Missing Gabby Petito’s fiancé named person of interest as search continues
Fox News’ Carley Shimkus reports the latest on Petito’s disappearance.
One of the final messages that Gabby Petito’s family is believed to have received from her was in the form of an “odd text” sent at the end of August, when loved ones began to grow concerned about her wellbeing, according to the state search warrant released Monday.
Gabrielle Petito, 22, sent her mother, Nichole Schmidt, a text message on August 27, in which she wrote: “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” states the search warrant, filed in the Sarasota County Circuit Court on Friday and made public Monday.
According to the document: “The reference to ‘Stan’ was regarding her grandfather, but per the mother, she never calls him ‘Stan.’ The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter.”
The text was one of a dozen grounds local law enforcement claimed it had for probable cause to conduct a search warrant at the home of Brian Laundrie, Petito’s fiancé, and his parents in North Port, Florida.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the home on Monday morning in conjunction with local law enforcement. A spokesperson for the FBI’s Tampa Field Office told Fox News their search warrant was still under seal.
Local law enforcement officers were seeking, and received, permission to search a black Western Digital External Hard Drive, the document shows.
According to reporters on the ground, several unmarked law enforcement vehicles descended on the home as officers established it as a “crime scene.” Agents took Laundries’ parents, Chris and Roberta, into an unmarked van that was parked at the home before they were led back into the house. Officers could be seen carrying several boxes out of the home and even towing Brian Laundrie’s silver Ford Mustang away.
Meanwhile, a pair of North Port Police Department personnel were seen roughly 40 minutes away going into the home of Brian Laundrie’s sister, Cassie, later on Monday. They remained for approximately 30 minutes before driving away.
Petito and Laundrie embarked on a cross-country trip in mid-June with the plan to visit national parks and chronicle the journey on social media along the way, the document states.
But Schmidt told authorities Petito began to describe how their “appeared to be more and more tension between her and Laundrie,” according to the search warrant.
Fox News was first to report that on Aug. 12, police in Moab, Utah responded to a report of a domestic dispute between the young couple. In a 911 call placed at the time, a person can be heard telling a police dispatcher that “the gentleman was slapping the girl.”
The call appears to contradict a police report in which an officer states “no one reported that the male struck the female.”
“The male tried to create distance by telling Gabbie to go take a walk to calm down, she didn’t want to be separated from the male, and began slapping him,” the report continued. “He grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van, he tried to lock her out and succeeded except for his driver’s door, she opened that and forced her way over to him and into the vehicle before it drove off.”
One of the officers on the scene wrote that the incident could be “more accurately categorized as a mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault.”
Schmidt later reported that she received a text message from her daughter on August 30, in which Petito allegedly wrote: “No service in Yosemite.” But Schmidt did not believe that the text was actually written by her daughter.
The search warrant describes the Aug. 27 text message as being “the last communication anyone had with the subject.” After that, according to the document, her cell phone was “no longer operational.”
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The search warrant also reveals that Brian returned home in the van – alone – just before 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 1.
Petito’s family ultimately reported her missing on Sept. 11, and police seized the van pursuant to a separate search warrant three days later.
On Sunday, FBI officials announced they had discovered human remains in Teton County, Wyoming on Sunday that “are consistent with the description” of Petito. A county coroner is expected to positively identify the body and perform an autopsy in the coming days.
Fox News’ Michael Ruiz, Paul Best, Sara Ballou, and Greg Norman contributed to this report.
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