TAMPA (WFLA) – In her social media posts, 22-year-old Gabby Petito referred to a cross-country road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie as “van life.”
It was supposed to be a dream trip for the young couple. It has now become a nightmare for Petito’s parents after police say Laundrie returned to North Port in her white Ford van and she is nowhere to be found.
This is a timeline of what we know about the disappearance of and search for Gabby Petito:
Petito and Laundrie left Blue Point, New York on Long Island on July 2 for a cross-country road trip to national parks out west in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
They documented their travels every step of the way in photos and videos posted to YouTube and Instagram under the name “Nomadic Statik.”
On Aug. 12, Petito posted photos twice on Instagram from a visit to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.
That same day, Moab City Police responded to a witness report of an argument and physical altercation involving the couple.
“Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” Chief Bret Edge said in an email.
Moab police decided the fight didn’t rise to the level of “domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis.”
Police recommended the couple spend the night apart. Petito stayed with the van. Police helped Laundrie get a hotel room at a family crisis center in Moab.
Nine days after the reported incident in Moab, on Aug. 21, Joseph Petito said he had his last FaceTime call with his daughter. He said he helped order her food in Salt Lake City.
“No red flags that popped out,” Mr. Petito said in a Zoom interview Tuesday from his home in Vero Beach. “I’m trying to wrap my brain – Monday morning quarterback it, you know what I mean – still nothing is popping in my head.”
Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said during an emotional news conference Monday she last spoke with her daughter on Aug. 25 while she was near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
“I wasn’t getting responses,” Schmidt said. “I believe she was in a place with no service. It was like day eight and nine I became really concerned. I figured she couldn’t be off the grid that long.”
“The last text I got from her was on Aug. 30,” Schmidt added. “I don’t know if that was her texting me or not.”
North Port police, who are now the lead agency in the missing person investigation, say Laundrie returned to his parent’s home with the van on Sept. 1.
Ten days later, on Sept. 11, concerned family members reported Petito missing to Suffolk County Police in New York.
Later that night, North Port Police confirmed they recovered the van at Laundrie’s parents’ home. Police said the young couple also lived there.
Laundrie was officially named a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance by North Port police on Wednesday as he refuses to cooperate with the investigation.
“As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby’s family is going through,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said. “We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance.”
The Laundrie family attorney did not respond to ABC4 affiliate WFLA’s request for comment Wednesday about police naming Brian a person of interest.
“This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming,” Attorney Steven Bertolino said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
That statement angered Petito’s father.
“I don’t know about you, but their child is home,” Mr. Petito said. “My child is somewhere in the continental United States with no phone, no car. It’s not as hard on them as it is on us.”
The FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips about Petito’s disappearance. Those with information are being asked to call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).