A Complete Timeline Of The Gabby Petito And Brian Laundrie Case

This article contains mentions of intimate partner abuse and suicide.

If you watched the news in late 2021, you couldn't avoid hearing at least a little bit about Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito and Brian Laundrie, aged 22 and 23, respectively (per People), a couple whose doomed "van life" expedition ended in unimaginable loss and endless sorrow. 

As Petito's stepfather, Jim Schmidt, told The New York Times, Petito and Laundrie met while attending the same high school in New York. According to CBS KUTV, they began dating in 2019 and she later moved with him to North Port, Florida, where the couple lived with his parents. On July 2, 2020, Petito posted a photo of her and Laundrie on Instagram, announcing their engagement.

The adventurous pair frequently explored the great outdoors, documenting their travels on social media. One of Petito's 2020 Instagram posts shows the couple in California, while another presents a 2021 video montage of her and Laundrie climbing rocks and visiting beaches at various locations. It is captioned: "I love our adventures." The sky seemed to be the limit for the two young explorers, but things took a dark turn on what would be their final trip. Here is a complete timeline of the Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie case.

The couple embarks on a 'van life' journey

In December 2020, Gabby Petito announced in a since-deleted Instagram post (via ABC7 New York) that she had purchased a van to enable future adventures in the great outdoors. As Petito's friend Rose Davis later told People, Petito worked 50 hours a week at Taco Bell to fund the planned "van life" trip. According to the caption of the couple's first and only travel vlog posted under the name Nomadic Statik on YouTube, they outfitted the 2012 Ford Transit van with features that would make it easier to live out of on their adventures and created "a space for both artistic expression and distance hiking."

As USA Today notes, the pair headed west on July 2, 2021, after attending Petito's brother's high school graduation in New York. Her July and August Instagram posts show stops at Monument Rocks in Kansas, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, and Utah's Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks. At each stop, Petito is pictured with an ear-to-ear grin, and on one post – in which Laundrie is tagged – her caption read: "There's no place like the tiny home we built." She expressed a similar sentiment in her nearly 8-minute travel vlog following a series of footage depicting her and Laundrie cavorting in the great outdoors, affectionately stating, "I love the van."

Police respond to an incident in Moab, Utah

Just one month in, the seemingly idyllic trip took a turn for the worse. On August 12, 2021, a concerned 911 caller reported a domestic dispute outside the Moonflower Co-op in Moab, Utah. The caller told the Grand County Sheriff's Department (via CBS News) that he saw a male hitting a female before both departed in a white van. The Moab City Police Department's body cam footage (via ABC7) shows police catching up with the van near the entrance to Arches National Park. The officers separated Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie and questioned them.

In the footage, Petito appears visibly shaken and cries throughout her discussion with the officer. She admits that the couple had been fighting, blames the tension on her OCD, and mentions that Laundrie stresses her out and doesn't believe she can achieve her goal of becoming a travel vlogger. She also claims that Laundrie tried to lock her out of the van. Body cam footage from a second officer shows Petito admitting that Laundrie hit her (per Law & Crime). 

For his part, Laundrie appears friendly and unfazed, blames the argument on Petito "getting worked up," and jokes around with the officers. He has scratches on his face that he claims were caused by Petito and states that he didn't hit her but pushed her to keep her from attacking him. In the end, the officers labeled Petito the aggressor and separated the couple for the night.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

The couple visits several businesses in Wyoming

The separation didn't last long. According to a statement made by the Laundries' lawyer (via People), Brian Laundrie briefly flew home to Florida on August 17, 2021, to save money by closing a rented storage unit the couple shared, while Gabby Petito stayed behind in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, Laundrie returned on August 23 and the couple continued their travels. As a store owner in Victor, Wyoming, told East Idaho News, the pair visited her store, Rustic Row, on the afternoon of August 25 or 26. She noted that they seemed happy, shopped for around 20 minutes, mentioned their engagement and a recent trip to Grand Teton National Park, and discussed their plans to visit Yellowstone National Park.

On the afternoon of August 27, Petito and Laundrie visited a Whole Foods in Wyoming. Surveillance footage obtained by Law & Crime shows the van pulling into the parking lot and Laundrie slamming his door before the couple enters the store and shops for cheese and other foods for about 10 minutes. Later that day, patrons of the Merry Piglets Tex-Mex Restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming, told CNN that they saw the couple engaged in a heated dispute with their waitress. The witnesses claimed that Laundrie was noticeably angry and stormed in and out of the restaurant several times, creating a scene that drew attention and left the waitress rattled. 

Petito, meanwhile, was in tears. It was the last time anyone would see her alive.

Gabby Petito's mother receives strange text messages

Throughout the trip, Gabby Petito kept in regular contact with her mother, Nichole Schmidt. But this abruptly stopped at the end of August. According to Nichole, in a conversation with Fox News, she last spoke with Petito on the phone on August 25, 2021. At that time, Petito and Brian Laundrie were visiting Grand Teton National Park and had plans to visit Yellowstone National Park next. All correspondence Schmidt received after that last call sounded alarm bells.

According to a Florida police search warrant, Schmidt had detected increasing tension between Petito and Laundrie during her conversations with her daughter. Then, on August 27, she received a text message that struck her as odd. A message sent from Petito's phone read: "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls." Schmidt found the text concerning, as Stan is the name of Petito's grandfather, and she never referred to him by his first name.

In an interview with The Daily Mail, Schmidt commented on the second text received from Petito's phone on August 30. According to a Facebook post by Nichole Schmidt's brother-in-law (via The Daily Mail), that text message read: "No service in Yosemite." The message was alarming, as Yosemite National Park is in California – about 800 miles away from Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, where Petito had last been contacted. Schmidt told The Daily Mail, "That text was NOT from Gabby, I know it!"

Two people claim to have given Brian Laundrie rides in Wyoming

As the case gained national attention, people started coming forward with sightings of the van and couple. One of these individuals was Miranda Baker, who posted a TikTok video summarizing her encounter with Brian Laundrie. According to Baker, she picked Laundrie up while he was hitchhiking in Grand Teton National Park on August 29, 2021. He told her that he had been hiking alone for days while his fiancée stayed back at their campsite and offered her $200 for a ride to Jackson, Wyoming. But strangely, when he found out that they were headed to Jackson Hole – which is in the same location as Jackson – he panicked and asked to be let out. Baker also noticed how clean he appeared for having allegedly been out in the wilderness for days.

Later that same afternoon, a second woman picked Laundrie up in Wyoming. Norma Jean Jalovec told People that she drove him to the entrance of the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area at dusk. The ride was unremarkable until she offered to drive him directly to his camp. Laundrie declined and became increasingly nervous and agitated as they approached the camping area's gate. According to Jalovec, he was in such a hurry to leave that he was exiting the car before it had fully stopped. She found his behavior odd, especially considering that darkness was falling and the camping area was several miles from the entrance.

Brian Laundrie returns to Florida alone

On September 1, 2021, Brian Laundrie returned to his parents' home in North Port, Florida, in the Ford Transit van the couple had shared — without Gabby Petito (per NPR). Per a Florida police search warrant, the van was detected by a license plate reader in North Port at about 10:26 am on September 1. As Brian's older sister Cassie Laundrie told NewsNation, her parents and Brian had come to visit her that same day, but she hadn't thought it was unusual because they had driven the family's Ford Mustang, not the van.

According to Pinellas County documents (via CNN), Brian Laundrie's mother, Roberta Laundrie, had made a camping reservation for two people at Florida's Fort De Soto Park from September 1 to 3 on August 24. On August 31, she canceled this reservation without explanation. Then, on September 3, she scheduled a new reservation for September 6 through 8 – this time for three people. Cassie confirmed that camping trip took place in a discussion with NewsNation, stating that she had stopped by with her family on September 6. She claimed that nothing seemed amiss, and there was no mention of Petito. This was the last time she spoke with her brother.

A nationwide search for Gabby Petito begins

Concerned for her daughter's safety after weeks of silence, a desperate Nichole Schmidt reached out to Gabby Petito's fiancé and his family for answers. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Schmidt claimed that she had texted both Brian Laundrie and his mother, Roberta Laundrie, on September 10, 2021. Neither responded. "I knew something was wrong," Schmidt told The Daily Mail, adding, "I felt something was off and I needed to get her reported missing immediately."

Petito's family reported her missing on September 11 (per ABC4). As WFLA notes, a nationwide search effort involving police departments in multiple states as well as the FBI was soon underway. Petito's van was also seized from the Laundries' driveway. But, according to a Florida police search warrant, Brian and his family refused to speak with law enforcement, instead referring them to their family lawyer.

In a statement (via WINK News), the Laundries' lawyer, Steven Bertolino, said: "Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito's absence. In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this, and the warning that 'any statement made will be used against you' is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito's disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter."

Brian Laundrie disappears

Amid a frantic search for Gabby Petito, her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, was named a "person of interest" in the case on September 15, 2021 (per WFLA). According to WINK News, North Port Police set up cameras around the Laundries' home to keep tabs on Brian – who they believed was still in the house – though he was not yet wanted for a crime. On September 16, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison assured the public, "All I can say is we know where Brian Laundrie is at."

So, imagine everyone's surprise when Brian's parents reported him missing just one day later. According to WFLA, Brian's parents claimed that he left the house to go hiking on September 13 and never returned home. Per WINK News, police found his Ford Mustang in the parking lot of the nearby Carlton Reserve the next day and his mother drove the car home on September 15, at which point police watching the Laundrie home mistook her for Brian returning from his outing. The Laundries officially reported their son missing on September 17.

The North Port Police Department took to Twitter, requesting tips on Brian's whereabouts and noting that he was last seen wearing a waist strap and hiking bag. According to WFLA, authorities believe Brian entered the swampy Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park and could have ventured into the adjoining Carlton Reserve. A search with dogs, drones, planes, and ground vehicles was launched the next day.

Gabby Petito's body is found in Wyoming

The search for Gabby Petito ended just eight days after it began. According to Reuters, the FBI found a body in western Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest on September 19, 2021, using tips provided by a couple who had captured footage of Petito and Brian Laundries' van in their own travel vlog. Per the FBI, the body was found in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area about 1,000 feet from where the van was parked in the footage. In an interview with Dr. Phil (via Yahoo! Entertainment), Petito's stepfather, Jim Schmidt, stated that he had tentatively identified the body based on a piece of clothing the FBI described to him over the phone.

On September 21, FBI Denver released a statement on Twitter announcing that a coroner had confirmed that the remains found were those of Gabby Petito and that the manner of death was a homicide. 

As CNN notes, a detailed autopsy involving full-body CT scans, toxicology analysis, and examinations by several forensic specialists was later performed. According to the coroner's verdict filed on October 5 following the autopsy (via CNN), Petito's cause of death was listed as "manual strangulation/throttling" and, per the FBI, "blunt-force injuries to the head and neck." The coroner estimated that Petito had been dead about three to four weeks at the time her body was discovered, meaning she was likely killed the last week of August.

An arrest warrant is issued for Brian Laundrie

Just one day after a body found in Wyoming was identified as that of Gabby Petito, authorities intensified their search for the missing Brian Laundrie, the sole person of interest in the case. As the FBI notes, a federal court in Wyoming issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie on September 22, 2021, related to an indictment for the "use of unauthorized access devices" following Petito's death.

According to the indictment filed by the United States District Court on behalf of the District of Wyoming, Laundrie "knowingly and with intent to defraud" used a Capitol One Bank debit card and accessed two accounts belonging to another individual using a personal identification number between August 30 and September 1. In doing so, Laundrie gained access to around $1,000 worth of goods which "affected interstate commerce."

As Michael Schneider – the FBI Special Agent in charge of the case – told NPR, an arrest warrant gave law enforcement the resources needed to continue searching for Laundrie. Meanwhile, the Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, was quick to release a statement (via Today) clarifying that the arrest warrant was related to other activities and not Petito's death.

Everyone searches for Brian Laundrie

In addition to being a missing person, Brian Laundrie was now a wanted man. According to the FBI, the Laundrie family provided law enforcement with some of Brian's personal belongings to help with the search of the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park – his last known location – on October 7, 2021. As North Port Florida notes, the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park consists of around 168 acres of natural Florida forestland and floods frequently, which complicated the search. To make matters worse, the park borders the much larger Carlton Reserve, which, according to Visit Sarasota, comprises around 24,565 acres of wetland wilderness.

On September 22, North Port, Florida, announced on Twitter that the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park would be closed until further notice starting the next day. Per ABC7, the Carlton Reserve was also closed to the public to accommodate the FBI's search of the area. 

And the FBI wasn't the only one searching for Brian Laundrie. According to The Independent, Duane Chapman – also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter – left his honeymoon to join the manhunt, even going so far as to knock on the Laundries' front door, which resulted in a 911 call. Per Chapman, tipsters had provided him with over 1,000 leads on Brian's location, with many believing he was hiding out on the Appalachian Trail.

Brian Laundrie's remains are found

After nearly a month of searching, the FBI began to scale back their search of Florida's Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park. According to the North Port, Florida Twitter account, the park was reopened to the public on October 19, 2021 – though, as ABC7 notes, the Carlton Reserve remained closed. As the Laundries' lawyer Steven Bertolino told CNN, Brian Laundrie's parents informed authorities that they intended to visit the park to look for their son following its reopening. Law enforcement officials met the Laundries at the park on October 20 and they proceeded to search together.

About two to three miles from the park's entrance, Brian's father, Chris Laundrie, found a drybag in the woods 20 feet from the trail. Soon thereafter, law enforcement located a backpack, notebook, and skeletal human remains in the same general area. Authorities likely missed the discovery during their initial search due to flooding, as the area of the park where the remains were found had been submerged in chest-high water until recently (per CNN). On October 21, dental records confirmed that the remains were those of Brian Laundrie. 

According to the autopsy report later released by the District Twelve Medical Examiner, Brian Laundrie died by suicide, and a revolver was found at the scene.

Brian Laundrie's suicide note is released

On January 21, 2022, the FBI released a report declaring the case closed. In it, the agency stated that Brian Laundrie had claimed responsibility for Gabby Petito's death in a notebook found near his remains. On June 24, the Laundries' lawyer, Steven Bertolino, released eight pages of the notebook to the public. In the handwritten pages, Brian claims that Petito had become injured and hypothermic while the pair were hiking in Spread Creek and had asked him to kill her. "I ended her life, I thought it was merciful, that it was what she wanted," Brian wrote, adding, "But I see now all the mistakes I made. I panicked. I was in shock. But from the moment I decided, took away her pain, I knew I couldn't go on without her."

Elsewhere in the notebook, Brian refers to Petito as the "love of his life," apologizes to her family, and asks that people not make things harder for his parents. He also admits that he drove home after the murder to spend his last remaining days with his family. He ends the letter with a suicide note, in which he writes, "I am ending my life not because of a fear of punishment but rather because I can't stand to live another day without her ... I have killed myself by this creek in the hopes that animals may tear me apart. That it may make some of her family happy."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Gabby Petito's family files several lawsuits

Following the closure of the case, Gabby Petito's family initiated several lawsuits. According to CNN, they filed a wrongful death suit against Brian Laundrie's parents and attorney Steven Bertolino in March 2022, stating that the three had intentionally withheld knowledge about Petito's whereabouts, deceiving her family and the public through insincere statements when they knew Brian had killed their daughter and were helping Brian leave the country. 

In November 2022, Petito's family was awarded a settlement of $3 million for a separate wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's estate, which they donated to the Gabby Petito Foundation – an organization they created to help locate missing persons (per NBC News).

As ABC WPBF notes, the family also filed a lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department in November 2022, alleging that one of the officers present at Petito and Brian's August 2021 police stop had a history of domestic abuse and should not have been employed by the department. They also allege that the officer in question did not adequately enforce the law and therefore failed to protect Petito from domestic violence. As the Petito family's lawyer stated: "We believe that Gabby would be alive today if he had done his job to enforce the law as is written and protected Gabby that day."