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What happened to Gabby Petito? Key developments in the case

Photo of Gabrielle Petito with her fiance, Brian

Photo of Gabrielle Petito with her fiance, Brian Laundrie. Credit: Petito Family Photo

Gabrielle Petito, the Blue Point native whose body was found in a Wyoming national forest last month, died by strangulation, according to autopsy results shared by the coroner in Teton County, Wyoming.

The 22-year-old’s manner of death had previously been ruled a homicide, according to the FBI. The FBI had named Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, who she had been traveling with on a cross-country road trip, as a "person of interest" in her homicide.

"The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito’s death is held accountable," said FBI Special Agent in charge Michael Schneider. "Mr. Brian Laudrie has been named a person of interest. Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie’s role in the matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI."

Petito and Laundrie had both attended Bayport-Blue Point High School. She was reported missing by her mother, Nichole Schmidt, of Blue Point, on Sept. 11 to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Here is a timeline of the weeks and days leading up to her disappearance and key developments in the investigation.

Early July: Petito and Laundrie, who had been living together in Florida, depart Long Island for a cross-country road trip to Portland, Oregon. She documents their travels on Instagram, sharing photos of their adventures in Kansas, Colorado and Utah over the next month.

Aug. 12: Petito and Laundrie are stopped in Utah by Moab police officers outside Arches National Park after a witness reported observing a physical altercation between the two inside their vehicle. Police stopped the van, which was allegedly going 45 mph on a roadway with a 15 mph speed limit, when the vehicle left its lane and struck the curb, police said. More details about this encounter would later be released after Petito is reported missing.

Aug. 17: Laundrie flies home to Florida, taking a commercial flight from Salt Lake City, Utah to Tampa, according to his lawyer.

Aug. 19: The first and only video documenting the couple's travel in the van is posted to their YouTube channel, Nomadic Statik. It showed scenes of Petito and Laundrie in parks, deserts and other settings.

Aug. 23: Laundrie takes a return flight back to Salt Lake City "to rejoin Gabby," according to his lawyer.

Aug. 23/24: The last time Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt of Blue Point, FaceTimes with her daughter.

Aug. 30: Petito's family receives the last text from her phone. According to a statement from their lawyer, they "don't believe that message was sent from Gabby."

Sept. 1: Laundrie returns to North Port, Florida, where he and Petito lived together for more than two years at his parents' home, according to police. He arrives in the van the couple had been traveling in, police said.

Sept. 10: Petito's mother reaches out by text to the Laundries, seeking information about her daughter's whereabouts, but says her messages are ignored.

Sept. 11: Petito's mother reports her daughter missing to Suffolk County police.

Sept. 12: Authorities seize the white 2012 Ford Transit van the couple had been traveling in from the North Port home where Petito lived with Laundrie and his parents.

Sept. 13. At a news conference in Bohemia, Petito's mother pleads with the public for information to help find her daughter, saying: "She's not in touch with us, and she could be alone somewhere, stranded somewhere in the wilderness, and she needs help."

Sept. 15: Laundrie is identified as a "person of interest" in the case, by North Port police, who are leading the investigation and say he is "hindering" it by declining to speak with them. Laundrie's attorney, Steve Bertolino of East Islip, in a statement responded that he had advised his client not to speak to police and called the "person of interest" label a "formality."

Sept. 16: Utah police release body camera footage of the Aug. 12 traffic stop, showing Petito crying. The footage shows her being interviewed by Moab police officers on the side of the road outside Arches National Park and officers separately interviewing Brian.

The report says further investigation showed Petito had tried to slap Laundrie, who pushed her back and tried to get away from her, then locked her out of the van. Police say she climbed back inside, and the van took off before it was then stopped by officers.

Police observed scratches on Laundrie but write there were no "significant injuries" in the incident. Both Petito and Laundrie told police they were "in love" and didn't want to press charges. The officer writes in the report that he did not believe "the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis."

On the same day the footage is released, Petito's father, Joe, who moved to Florida in June from Selden, speaks at a news conference at the North Port Police Department. He urges anyone with information on his daughter's whereabouts to call the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Sept. 17: North Port police report that the Laundrie family now says that Brian Laundrie has gone missing from his Florida home. "The North Port Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations are currently searching for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie of North Port," the department says in a late-night statement. "The family now claims they have not seen Brian since Tuesday of this week."

Petito's family responds to the news by saying: "All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing."

In an interview aired in the morning on "Good Morning America," Laundrie's sister says it was "typical" for the couple to fight and then take a break.

Sept. 18: The FBI and National Park Service said the agencies were searching Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming for Petito.

More than 2,000 miles away, law enforcement in Florida search a large, swampy reserve and park for Laundrie. A team of more than 60 were "looking for anything of note after his parents say this is where he went," North Port, Florida Police Department's Twitter account said.

Sept. 19: Petito's body is found in Wyoming in the area where she was last seen, according to authorities. Authorities said a final identification had not been completed, but nevertheless, sent their condolences to her family.

Earlier in the day, the Teton County, Wyoming Coroner’s office had been dispatched to recover a body in Bridger-Teton National Forest, according to an email from the coroner. The FBI said it had been searching the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area inside the forest, which is on the eastern boundary of Grand Teton National Park.

Sept. 20: The FBI begins searching the Laundrie's Florida home. "We are executing a court authorized search warrant at that residence today," said Andrea Aprea, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Tampa. Agents were seen removing several boxes from the home and a silver Ford Mustang was also towed from the driveway.

Sept. 21: The FBI announce that the remains found in Wyoming have been positively identified as Petito, and said her manner of death was a homicide.

The FBI name Laundrie a "person of interest" in her homicide, and said Petito’s cause of death is pending the final autopsy results.

Police in Florida resume the search of a wildlife reserve for Laundrie.

The audio of a 911 call made on Aug. 12, the same day officers pulled over Petito and Laundrie, is released. In the recording a male caller states to the dispatcher: "We drove by them and the gentleman was slapping the girl. We stopped, they ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her. Hopped in the car and they drove off."

Sept. 22: A police dive team joins the search of a Florida nature reserve for Laundrie.

Sept. 23: Police in Florida continue to search a sprawling nature reserve for Laundrie using drones, police dogs and ATVs.

Federal authorities issue an arrest warrant for Laundrie for unauthorized use of a debit card and bank accounts following the death of Petito, the FBI in Denver said.

"While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide," said Michael Schneider, FBI special agent in charge, in a statement.

Laundrie was indicted on one count of "use of unauthorized access devices" by a federal grand jury in Wyoming for allegedly using a Capital One Bank debit card and accessing two bank accounts in amounts that exceeded $1,000, according to a copy of the indictment released by the FBI.

"It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise," said Steven Bertolino, the Laundrie lawyer.

Sept. 24: The search of a Florida reserve for Laundrie continues for a sixth day.

Sept. 26: A memorial is held in Holbrook for Petito, while her remains are still in Wyoming as the investigation into her death continues, funeral home officials said.

"I don’t want you guys to be sad," her father, Joseph Petito, tells those gathered in Moloney Holbrook Funeral Home. "Gabby didn’t live that way … Her nature was always to smile."

Sept. 27: Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the North Port, Florida police, says the search efforts at the Carlton Reserve — where Laundrie was said to have gone hiking before he was reported missing — will continue, but will be more targeted.

"I don’t think you’re going to see those large scale types of efforts this week," Taylor says. "The FBI is now leading the search. I’m told, It will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence."

Sept. 29: Laundrie's lawyer denies an online report by TMZ that his client purchased a so-called "burner phone" before he went missing.

Bertolino, the attorney for Laundrie and his parents, said Laundrie, who was accompanied by his mother Roberta, bought a new cell phone sometime earlier in September at an AT&T store near their Florida home, and the phone was seized by the FBI. It was not a burner phone, which are pre-paid devices that are much harder to track, Bertolino said.

He also confirmed that Laundrie and his parents went camping on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7 at the Fort De Soto Park Campground in Tierra Verde, Florida – about a week after Laundrie returned alone home from his cross-country trip without Petito.

Sept. 30: The FBI retrieves "personal items" belonging to Laundrie from his Florida home to assist in the search for him, the Laundrie attorney confirms.

"The FBI is at the Laundrie home today to collect some personal items belonging to Brian that will assist the canines in their search for Brian," Bertolino said.

Oct. 2: Petito's family joins Twitter, where her mother, Nichole Schmidt posts a message directed at Laundrie: "Mama bear is getting angry! Turn yourself in!"

Oct. 5: New information is released regarding the events that happened prior to Petito being reported missing. Brian Laundrie's attorney says that Laundrie flew home to Florida on Aug. 17, five days after the couple got into the physical altercation in Utah that led to the police stop captured on camera.

Steven Bertolino said Laundrie took a commercial airline flight from Salt Lake City, Utah to Tampa, and then took a return flight back to Salt Lake City on Aug. 23 "to rejoin Gabby."

"To my knowledge, Brian and Gabby paid for the flights as they were sharing expenses," Bertolino said by text message. "Brian flew home to obtain some items and empty and close the storage unit to save money as they contemplated extending the road trip."

Oct. 6: Laundrie's father agrees to join police in Florida in the coming days on its search of the vast wildlife reserve for his son, the Laundrie family attorney says.

Bertolino says a North Port police detective asked for the assistance of Christopher Laundrie as they continue to search the Carlton Reserve where Brian Laundrie was said to have gone hiking Sept. 13.

Oct. 7: Laundrie's father joins the police search of a Florida wildlife reserve for his son, the family attorney says.

"Chris Laundrie is in the preserve with law enforcement," Bertolino says. "Chris was asked to point out any favorite trails or spots that Brian may have used in the preserve. Although Chris and Roberta Laundrie provided this information verbally three weeks ago it is now thought that on-site assistance may be better. The preserve has been closed to the public and the Laundries as well but the parents have been cooperating since the search began."

Oct. 12: During a news conference, Dr. Brent Blue, the coroner in Teton County, Wyoming, says his office ruled Petito’s cause of death is strangulation and the manner of death was homicide.

Reporting by Dandan Zou and Nicole Fuller with Joan Gralla

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