The Untold Truth Of Gabby Petito

In June 2021, social media influencer Gabby Petito and her fiance, Brian Laundrie, began a cross-country road trip. On September 1, 2021, Laundrie returned to their home North Port, Florida, alone (via CNN).

The FBI, in a press conference, stated that human remains "consistent with the description of" Petito were found Sunday, September 19. The site where remains were found in Teton County, Wyoming, is still closed to the public as the investigation has continued. On September 21, Gabby Petito's remains were confirmed by the coroner of Teton County. The FBI announced that "the manner of death is homicide," although the cause of death is unknown at the time of writing (via NBC News).

Petito's disappearance has been widely publicized due to her family's efforts to find her amid Laundrie's solo return home. Her presence on social media has offered important information throughout the search, as well. The case has "galvanize[d] individuals to take action," according to The New York Times. But who was Gabby Petito, and why has the public become so enthralled with her case? Here's the untold truth of Gabby Petito.

Gabby Petito moved across the country to be with her fiance

Gabby Petito was originally from Long Island, New York, but she moved away to live with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, in North Port, Florida, where he stayed with his parents. As NBC News paraphrased from its interview with Petito's mother, Nicole Schmidt, "the couple met in high school and began dating a couple of years ago." The two became engaged in 2020.

The couple set off on their cross-country road trip, seeing national parks and much of the western United States. "They were together. They had a plan. They had an itinerary. We were excited for them," Schmidt said of her daughter's travels with Laundrie.

Laundrie's family informed police that they last saw Brian on September 14, per CNN. But before going missing, he refused to speak with authorities regarding Petito's disappearance. In an interview with Fox News, Schmidt said, "As a mother to another mother, I beg his mother to make him speak, or at least for the parents to say something." Laundrie was named a "person of interest" in the case on September 15 (via NBC News).

Travel was central in Gabby Petito's life

Travel was a big part of Gabby Petito's life. As documented on her Instagram page, Petito had visited many locations throughout the United States, and she had been to Costa Rica.

Petito's last road trip with Brian Laundrie was not their first time traveling across the country together. "After our first cross country trip in a little Nissan Sentra, we both decided we to wanted [sic] downsize our lives and travel full time," they wrote on their YouTube channel, adding that they "wanted to continue traveling and living nomadically." Petito told authorities she had quit her job as a nutritionist at an organic juice bar to pursue travel, "start a blog," and work on her website.

Petito and Laundrie were traveling in and living out of a Ford Transit Connect, a cargo van, while on their cross-country road trip, sleeping in a tent at their various stops. "She wanted to cross the country in the camper van and live the van life and live free. This was her dream," her mother told NBC News.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie renovated their van themselves

To accommodate their new lifestyle, Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie renovated their Ford Transit Connect themselves. Petito wrote in a YouTube description that they "handcrafted [their] own tiny van ... utilizing space with unique designs and features." Glimpses of Laundrie and Petito's van can be seen in their video, proving their efforts to make a comfortable and functional living space, and Petito can be heard saying, "I love the van."

Petito and Laundrie were documenting their travels on their YouTube channel, Nomadic Statik, and their first video was called "VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey," paying homage to the Transit Connect.

Another van traveler, Jaye Foster, met Petito and Laundrie on their travels, and "chatted for about 40 minutes, discussing the modifications they had made to their vans," according to The Daily Beast. "They were ecstatic about their rebuild," Foster said. He mentioned, too, that "she was so proud of the sink she had put in," and that the travelers "were happy to show off their van." Some of the modifications included a table to prepare food, a place to sit with storage underneath, bulletin boards, and lots of hung art. 

Gabby Petito wanted to be a travel blogger

After Gabby Petito quit her job to travel, she began building her online presence. "I'm trying to start a blog, a travel blog," she told authorities. Her website, Nomadic Statik, only has one page available to viewers, as the site is password protected.

Petito was using her cross-country road trip as content for her social media, particularly YouTube and Instagram. She and Brian Laundrie began their road trip from New York in July 2021, and they had intended to arrive in Portland, Oregon, by Halloween (per The Sun). Petito had posted footage of their various stops to her social media platforms.

The Nomadic Statik YouTube channel only has one video, an eight-minute compilation of clips from their travels, including visits to piers, beaches, mountains, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Petito's Instagram account features photos of canyons, rocks, sand dunes, and cities, many including her and some including Laundrie. Petito's Instagram bio reads: "Along for the ride; traveling the world in our tiny van; art, yoga, & veggies; #vanlife" and includes a link to her YouTube channel.

Family and friends were close with Gabby Petito

Gabby Petito's family was very vocal about their concern for her, particularly her father, mother, and stepfather. The three of them have regularly engaged in interviews, urged the public to remain vigilant, and expressed their desire for their daughter to be found.

"I'd speak to her once a week or so, her mom spoke to her three times a week. My son would talk to her often on Snapchat, FaceTime; my niece would be in constant contact with her," Joe Petito told The Daily Beast of his and his family's relationships and communication with Gabby Petito.

Petito was slated to visit a family friend at the end of her road trip with Brian Laundrie, per The Sun, and to call a good friend on August 29, per The New York Post, but her friend never received a call. The last text message Petito's mother received from her daughter read "No service in Yosemite," and Schmidt told the Daily Mail, "that text was not from Gabby, I know it."

Gabby Petito was an artist and an experienced hiker

Two of Gabby Petito's hobbies were drawing and hiking. On her YouTube video "VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey," Petito said she and Brian Laundrie converted their van to be "a space for both artistic expression and distance hiking."

Petito noted her affinity for art in her Instagram bio, and she posted a photo in 2020 of a drawing of hers, penning the caption, "#boredinthehouseandiminthehousebored." Petito possibly completed the piece of work while quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The artist was also an avid hiker, and sometimes hiked dangerous paths. In one of her last Instagram posts, Petito said of her and Laundrie's skills, "We are athletic and very experienced hikers and have high confidence for rock climbing." Many of her other Instagram posts are also pictures of places she hiked.

Laundrie has expressed his love for hiking, too. His Instagram bio reads, in part, "Take a hike everyday." Much of his account on the photo sharing app shows locations he's hiked, as well as work he's drawn, similar to Petito.

Her case became known worldwide

Gabby Petito's disappearance has caught the attention of the world, and Americans in particular have been invested in her case, leading many to wonder why. "I think there has always been a fascination, but what's different now is that we can really see this curiosity all the time," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior told FOX 5.

Petito's case has been documented heavily on social media. Per The New York Times, "Each new development has been followed by flurries of explainer posts and videos from would-be detectives on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter." The hashtag #gabbypetito has been viewed over 650 million times on TikTok alone. "Now it's become more of a social activity to discuss these cases together," Dr. Bonior said of the social media explosion of this case. "We are desperate to find an answer," she added.

"Petito's age is the prime age of TikTok users," The Washington Post wrote, paraphrasing an explanation from Amanda Brennan, the senior director of trends of XX Artists. The outlet added, "That could be another reason more users would identify with her case." The FBI used the publicity of the case to help find Petito. The agency created a tip line for anyone to submit information they had on her whereabouts.

Petito's loved ones have paid tribute on social media

In the wake of such a tragedy, Gabby Petito's family and friends have released statements honoring her, and people around the country have paid their respects in various ways, too. 

Brian Entin of NewsNation tweeted that the Laundrie family attorney released a statement saying, "the news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family." NewsNation posted a video on Twitter of a vigil held by a Florida community that says they "came together to pay their respects." The vigil was replete with handmade posters, photos, stuffed animals, and green ribbon bows to honor Petito. Citizens of Ogden, Utah, also held a vigil in Petito's honor. "We can appreciate her beauty as she appreciated Utah beauty," Jake McMahon, one of the vigil's organizers, told the Standard-Examiner. "You don't have to know someone to show them love," another Ogden resident said.

Her father, Joe Petito, took to Twitter to pay tribute to his daughter, posting a photo of her with the caption "#GABBYPETITO she touched the world."