Monday morning, the FBI raided the house of Brian Laundrie, the 23-year-old Florida man whose fiancée, Gabby Petito, went missing earlier this month and who has since disappeared himself — possibly into a massive nature reserve filled with “feral hogs, alligators and panthers.”
Approximately 15 federal agents showed up at Laundrie’s house in Port North, Florida, where he lived with Petito and his parents. Video footage from the scene shows uniformed men entering the home with folding chairs, suitcases, boxes, and large rolls of brown paper. The agents escorted Laundrie’s parents to a minivan outside the house as they executed a search warrant.
On Friday, Laundrie’s parents informed Florida police that they had not seen their son since Sept. 14, prompting a search of the nearby public park known as Carlton Reserve. The “vast” nature enclosure is currently very hard to navigate due to sudden flood and lightning-caused fires. Police, who suspended their search Monday morning, said that if Laundrie wanted to, he could hide out in the 25,000-acre reserve for “months.”
Over the weekend, investigators looking for Petito in Wyoming found human remains that appeared to be consistent with her description. The body was found in a remote corner of Grand Teton National Park, where Petito was last heard from alive. She is now believed, but not yet confirmed, to be dead. A cause has not been determined.
The crime story that has become a high-octane national obsession broke on Sept. 11, when Gabby Petito’s parents filed a missing person’s report. Petito and Laundrie had left from the Petitos’ New York home on July 2 for a cross-country road trip to the Pacific-Northwest. At the time of the report, Petito’s parents had not heard from their daughter in nearly two weeks. Laundrie, meanwhile, had returned to Florida on Sept. 1 with the couple’s shared car, but without his fiancée, at which point he hired a lawyer and declined to talk to local authorities.
Just weeks earlier, Petito, who wanted to be a travel blogger, had shared an eight-minute video montage of their trip on a YouTube channel called NomadicStatik. The couple also posted periodic updates on their trip to Instagram, tagged with the common hashtag #vanlife, as they were traveling in a white Ford van.
In the week-long search for Petito, armchair detectives on TikTok and other platforms hyperventilated over the couple’s online footprint, grasping for even the most minor and arbitrary of clues. Some pointed to Laundrie’s reading selection; the montage shows him holding a copy of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. One TikToker, who called this choice “disturbing,” pointed to a YouTube comment that describes the book as “about groups of people exploring uncharted terrain that go missing” — a fairly convenient summary of the science fiction novel, which also involves aliens, mystical doppelgangers, and immortal lighthouse keepers, and was adapted into a major motion picture starring Natalie Portman. If reading fantasy indicated homicidal impulses, murder rates would probably be higher.
Other onlookers seized on Laundrie’s Spotify account. The couple’s joint profile indicated that Laundrie had added songs to a playlist called “Mtn tops” after returning home on Sept. 1, and was listening to the psychedelic singer-songwriter Matt Berry and psych-pop band Feng Suave on his return trip. One of the songs was called “Woman.” People seemed to make a lot of this, though women tend to come up now and again in music.
There’s also this Instagram account, @gabby.petito, which publishes updates on the case in familiarly chintzy infographics. The page’s founder, who also started its corresponding website “wheresgabby.com,” describes herself as “traveler,” and never knew either Petito or Laundrie. Nothing more to say on that.
Damn. What the hell is going on here, with all this???