Here's What Happened In Gabby Petito's Final Days

The disappearance and ultimate discovery of the remains of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman from Long Island, New York, caught the attention of and shocked the world as the case played out publicly. Petito had been using social media to document a trip across the United States with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, as reported by People magazine, often using the popular hashtag #vanlife in her posts on Instagram under the username "gabspetito."

Her final post appeared on August 25, 2021 and showed a series of pictures of Petito smiling and posing in front of a mural featuring monarch butterflies. Just a few days before, Petito and Laundrie had posted a video on YouTube under the user name "Nomadic Static" titled "VAN LIFE: Beginning our van life journey," writing that they "wanted downsize our lives and travel full time" and had "handcrafted our own tiny van, a simple 2012 Ford transit connect."

A seemingly idyllic van trip

According to KUTV, Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie set out in their van from Blue Point, New York on July 2, 2021. Petito's first Instagram post concerning their trip was posted two days later and weeks of photos from the road followed, including picturesque nature shots, grinning selfies, and musings on their life on the road. Petito's parents would later report that Gabby's last Facetime call with her family took place on August 23, 2021, two days before her final Instagram post. (Her stepmother Tara and father Joe are shown above.)

Petito's second-to-last post features photos from Arches National Park in Utah and in the caption, Petito wrote that after they'd hiked up a less popular, more dangerous and strenuous path to the arch, she and Laundrie had "sat drawing and enjoying the nature" after "taking a few cool photos of each other." It would later come to light that the day had been much less peaceful and calm than it appeared on Instagram.

Witnesses saw Petito and Laundrie fighting

As reported by CNN, on August 12, 2021, a 911 call came in to the Grand Country Sheriff's office. The caller reported that they had driven by a couple in a white van with Florida plates and "the gentleman was slapping the girl." They went on to report that they'd stopped their vehicle near the van at which point "[Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie] ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off."

Later that day, a police officer in Moab, Utah spotted Petito sitting in the passenger seat of the van "crying uncontrollably." Per footage from the officer's body camera obtained by CNN, the officer asked Petito to leave the van and sit in a police car to calm down. Petito told the officer the couple were "experiencing personal issues" and went on to explain "I have OCD and sometimes I get really frustrated ... He wouldn't let me in the car before."

Domestic assault or mental crisis?

Officer Eric Pratt later wrote in a police report that Gabby Petito had slapped Brian Laundrie, "who grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van," per CNN. Officer Daniel Scott Robbins wrote in the same report "At no point in my investigation did Gabrielle stop crying, breathing heavily, or compose a sentence without needing to wipe away tears, wipe her nose or rub her knees with her hands."

Robbins further elaborated that Petito had "gone into a manic state" after Laundrie tried to "separate from her so they could both calm their emotions." Robbins concluded, via the report, that he didn't think the "situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis." He suggested Petito and Laundrie separate for the night, getting Laundrie a room at a place he referred to as Safe Haven and leaving Petito with the van.

More fighting and a strange text message

According to CNN, Gabby Petito texted and FaceTimed with her mother, Nicole Schmidt, throughout the trip. Schmidt later reported that her daughter had described increasing tensions between herself and Brian Laundrie as the trip progressed. On August 24, Petito told family members that she and Laundrie were on their way out of Utah and heading to the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. On August 27, a couple vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming reported witnessing a "commotion" at The Merry Piglets restaurant. Nina Angelo recalled seeing Petito crying and Laundrie angrily going in and out of the restaurant and displaying rude behavior toward restaurant staff. An anonymous Merry Piglets employee later told CNN she had witnessed "an incident" that day at work but declined to give further details.

Nicole Schmidt later reported that she received an "odd text" from Petito that same day, reading, "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls." A later search warrant noted that "Stan" referred to Petito's grandfather, but Gabby never referred to him in this way. Finally, a pair of hikers took a video that included footage of Petito and Laundrie's van in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Per KUTV, Laundrie arrived alone at his home in North Port, Florida on September 1, where he and Petito had been living with his family. Petito's family reported her missing 10 days later.

A tragic end to a terrifying story

As reported by KUTV, on September 19, 2021, officials found human remains "consistent" with the description of Gabby Petito in Bridger-Teton National Forest. By that time, Brian Laundrie had hired a lawyer and refused to speak publicly about what had happened to Petito, merely releasing a statement through his attorney that read in part, "On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family. On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."

Per CNN, a coroner later confirmed that it was Gabby Petito's body found near the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area and reported that the cause of death was strangulation. The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie due to his actions after Petito's death. His whereabouts were unknown for several weeks; authorities searched for him in the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve nature park. They found human remains later confirmed to be Laundrie's, along with a backpack and notebook, in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park (via People). People magazine later further reported that Laundrie died of a self-inflicted gunshot and admitted to killing Petito in his notebook, writing, "I ended her life. I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistakes I made."

Petito's last day was reportedly captured in security footage

Laundrie's death and written confession would not be the end of the Petito case. Roughly one year after Laundrie died, security footage emerged from a Wyoming Whole Foods on the same day that the Petito family believed Laundrie killed their daughter. In the video, which can be seen above, the white Ford Transit van in which the two aspiring "van life" social media celebrities traveled in can be seen entering the Whole Foods Market parking lot, located in Jackson, Wyoming. The civil lawsuit filed by Petito's parents claims she was killed by Laundrie the same day the video was taken. Authorities estimate she was killed about three weeks before her body was recovered on September 17, 2021 near Grand Tetons National Park (via The New York Post).  

In the footage, Petito and Laundrie are seen shopping in Whole Foods for roughly 15 minutes before exiting the store. Notably, Petito's arms remain crossed and Laundrie's hands stay in his pockets while they're shopping. Though there's no audio in the security footage, there's also no visual sign of distress or anger from either Laundrie or Petito indicating what would allegedly happen just a short time later. It's not clear if Petito and Laundrie made a purchase during their grocery run. The couple then stayed in their vehicle for roughly 20 minutes before the van is seen exiting the Whole Foods parking lot.