The search for missing van-life YouTuber Gabby Petito took a terrible turn on Sunday as the FBI announced that human remains matching her description were found in Grand Teton National Park—where her van was seen shortly before she disappeared during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend.
Authorities said they are waiting for forensic results to confirm “100 percent” that the remains belong to the 22-year-old, but they have notified her family of the grim discovery. No cause of death was given.
FBI Special Supervisory Agent Charles Jones grew emotional as he briefed the media and offered “condolences” to Petito’s loved ones. “This is an incredibly difficult time to the family and friends,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Minutes after the briefing ended, with authorities taking no questions, Petito’s father, Joe, posted a photo of Gabby with angel wings to social media. “She touched the world,” he wrote.
— joseph petito (@josephpetito) September 19, 2021
The remains were recovered after the FBI shut down Grand Teton’s Spread Creek camping area and fanned out over the terrain to conduct what it called “ground surveys.”
Petito’s white Ford van was in Spread Creek on Aug. 27, according to footage captured by a family traveling through the national park that day. A couple of days later, she went silent—and she did not return to the East Coast when her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, did.
North Port, Florida, police have spent two days searching a wildlife preserve in that state for Laundrie, 23, whom police have called a person of interest in her disappearance and who has not cooperated with investigators looking for Petito.
“Saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased,” North Port police said in a tweet on Sunday night. “Our focus from the start, along with the FBI, and national partners, has been to bring her home. We will continue to work with the FBI in the search for more answers.”
Laundrie’s family, meanwhile, who were blasted by cops for stonewalling the investigation, issued a statement through their attorney: “The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.”
Petito and Laundrie set out in a souped-up van in June to explore the West, chronicling their travels on social media.
Their posts painted a portrait of idyllic adventure and young love, but the investigation has revealed discord behind the scenes. On Aug. 12, Utah police intervened after an argument between Petito and Laundrie turned physical, though no charges were lodged.
On Aug. 24, Petito told her family that she and Laundrie were leaving Utah and headed to Grand Teton in Wyoming. She stayed in touch over the next few days, but the last time the family had any communication was Aug. 30.
“No service in Yosemite,” read the text message—which the family does not believe was sent by Petito.
Laundrie returned home in the van to North Port, Florida, without Petito, and her family claims that he and his family ignored their efforts to find out what happened to the young woman.
Last week, North Port police said, they tried without success to convince the Laundrie family to speak with them. Finally, on Friday, the parents agreed to talk to investigators and claimed Laundrie had been missing for several days—and that they believed he had gone into the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County.
On Saturday and Sunday, a phalanx of first responders gathered at the 25,000-acre nature center, which is home to alligators, panthers, snakes, and feral pigs, to hunt for Laundrie.
Police have admitted they are “frustrated” by the Laundrie family’s behavior. A spokesperson for the North Port Police told the New York Post, “As far as hurting himself in there, we don’t know that one way or another. I think it’s a possibility certainly.”
“Does anyone not think it’s possible he went out there and shot himself in the head? Sure,” the spokesperson continued, before saying, “We don’t have any information about where he’s at.”