The boyfriend of deceased traveler Gabby Petito had admitted in a notebook to killing her, according to the FBI.
It marks the first time the FBI has placed the blame squarely on Brian Laundrie, Petito’s boyfriend and fiancé, also deceased. He was the prime suspect in her death.
The FBI in Denver also announced in a statement Friday that Laundrie had sent text messages to intentionally deceive people by telling them Petito was still alive after she had died in late August.
“All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case,” FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in the statement. “The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito.”
Petito’s body was found on Sept. 19, 2021, in a remote area near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. A coroner later confirmed that strangulation was her cause of death, which occurred about three weeks before her body was found.
Specifically, Petito died of “blunt-force injuries to the head and neck, with manual strangulation,” according to a coroner.
The 22-year-old’s parents had reported her missing on Sept. 11, while she and Laundrie were on a cross-country trip together.
Laundrie, 23, had returned home alone in early September in the Ford van the couple took on their trip. He was named the only person of interest in Petito’s death. Soon after his return, he went missing. His body was found in a Florida swamp in October. He was found by medical examiners to have shot himself.
A revolver, a backpack, and the notebook were found near his body in the swamp.
The FBI did not expand on what Laundrie had written in the notebook and in the texts he had sent to mislead. According to the statement, the texts were sent between Laundrie’s and Petito’s phones.
“The timing and content of these messages are indicative of Mr. Laundrie attempting to deceive law enforcement by giving the impression that Ms. Petito was still alive,” the FBI said.
The couple had been documenting their trip on Instagram prior to their deaths. On Aug. 12, they were stopped by police in Moab, Utah. Police were responding to a 911 call where dispatchers were told a man was “slapping the girl” before they entered the vehicle.
At the traffic stop, Laundrie told officers he had gotten into a “little squabble” with Petito. He also admitted pushing Petito. He told police that Petito hit him after he pushed her, and that he suffered an injury near his eye.
Meanwhile, Petito, who was crying, told officers that she had been fighting with Laundrie over “personal issues” and they were “fighting all morning.” She said Laundrie had locked her out of the van. She also said the injuries she suffered were from an altercation that she said she started.
At the time, Laundrie said he had been drinking while Petito said she had not been drinking.
The police officers separated the couple and let Petito drive the van away. A police officer took Laundrie to a motel.
A review of the traffic stop concluded that police officers made “unintentional mistakes” by having classified the incident as an assault instead of as a domestic violence situation, since the couple were living together and were engaged.
The review was conducted by Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department.
Ratcliffe said officers had probable cause for an arrest and should have arrested Petito on a charge of assault.
While there were indications Laundrie assaulted his fiancée, her statements “make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate a charge against Brian as it relates to this incident,” Ratcliffe said.
Zachary Stieber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.