Brian Laundrie’s notebook contained “written statements” that led the FBI to conclude that Laundrie was “claiming responsibility” for the death of Gabby Petito. That’s according to a so-called “final investigative update” that federal investigators made public on Friday.
The FBI announced as part of that update that it was closing the investigation into how Gabby Petito, 22, disappeared — as well as the probe into who strangled her to death and left her in the wilderness of Wyoming.
The agency’s answers reinforced the suspicions of many who followed the case.
Under the FBI’s timeline of events, Laundrie, 23, staged texts between his phone and Petito’s phone to make it seem like Petito was still alive.
“After Ms. Petito’s death, there were several text messages identified between Mr. Laundrie’s telephone and Ms. Petito’s telephone,” the FBI said. “The timing and content of these messages are indicative of Mr. Laundrie attempting to deceive law enforcement by giving the impression that Ms. Petito was still alive.”
Then, as Gabby’s family reported her missing and law enforcement began to scrutinize the matter, Laundrie fled to an expansive wildlife preserve near his parents’ home in North Port, Fla., where the FBI says Laundrie died by suicide.
“Upon further search of the area, investigators found human remains later confirmed to be Mr. Laundrie, along with a backpack, notebook, and a revolver,” the FBI said. “A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death.”
Petito vanished in August while on a cross-country trip with Laundrie. Both portrayed themselves on social media as a loving couple who spent the summer living out of their van on an idyllic — and public — journey across the United States.
But there was clearly friction in retrospect. Cops in Moab, Utah, released body camera videos from Aug. 12, 2021, after a report that Petito and Laundrie had been in a fight. Ultimately, officers voiced sympathy for the couple but asked them to split up for the night, with Laundrie going to a hotel and Petito taking her van. Laundrie downplayed the report of physical contact, claiming it only happened Petito was trying to take the keys from him during an argument.
“I didn’t get overtly physical,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep her away and not get hit.”
He attributed the confrontation to minor relationship problems stacking up during the ill-fated journey.
“There’s a lot of little things,” he said in the body camera recordings.
Gabby Petito was last seen at the end of August, and her parents reported her missing in early September. Meanwhile, Laundrie returned home to North Port, Fla. While Gabby remained missing, her family called Laundrie out for leaving her “in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves while he sits in the comfort of his home.”
Gabby’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, said she is not clear on when she actually last communicated with her daughter — saying she received texts on Aug. 27 and on Aug. 30, 2021.
“I don’t know if she left Grand Teton or not,” Schmidt told Fox News. “I did receive a text from her on the 27th and the 30th, but I don’t know if it was technically her or not because it was just a text. I didn’t verbally speak to her.”
In other words, Schmidt appears to have long suspected what the FBI has now alleged: that Laundrie was communicating as Gabby Petito using the latter’s phone.
It was on the 30th and 31st that Laundrie illegally used Gabby’s debit card while driving from Wyoming to Florida, the FBI said Friday. A federal criminal case was filed against Laundrie over the use of the card — a case rendered moot by Laundrie’s death.
Brian Laundrie returned home but soon disappeared. His Ford Mustang was found on Sept. 15 , 2021, at an entrance to the neighboring Myakkahatchee Creek Park and the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve near North Port, authorities said. It was later on the 17th that his parents reported him missing after law enforcement conducted a welfare check on their home.
It was only two days later that investigators in Wyoming found Petito dead in a camping area.
Investigators said they found Laundrie dead at the North Port park on Oct. 20 after his parents discovered an item belonging to him.
The FBI acknowledged that law enforcement began searching the area back on Sept. 18, but they noted it was submerged in water because of recent flooding at the time. The receding water apparently resulted in the recovery of the evidence the FBI on Friday cited.
— Angenette Levy (@Angenette5) January 21, 2022
Petito’s family credited investigators for their work.
“We truly appreciate the FBI’s diligent and painstaking efforts in this extremely complicated case,” they said in a statement released by their lawyer Richard B. Stafford. “The quality and quantity of the facts and information collected by the FBI leave no doubt [that] Brian Laundrie murdered Gabby.”
Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino told Law&Crime on Friday that he has been led to believe by the FBI that Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian’s parents, will not face charges related to the investigation into Brian’s whereabouts.
The full FBI press release and timeline are below:
[Image via North Port Police Department]
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