The Disappearance of Gabby Petito



This photo was taken from Petito’s instagram.

Katelyn Seamonds, Staff Writer

Gabby Petito, a young, aspiring 22 year old from Long Island, New York, set off on a road trip to explore the Western American National Parks along with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie in early July. Not even two months later, Petito’s parents lost contact with their usually responsive daughter. Only a few days later Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, returns to his home in Florida with possession of his girlfriend’s van, but Petito herself is nowhere to be seen.

With one quick glance at Gabby Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie’s Instagram pages, you can assume that they were lovers of adventure. Throughout their road trip, both Petito and Laundrie were continuously updating their Instagram followers with posts on where they had visited, as well as details about their #vanlife, as they road tripped in Petito’s fully converted 2012 Ford transit van.

As well as regularly updating her social media following, Petito was always known to have a close relationship with her parents and was constantly informing them on where she and Brian were traveling to next. So, when Petito’s parents received a vague message from their usually descriptive and detailed daughter on August 31 stating only, “No service in Yosemite,” they knew something was off. This was the last communication Petito’s parents would receive from the pair until Laundrie arrived back at his parents home on September 1st.

It would then take 10 days to completely report Gabby Petito as missing because she is older than 18. School Resource Officer Officer Richard Bergeron provided a document with information on how the Hollis Police Department handles Missing Adult cases. The document goes over the different circumstances an adult has to be in to be considered missing. Petito fits two of these categories, “believed to be with others who could endanger his or her welfare” and “absent under circumstances inconsistent with established patterns of behavior.” The first category can be drawn back to a police report filed against Petito and Laundrie only a week before her last communication. An NPR article informing the public of Petito’s death summarizes the incident as “A man who saw Petito and Laundrie fighting in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12 called 911 to report a domestic violence incident… an officer pulled the couple’s van over on the same day after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near Arches National Park.”.

One of the most interesting pieces of this investigation was the amount of attention it drew from social media apps such as Tik Tok, and Instagram. Many young adults began studying Petito and Laundrie’s accounts to see if they discovered any clues about what had happened. By continuing to theorize about Peitito’s disappearance, these posts were inadvertently drawing more attention to the case. This eventually helped police to track down the location of Petito’s body. Bee Morse, ‘23, an avid fan of true crime stories, spoke about the importance of social media in cases such as Petito’s. “Adults mainly get their news from watching Tv or by looking up news sites…but I think a lot of younger people get news and information from social media, and I don’t really think that it’s wrong for that to happen.” Morse then goes on to say how important social media is to cases like Petito’s, talking about how apps such as Instagram provide a way to view news that is not so black and white. “it [social media] gives people the space to bring up different perspectives, voices, and ideas,” said Morse. Social media plays an important role in crime cases such as Gabby Petitos, as it gives the younger generation a chance to become more aware of what’s going on , and a chance to become involved in the case.

Petito’s death has been ruled as a homicide, and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie is still missing from the police. Her story became one that people talked about around the world, it brought groups of people together, All working to find clues of her disappearance. Unfortunately there are still more cases just like Petito’s occuring every day, people with families and homes. If there is one thing that can be taken away from this tragic event, it is the power of the internet and what it can accomplish. It can only be hoped that a future missing person case can be prevented with these skills.
*It should be mentioned that at the time of this article’s publishing (10/8), this story is still seen as an open case.