had ended for the day with nothing new to report.

The North Port Police Department said it was “saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found dead”.

“We will continue to work with the FBI in finding more answers,” they said.

Ms. Petito left with Mr. Laundrie in July in a white Ford van equipped for a cross-country adventure. On September 1, Mr Laundrie returned to the home in North Port, Florida, where he lived with his parents and Ms Petito, in the white van the couple had used for the trip and which had been registered in Ms Petito’s name. . Petito.

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Ten days later, Ms. Petito was reported missing by her parents on September 11, police said.

In the days following Ms Petito’s disappearance, authorities expressed “frustration” in their efforts to speak to Mr Laundrie, who has not been declared a suspect in the case.

The case attracted wide attention, as reporters gathered outside Mr Laundrie’s home and some in the public browsed the couple’s Instagram accounts, which depicted a seemingly carefree and nomadic ‘van life’ in the American West.

Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie left New York City on July 2 for what was supposed to be a four-month trip across the country to visit national parks, Ms Petito’s stepfather Jim Schmidt said. The couple posted happy photos and updates to Instagram and YouTube, and outfitted the van with a bed, small bookcases, plants and artwork.

But something apparently went wrong in Moab, Utah, Ms. Petito’s family said.

On August 12, police responded to a report of a “domestic problem” after Mr Laundrie had “some sort of argument” with Ms Petito and told her to walk around and calm down, according to one. police report.

Both Mr Laundrie and Ms Petito told police officers that they were in love and engaged and “were desperate to see anyone charged with a crime,” the report said.

Mr Laundrie told an officer that “the problems between the two have built up over the past few days,” he said.

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During the meeting with the police, Ms Petito cried and said she suffered from anxiety, according to body camera images of the episode. In the police report, Ms Petito is recorded saying she moved to slap Mr Laundrie because she feared he “was going to leave her in Moab without driving her.” “

Both told police the episode should be classified as a “mental / emotional health break” rather than a domestic assault.

In the report, police described Mr. Laundrie as the victim of the incident. They arranged for him to stay in a hotel that night while Ms. Petito guarded the van. No charges have been filed, the report said.

In social media posts published before and after August 12, the couple documented their trip, including with numerous photos of Ms Petito posing against the backdrop of nature. The YouTube video showed the couple kissing, climbing rocks and laughing as the Utah sun had melted the chocolate in Mr. Laundrie’s granola.

“I love the van,” said Ms. Petito, smiling at Mr. Laundrie.

Ms. Petito, the oldest of six siblings, had worked as a pharmacy technician to save money for the trip. She met Mr. Laundrie at Bayport-Blue Point High School on Long Island, Mr. Schmidt said. They started dating after graduation and moved to Florida two years ago, he said.

In their 2020 posts, the couple expressed enthusiasm for their future.

Alan Yu contributed reporting.