Coroners in North Port, Florida were scheduled to perform an autopsy Tuesday on a body found in Wyoming, seeking to determine if it was Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old traveler from “van life” who disappeared.
The examination of the remains, which were discovered Sunday in a remote area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming, would take place as police and FBI agents searched for Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie.
Investigators have called Laundrie, 23, a “person of interest.” His parents told FBI agents they last saw him a week ago when he told them he planned to hike alone in the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve wilderness area near North Port.
North Port police suspended their search there on Monday after “exhausting all avenues.” But on Tuesday they said they were once again searching the marsh reserve.
Investigators spent much of Monday searching Laundrie’s home, loading cardboard boxes into a pickup truck and towing a silver Ford Mustang.
Petito and Laundrie left their home state of New York in late June or early July, heading west in their white truck to visit national parks and document the trip on social media.
Laundrie returned home to North Port alone in the van on September 1. Ten days later, members of Petito’s family reported him missing. Before disappearing, Laundrie refused to speak to investigators and hired an attorney.
Witnesses last saw Petito on August 24 as he was leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City. He posted his last photo on social media the next day. His family believes he was on his way to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when they last heard from him.
A body was discovered at the edge of that park, in a remote area less than 1,000 feet from where a pair of travel bloggers filmed the white van parked on a dirt road near Spread Creek on the night of August 27.
An FBI spokesperson has said the body was “consistent” with the 5-foot-5, 110-pound Petito. The autopsy was expected to identify the remains and determine the cause of death.
In seeking search warrants, investigators have cited an Aug. 27 text message allegedly sent by Petito to his mother, Nicole Schmidt, describing repeated calls and voice messages from “Stan,” Petito’s grandfather.
Schmidt told investigators that the message was strange because the young woman did not often refer to her grandfather by his first name. Petito’s family has said that a second text message also looked suspicious.
Talking to Dr. Phil’s show on CBS In an interview broadcast Monday, Joseph Petito said Laundrie and his daughter dated for two and a half years and Laundrie was “always respectful.”
During the interview, which was recorded before the body was found in Wyoming, Petito said the couple made an earlier road trip to California with no problems. This time, Joseph Petito said, the family began to worry after several days without hearing from their daughter.
“We called Brian, we called mom, we called dad, we called sister, we called all the numbers we could find,” he said. “No phone calls were answered, no text messages were returned.”
Joseph Petito said he wanted Laundrie to be held accountable for the role he played in his daughter’s disappearance, along with his family for protecting him.
“I hope they get what’s next, and that includes their people,” he said. “Because I will tell you, right now, they are equally complicit, in my book.”
Last week, police in Moab, Utah, released body camera footage from an Aug. 12 encounter that two officers had with Petito and Laundrie.
Petito sobs as he describes a fight with Laundrie that he says turned physical at times. Officers did not detain the couple, but insisted that they spend the night separately, Petito in the truck and Laundrie in a hotel.