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FBI asks public for help finding Gabby Petito’s fiance after autopsy shows she died by homicide

A makeshift memorial dedicated to Gabby Petito is located near the North Port City Hall on Tuesday in North Port, Fla. Law enforcement agencies are for searching for the whereabouts of her fiance, Brian Laundrie. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
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The FBI is asking for the public to come forward with any information regarding the whereabouts of Gabby Petito’s fiance, Brian Laundrie, a day after initial autopsy results determined that her death was a homicide.

It has been three weeks since Laundrie, 23, returned to Florida from a cross-country van trip without Petito, 22, in a case that has attracted national attention. Laundrie, a “person of interest” who is not accused of a crime, refused to help police investigate her death. His family says they have not seen him in more than a week.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue confirmed Tuesday that the human remains found in a Wyoming national forest Sunday were those of Petito. The official cause of death remains pending until the final autopsy results are released.

Michael Schneider, the FBI special agent in charge in Denver, urged the public to share any tips concerning Laundrie.

“The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito’s death is held accountable for their actions,” Schneider said in a statement posted to social media. “Mr. Brian Laundrie has been named a person of interest. Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI.”

Gabby Petito’s death is a homicide, autopsy finds; authorities search for fiance

The bureau said in a news release that it is asking for information from people who may have had contact with Petito or Laundrie or those who visited the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area of Bridger-Teton National Forest between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30. The FBI is also hoping people who may have seen their white van will also come forward.

The FBI said on Sept. 21 that a body found in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming has been identified as Gabby Petito and that her death was a homicide. (Video: Reuters)

The search for Laundrie at the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve wilderness area near North Port, Fla., which was initially suspended this week, resumed Tuesday with police finding “nothing of note,” said North Port Police Department spokesperson Josh Taylor. Laundrie’s parents told authorities that their son indicated last week that he planned to hike the swampy reserve alone.

Police will resume the search Wednesday morning. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission would assist investigators in combing through a difficult terrain that police have noted is 75 percent underwater. The search area is about 20 minutes away from the Laundrie family’s home.

North Port police said the search “has yet to yield any answers, but we must press on.”

“Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times,” police said in a Facebook post, noting the waist-deep water in many area. “This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails.”

Richard Benson Stafford, an attorney for Petito’s family, thanked the news media for giving the family “time to grieve.”

“We will be making a statement when Gabby is home,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

Steven Bertolino, Laundrie’s attorney, told The Washington Post in a text message: “May Gabby rest in peace.”

The FBI’s push for the public to help them in their investigation comes as several questions remain in the case of the young couple who once documented a seemingly idyllic “van life” on social media. Petito’s and then Laundrie’s disappearances have generated speculation from droves of amateur sleuths, particularly on social media, where the couple shared photos and videos of their travels. Laundrie returned from the trip on Sept. 1 without Petito.

A newly unsealed Florida search warrant for a hard drive belonging to Laundrie shows that the last text message sent from Petito’s phone to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, on Aug. 27 was “odd” and left Schmidt feeling “concerned.” The message read: “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” The name “Stan” was a reference to her grandfather, but Petito never referred to him in that way, the warrant says.

A 911 recording recently released by the Grand County, Utah, Sheriff’s Office included a caller reporting an Aug. 12 fight between a couple with a white van that had a Florida license plate, according to audio obtained by The Post. The caller said the “domestic dispute” occurred near a store where a police report said Petito and Laundrie had fought.

The people described in the call have not been confirmed by authorities to be Petito and Laundrie.

“We drove by them, and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller said. “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.”

A witness reported a fight between a couple with a white van that had a Florida license plate on Aug. 12, according to 911 dispatch audio obtained by The Post. (Video: Grand County Sheriff's Office)

Utah police released body-camera footage of a traffic stop with the couple that occurred the same day as the 911 call, in which Petito appeared to be distraught and crying. Police determined that Petito was the aggressor who was “slapping at him,” and they separated the couple for the night.

As the FBI hopes the public can assist in its investigation, at least one person has already come forward in recent days with information regarding an alleged interaction with Laundrie. Miranda Baker posted a series of TikTok videos in which she claimed she gave Laundrie a ride in Colter Bay, Wyo., on Aug. 29 — four days after Petito is last known to have called her family.

Baker told ABC’s “Good Morning America” this week that Laundrie offered them $200 for a ride before he even got in the car. She said that he got out of the car around the Jackson Dam about 30 minutes into the ride. The Post has been unable to independently verify her claims.

“He got out, and he was thankful and he was kind of in a hurry,” she told ABC. “He said he was going to go across the street into the parking lot and find someone else to give him a ride, but, when we looked back 10 or 15 seconds after he got out of the vehicle he was just gone.”

Taylor told CNN that Baker’s account “is plausible, it appears.”

News of Petito’s death Tuesday brought empathetic statements from members of Congress representing places where Petito and Laundrie once called home. Rep. Andrew R. Garbarino (R-N.Y.), whose district is where Petito completed her high school education, said Tuesday that “no family should have to face this unimaginable tragedy.” Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), who represents the district where authorities have scoured North Point in search of Laundrie, said he was hoping investigators could give Petito’s family some closure.

“I’m praying for the North Port Police Department and all law enforcement officers working to find answers and bring justice for this young woman,” he said.

Lateshia Beachum contributed to this report.

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