FBI agents on Monday searched the Florida home of Gabby Petito and her fiancé, one day after authorities announced that remains found in Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest are likely those of the 22-year-old blogger.
Petito and fiancé Brian Laundrie, 23, were living at his parents Florida home before leaving from Long Island in July on a weekslong, cross-country adventure. Laundrie, who returned to Florida alone Sept. 1, intensified the mystery by first refusing to discuss Petito's whereabouts with authorities, then disappearing himself last week.
"The #FBI is executing a court-authorized search warrant today at the Laundrie residence in North Port, FL relevant to the Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito investigation," the FBI in Denver posted on Twitter. "No further details can be provided since this is an active and ongoing investigation."
The couple planned to tour national parks and arrive in Oregon late next month. Petito's family, living on Long Island, filed a missing persons report on Sept. 11 after not hearing from their daughter since late August.
Police have described Laundrie as a person of interest in the case. Laundrie and his family members repeatedly declined to discuss Petito's disappearance with law enforcement – until Friday, when his family said Laundrie himself was missing.
Where is Brian Laundrie?
Laundrie's family said they last saw him Tuesday, when he packed up a car and told them he was going hiking. Family members found his car the next day near the Carlton Reserve, a nearby 25,000-acre, Sarasota County recreation area. A note on the car from the North Port Police Department said it needed to be removed, said Steven Bertolino, Laundrie's family attorney. The family removed the car the next day, he said.
Dozens of law enforcement officers, aided by drones, dogs and all-terrain vehicles, searched the vast stretches of hiking trails and brush for any sign of Laundrie. Investigators even took some of his clothing from his parents’ home to provide a scent for the search dogs.
But on Monday, the North Port Police Department said they had no plans to continue the search there, saying they had “exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there.” A short time later, the FBI showed up at his home.
Remains of Gabby believed to be found
In Wyoming, the FBI said law enforcement combing through a camping area on the eastern border of Grand Teton National Park found human remains that appear to be those of Petito. Authorities will conduct a forensic review to verify the remains, according to Charles Jones, a special agent with the FBI's Denver office. He declined to provide specifics on where the body was found or what clues led to the discovery. A cause of death was not immediately clear, he said.
"I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby's family," Jones said.
Social media sleuths seek clues: What happened to Gabby Petito? Mystery prompts online searches
Petito's family heartbroken, grateful for law enforcement efforts
Petito’s father, Joseph, posted on social media an image of a broken heart above a picture of his daughter with a message that said “she touched the world.” An attorney and spokesman for Petito’s family asked in a statement that the family be given room to grieve. Attorney Richard Benson Stafford indicated that the family would make a public statement at a later date, and he thanked officials with the FBI, Grand Teton Search and Rescue and other agencies that participated in the search for Petito.
“The family and I will be forever grateful,” Stafford said in a statement.
The investigation tracks Petito's whereabouts
Jones said investigators were still seeking information from anyone who may have seen Petito or Laundrie around the Spread Creek camping area in Wyoming, where law enforcement search efforts focused over the weekend. According to Petito's family, they were last in contact with her during the last week of August. A verified GoFundMe page set up to raise funds says Petito was "last known to be in Grand Teton, Wyoming on 8/25/21 heading toward Yellowstone National Park."
“The last text I got from her was on Aug. 30," Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, told WFLA-TV. "I don’t know if that was her texting me or not.”
Couple takes cross-country excursion
The couple had been high school sweethearts on Long Island, New York. Laundrie's parents later moved to Florida, and Petito and Laundrie were living with them when they began an ill-fated, cross-country expedition. The couple traveled in a white 2012 Ford Transit van converted so the two could live and travel comfortably, social media posts from Petito said. The only video posted on the couple's joint YouTube page "Nomadic Statik" was posted Aug. 19.
The eight-minute video titled “Van Life: Beginning our Van Life Journey” features happy and romantic scenes from the couple’s trip.
Video offers details on clash in Utah
But issues had arisen before Aug. 19, and authorities have released information showing the couple got into a dispute in Utah a week earlier. A video released by the Moab Police Department shows an officer pulled over the van on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding and hit a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park. The body camera video shows Petito visibly upset when an officer approached them.
“We’ve just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues,” she tells him, adding that she suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects her behavior.
Laundrie told an officer that Petito slapped him after friction had been building between them for several days. The officer wrote in a report that the two had been traveling together for several months, and the closeness created an "emotional strain" leading to more arguments. Officers in the video told the couple to sleep in separate places for the night.
"I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis," the officer concluded in the report.
Two days before the remains were found, Laundrie's sister, Cassie, told "Good Morning America" that she had provided law enforcement with what little information she had.
She described her brother as a good uncle who was always there for her – and for Gabby. She also said the couple would sometimes argue, then spend time separately to calm down.
"Me and my family want Gabby to be found safe," Cassie Laundrie said at the time. "She's like a sister and my children love her. And all I want is for her to come home safe and sound and for this to be just a misunderstanding."
Contributing: Grace Pateras and Cheryl McCloud, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gabby Petito remains likely found; search underway for Brian Laundrie