22-year-old Gabby Petitio was reported missing on Saturday, Sept. 11 during a cross country road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.
Departing for the road trip on July 2, 2021 in a newly renovated white 2012 Ford Transit van, the couple visited several national parks and experienced altercations and police interactions throughout their trip.
According to Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, Petito communicated with her family regularly.
“She would go off the grid… doing her van life stuff, exploring these different areas, so it wasn’t uncommon for her to go off for a few days at a time,” said Schmidt. “But she’d always make her way back to someplace where she could get on to a Wi-Fi connection, upload to her Instagram, make phone calls, FaceTime.”
Aug. 27 was the last time anyone heard from Petito, with her location being in Wyoming. After her last communication with her family, Laundrie vanished.
Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida on Wednesday, Sept. 1, where they lived with Laundrie’s parents. Laundrie’s family issued a missing person report on Sept. 11, with the Petito family begging for answers.
With no sign of Laundrie or Petito, searchers continued looking for answers on where they could be.
The FBI in Denver found Petitio’s body on Sunday, Sept.19 in Grand Teton National Park.
Currently, Laundrie is missing and labeled as a person of interest by the FBI. His family is not cooperating with authorities.
With Laundrie as a person of interest, the internet has been on high alert to find witnesses. Anyone who knows or has seen Petito and Laundrie is urged to contact the FBI immediately.
Social media is one of the main focuses within this case to find out the breaking news and whereabouts of Laundrie.
With social media having common stigmas such as being biased and untruthful, its heavy use in missing person cases could change that viewpoint.
“[This case] won’t necessarily change anything, but maybe for certain people they’ll now be on the lookout for things that don’t add up,” said psychology major, Natalie Romanyshyn, freshman. “People who know a lot about the case could become more wary about what people around them post, but others may just carry on with their normal social media lives.”
Even with weeks of investigation on the case, there are still many unanswered questions.
“This case won’t necessarily change the way we view social media, but I think it will change the way we view the process of an investigation,” said Rylie Robertson, senior communication and speech studies double major.
The way that the case was handled has also received speculation.
“I would have started the investigation immediately,” said Deputy S, Hillsborough County Sheriff. “The police were involved over the course of the road trip, after she went missing an investigation should have been started immediately.”
The search for Laundrie continues, with the hopes of social media bringing forth answers.
Photo courtesy of Gaby Petitio’s Instagram.