Did we find Brian Laundrie?

Peyton Dripps, Senior Writer

The disappearance of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman from Blue Point, N.Y., has consumed the country’s attention since early September of this year when she was first reported missing. Petito disappeared while on a road trip with her 23-year-old boyfriend Brian Laundrie. Laundrie’s subsequent arrival at his Florida home in Petito’s van without Gabby herself present, and his lack of response in the face of the Petito family’s questions about her disappearance made him the primary person of interest in the investigation. Initial media response focused on this point. After the case made mainstream media, Brian Laundrie fled Florida and was nowhere to be found for weeks. The FBI, detectives, Petito’s family and viewers at home questioned Laundrie’s actions. If he were innocent after all, why run from the law? Speculation abounded that Brian Laundrie had something to do with his girlfriend’s disappearance – perhaps even its direct cause – but evidence was purely circumstantial. That was until Petito’s body was found on Sept. 21 in Wyoming. 

The fun-loving 22-year old’s life was evidently cut short by the actions of her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. Gabby’s father Joe Petito described her in an interview with Newsday as “very, very free-spirited,” sharing that, “[c]lothes didn’t impress her. Cars didn’t impress her. Experiences, that’s what impressed her.” On Oct. 12, Petito’s autopsy revealed that her cause of death was strangulation, and it was predicted that she passed away three to four weeks before her body was discovered in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Just before Petito’s body was found, the FBI issued a warrant for Brian’s arrest as it was discovered that he had been using her credit cards after her disappearance. After a multi-week national manhunt, Brian Laundrie’s body was found at the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida. 

Generating much public interest and consuming the media for the past few weeks, the Petito case raised an important question – what makes this case so special? Families of those who have gone missing or disappeared were angered by the lack of publicity other still-unsolved missing persons cases received, particularly those whose victims were women of color, in comparison to Petito’s. Hundreds of Native Americans and other minority women have been reported missing in the United States; the disappearance of Petito, a white female, captured the curiosity and prayers from millions across the country, while these other cases were brushed under the rug. This is unfair and upsetting. 

With Laundrie’s passing, the Petito family will never get the answers to the questions they had hoped to ask the main suspect. The family will never get to ask Brian why he murdered Gabby, which ultimately leaves them with a lack of closure. They will never get the answers they need to move on. When asked about lack of closure in the Petito case, a close friend affirmed with the British tabloid Daily Mail that, “[Gabby’s] gone now. [Brian’s] gone. Who’s really got closure?” Petito’s father recently shared in a segment on Dr. Phil that, “I want to see [Laundrie] in a jail cell for the rest of his life,” while mother Nicole Schmidt elaborated that she wants to “look [Laundrie] in the eyes.” Both the Petito and Laundrie families will suffer and grieve greatly as they will likely never get the answers that they deserve. 

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