WYOMING, USA — UPDATE (Sept. 23, 2021): A federal arrest warrant was issued for Brian Laundrie following a grand jury indictment in connection with the Gabby Petito case. Click here for the latest information.
Previous story below:
The body found Sunday in Bridger-Teton National Forest has been positively identified as Gabby Petito, the FBI in Denver confirms.
Law enforcement says the coroner's office has determined the initial cause of death is a homicide. However, the official cause will be determined following the final autopsy.
The 22-year-old woman was on a cross-country road trip this summer with her 23-year-old fiancé, Brian Laundrie. She was reported missing on Sept. 11 after he returned 10 days earlier to his North Port family home without her. Laundrie is considered a person of interest in the case.
His whereabouts remain unknown.
As of Wednesday, Sept. 22, authorities are searching for Laundrie at the vast Carlton Preserve in Sarasota County, Florida, where it was believed he had traveled to go on a hike about a week earlier.
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino in a statement said, "May Gabby rest in peace."
The North Port Police Department called Gabby's death "incredibly sad," adding the agency's investigators "still have work to do.”
FBI Denver released the following statement:
"We extend sincere condolences to Gabby’s family, friends, and all the people whose lives she touched."
The FBI continues to ask the public for information from anyone who may have been in contact with either Petito or Laundrie in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between Aug. 27-30.
The site is within the Bridger-Teton National Forest in the east area of Grand Teton National Park.
"The FBI’s commitment to justice is at the forefront of each and every investigation,” FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said. “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. Mr. Brian Laundrie has been named a person of interest. Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI.”
If you have any information on the Petito case or where Laundrie could be, the FBI says you can visit tips.fbi.gov to submit a tip anonymously. You can also call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
The medical examiner in Sarasota County has been following the developments in the case and earlier told 10 Tampa Bay the investigation by his counterpart in Wyoming would involve two stages.
The first and most urgent part of the investigation would be to identify the body and confirm whether it is indeed Petito or someone else. That part is now complete.
Sarasota County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega said items on the body or around the location where the woman was found could help answer questions faster.
"Things that might be present with the remains like personal items, clothing, jewelry, anything like that that can give some confirmation," Vega said.
The second stage of the examination will be to determine the official cause of death.
Vega said examiners would be looking to find signs of blunt force trauma, possibly from a fall or from the impact of some sort of a weapon. They will also look to find signs of asphyxiation and any injuries to the neck area and broken bones near the windpipe. Finally, he said examiners will look to see if there are any signs of ingesting substances, which could have resulted in a drug overdose.
"You don't want to take anything off the table in terms of the things that you are considering. The real question would be with all those things that they're going to be looking at how much will they actually be able to identify," Vega said in an earlier interview.