Brian Laundrie texted between his and Gabby Petito's phone to trick law enforcement into thinking she was still alive, FBI says

Gabby Petito and fiance Brian Laundrie
Gabby Petito and fiance Brian LaundrieCourtesy of the Schmidt and Petito family
  • Brian Laundrie sent texts between his and his fiancé's phones to trick police into thinking she was alive, per the FBI.

  • Gabby Petito's body was discovered at a Wyoming campsite in September.

  • Laundrie's remains were found in a Florida reserve in October, along with his backpack and notebook.

After Gabby Petito's death last year — and amid a nationwide search for the missing vlogger — her fiancé, Brian Laundrie sent several text messages between their two cell phones to trick law enforcement into believing Petito was still alive, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Friday.

Petito's disappearance in early September prompted a massive manhunt for the missing YouTuber after Laundrie returned home from a cross-country road trip the two had taken together without Petito. The 22-year-old's body was discovered at a Wyoming campsite on September 19. She died of "blunt-force injuries to the head and neck, with manual strangulation," a coroner ruled.

Laundrie, 23, disappeared about two weeks after he returned to his parents' home in Florida without his fiancée. His skeletal remains were discovered on October 20 in Florida's vast Carlton Reserve. A coroner ruled that he died by suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Investigators found Laundrie's backpack, notebook, and a revolver near his remains, the FBI said. In the notebook, Laundrie claimed responsibility for Petito's death, according to investigators.

In a final investigative update on Friday, the FBI said investigators identified multiple text messages between Laundrie and Petito's phones sent after Petito died.

"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," investigators wrote.

Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, previously told authorities that the last text she received from her daughter's phone on August 27 was "odd" and left her feeling "concerned."

The text read: "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls."

According to a September search warrant, Stan is the name of Petito's grandfather, but Schmidt told authorities that her daughter never called him "Stan." The message left Schmidt concerned at the time that something had happened to her daughter, the warrant said.

The FBI also believes that Laundrie used Petito's debit card without authorization while driving from Wyoming back to Florida.

The FBI opened an investigation into Petito's disappearance on September 12, one day after her family reported her missing.

"The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito," FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said, adding that, "the FBI's primary focus throughout the investigation was to bring justice to Gabby and her family."

Schneider said, "all logical investigative steps" in the case have now been concluded.

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