GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (NewsNation Now) — Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old blogger, vanished while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie in August. Petito’s body was found at a camping area in Wyoming in September, days after a nationwide search was launched.
Laundrie was last seen by his parents Sept. 13, nearly a week before Petito’s body was found and just days before he was named a person of interest in her disappearance. The manhunt for him began on Sept. 17. Laundrie was found dead in the Carlton Reserve near his home on Oct. 20.
While retracing the last days of Petito, NewsNation’s Brian Entin was surprised by how few people wanted to discuss Petito or the case with him.
Here are four takeaways from NewsNation’s special report on her final days:
Petito tips lead investigators to find other bodies
When the public heard about Petito’s disappearance, many on social media began forming communities to share what they knew and combined their knowledge to form credible leads. The surge of support from all corners of the internet not only uncovered clues to Petito’s disappearance, but also to important discoveries in other cases.
Tips called into police departments around the country that were filed as part of the Petito and Laundrie disappearances led officers to the bodies of other missing people.
Sara Bayard, who had been missing since July, was found in El Paso County, Colorado, in an area where Petito and Laundrie had posted Instagram photos.
In Teton County, Wyoming, near where Petito’s body was found, investigators also found the body of Robert “Bob” Lowery, who’d been missing since August.
Moab police only got Petito & Laundrie on bodycam, no other video
Police in Moab, Utah said they were not able to find any other surveillance footage of Laundrie or Petito besides the video their officers’ bodycams recorded on Aug. 12.
That day, Moab police responded to reports of the alleged physical interaction between Petito and Laundrie after spotting the van reported in the 911 call. However, there was no video of it, police said.
Hourlong body camera footage from the investigation shows officers responding to the 911 call with Petito crying “uncontrollably,” saying the pair had been having “little arguments” that day. Authorities said Laundrie told officers the couple had been traveling for four to five months, which “created emotional strain between them and increased the number of arguments.”
Police ultimately asked them to spend the night apart, though they nearly cited Petito for domestic violence. Moab police are waiting for the results of an independent review into how that investigation was handled.
WYOMING RESTAURANT DISPUTES WITNESSES’ CLAIMS OF FIGHT BETWEEN LAUNDRIE, PETITO
Witnesses said they saw Petito and Laundrie fighting at the Merry Piglets restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming on Aug. 27. One eyewitness watched what she described as a “full-blown incident” between the couple.
“They like left abruptly, and [Petito] was standing on the sidewalk crying and [Laundrie] walked back in and was, like, screaming at the hostess and then walked back out,” Nina Angelo told Newsweek. “And then he walked back in, like, four more times to talk to the manager and to, like, tell the hostess off.”
The Merry Piglets restaurant also confirmed in an Instagram post that they spotted the couple and have been in contact with the FBI since.
However, NewsNation’s Brian Entin spoke with the manager of the restaurant off-camera, who said the incident “wasn’t what everyone said.”
The manager, who didn’t want to be on camera, said there were no loud voices, no one got angry and no fit was thrown. The manager said Petito and Laundrie left the restaurant without paying, so a server followed them outside. The pair then paid the bill out on the street, with the server noting that Laundrie was calm.
Laundrie and Petito then went back inside the restaurant together with Petito asking for her money back, the manager said. The restaurant said they were not going to give the money back, so the pair left, the manager said. Surveillance video of the interaction has since been deleted.
Aug. 27 was the same day Petito’s mother received an “odd” text from her daughter. It was the last time Petito was heard from.
Four days after the incident at the Merry Piglets restaurant, Laundrie returned home from their road trip alone.
MEMORIAL FOR PETITO CONTINUES TO GROW
Just outside the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, a makeshift memorial continues to grow near where her body was discovered. Gabby’s father, Joe Petito, left a stone cross in his daughter’s memory and others have followed suit with messages of remembrance.