FBI: Missing US woman Gabby Petito confirmed dead in homicide

Gabrielle Petito poses for a photo with Brian Laundrie in this undated handout photo. — North Port/Florida Police handout via Reuters
Gabrielle Petito poses for a photo with Brian Laundrie in this undated handout photo. — North Port/Florida Police handout via Reuters

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WASHINGTON, Sept 22 — The FBI on Tuesday confirmed a body found in Wyoming is missing woman Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, whose recent disappearance gripped the United States, with the local coroner saying her death was a homicide.

The Teton County coroner said the body found Sunday was that of Petito, and “initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results,” an FBI statement read.

US authorities launched a massive search for 22-year-old Petito when her family filed a missing person report on September 11, after she mysteriously vanished during a road trip with her boyfriend.

Petito quit her job and packed her life into a camper van for a cross-country adventure in July with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, documenting their journey in a stream of idyllic-seeming Instagram posts.

Laundrie was declared a “person of interest” in the case and declined to cooperate with police. The mystery deepened after he also went missing.

In the statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigations asked for help from anyone who “may have had contact with Ms. Petito or Mr. Laundrie, or who may have seen their vehicle” between August 27-30.

“The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito’s death is held accountable for their actions,” said FBI Denver Special Agent In Charge Michael Schneider.

The statement also urged anyone with information about Laundrie’s “role in this matter or his current whereabouts” to contact them.

Domestic violence report

The couple embarked on their journey across the United States from New York on the East Coast, posting photos of magnificent views of the American West and the two of them smiling happily next to their small white van.

In one YouTube video published during their trip, Petito and Laundrie are shown kissing tenderly, enjoying a sunset together and strolling on a beach.

However, in August, police in Utah responded to a domestic violence report involving Petito and Laundrie.

Police body cam footage published by US media shows a distraught Petito saying she had had an altercation with Laundrie.

Speaking to a police officer after their van was pulled over, Petito is seen crying and saying she struggles with mental health problems.

Petito said she slapped Laundrie after an argument, but added that she meant no harm.

The police officer decided no charges would be brought but ordered the couple to spend a night apart to calm down. — AFP

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