FBI Says Brian Laundrie Admitted To Killing Gabby Petito In Written Confession
An independent police investigation also concludes officers should have made a domestic violence arrest weeks before the murder.
The Moab Police Department via AP, File
Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park in Utah.
The FBI recently confirmed Brian Laundrie confessed in writing that he was responsible for the death of his fiancée, Gabby Petito, while the two were on a cross-country trip last summer.
The admission was penned in a notebook recovered along with a revolver and backpack near where 23-year-old Laundrie’s partial remains were found in a Florida wildlife preserve in October, officials said.
“All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case,” FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider noted, explaining, “The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito.”
Agents determined Laundrie sent texts from his fiancée’s cell phone after he killed her in late August. “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 in a Jan. 21 statement.
Petito’s body was found at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in remote northwestern Wyoming on Sept. 19, one week after her family reported her missing. The Teton County Coroner’s Office concluded 22-year-old Petito died as the result of blunt-force injuries to her head and neck, with manual strangulation.
Two days before the discovery of his girlfriend’s body, sole suspect Laundrie was reported missing in Florida, where he had returned to his family’s home at the beginning of the month. His remains were located in a previously flooded section of the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port on Oct. 20, and an autopsy showed he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In another recent update in the case, Captain Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price Police Department in Utah released the findings of an independent investigation he conducted in connection to an Aug. 12 traffic stop Officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins made on Laundrie’s vehicle as he and Petito traveled through Moab, The Independent reported.
The day of the incident, a passerby reported witnessing Laundrie and Petito involved in a domestic dispute. Bodycam footage recorded during the traffic stop shows Petito admit to an officer she was the aggressor and struck Laundrie first.
“There have been many times in my career where someone who we know from past experience to be a long-term victim of domestic violence, gets arrested for committing an act of domestic violence against their long-term abuser,” Ratcliffe wrote in the report. “It’s very likely Gabby was a long-term victim of domestic violence, whether that be physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.”
Under state law, however, officers erred in letting Petito and Laundrie go after the couple agreed to spend the night apart, he said.
“I believe the officers responded to a domestic violence call and had probable cause an act of domestic violence had been committed,” Captain Ratcliffe stated in the report. “This should have meant an arrest was made, either by citation or custody.”
Radcliffe explained in the report that the officers “both believed at the time they were making the right decision based on the totality of the circumstances that were presented” and “the mistakes that were made were not made intentionally.”
“Would Gabby be alive today if this case was handled differently?” Radcliffe asked, concluding, “That is an impossible question to answer despite it being the answer many people want to know. Nobody knows and nobody will ever know the answer to that question.”
Moab officials reportedly have said they intend to follow Ratcliffe’s recommendations, which include putting the officers involved in the traffic stop on probation and providing the police force with additional domestic violence training.