INTERNET sleuths fear slain vlogger Gabby Petito may have suffered a gruesome death following comments her stepdad made in a recent TV interview about her "torso".
The remains of 22-year-old Gabby, of Long Island, New York, were found at a campsite near Grand Teton National Park, in Wyoming, on September 19.
She had been part-way through a cross-country road trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie, 23, when she stopped making contact with her family on August 27.
On September 1, Laundrie quietly returned home alone to Florida in the couple's repurposed van but offered no explanation for where Gabby was and refused to cooperate with police.
Gabby's mom eventually reported her missing on September 11. Brian then vanished on Sept. 13 just days before Gabby's decomposed body was found by investigators at a campsite the couple had been staying at.
Investigators ruled her manner of death a homicide but have not yet revealed a cause. An announcement is expected on Tuesday afternoon.
Laundrie, meanwhile, has not yet been named as a suspect in her murder but is wanted on charges of bank fraud after he allegedly racked up $1,000 on a card belonging to Gabby in late August and early September. He has now been missing for more than four weeks.
While Gabby's family and the rest of the watching world wait for answers, conspiracy theories are running rife online as web sleuths and armchair detectives attempt to unfurl the mystery surrounding the case.
A new theory to emerge on a dedicated Facebook discussion page about the case is that, during an interview with Dr. Phil last week, Gabby's stepdad Jim Schmidt hinted that his daughter suffered a gruesome demise and was possibly even dismembered by her killer.
Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…
"So I watched both Dr. Phil episodes and I don't know if anyone else caught this but the stepdad said he wanted to build a cross where her body was found," one sleuth wrote, "so he acted police [for the exact spot] where they found her.
"He said they told him her torso was found here and pointed to the spot and the stepdad asked where would her head have been so the officer told him.
"So … I'd assume they only found her torso meaning she was not intact and only her torso was found," they continued. "They only had her favorite sweatshirt to make the ID according to her stepdad.
"Anyone else catch that or did I miss something?"
The wild claim centers on remarks made by Schmidt last week, during which he was speaking to Dr. Phil about a small cross made of stones that he left where Gabby was found.
”It was exactly where they found her," Schmidt said at the time. "So, I laid the cross directly over where her torso was. I was told the direction in which her head was laying that’s where I placed two flowers in the ground right where her head was.”
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
As Schmidt's full remarks would appear to indicate, Gabby's remains were seemingly found intact, and his references to her head and torso appear to speak to the position she was found lying in.
The sleuth's comments attracted a great deal of response from the wider Facebook community, receiving over 260 comments and numerous crying-face and shock-faced emojis.
However, not all bought into the theory, with a number accusing the post's author of jumping to conclusions.
"I remember reading that he put the cross where her body was and stuck flowers in the ground where her head was…", one respondent wrote in retort, attaching a picture of the cross with the flowers circled.
"I think he meant he placed it where her torso was and put the top of the cross on the end they said her head was," chimed in another, "not that her head was detached – just what way she was facing."
The cause of Gabby's death and additional details about her final moments are expected to be revealed in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Forensic expert Joseph Scott Morgan told The Sun this week that he expects Gabby's autopsy to show "glaring" injuries, and that the vlogger may have been neglected and starved if her relationship with Laundrie was abusive.
Morgan said it was “fascinating” the Teton County Coroner announced the manner of death as a homicide just two days after Gabby’s body was found last month.
He said that a coroner generally finds it easier to find the cause of death such as strangulation, gunshot, or medical emergency.
They then work from this to determine if the cause of death falls under homicide, suicide, natural death, accidental or undetermined.
“That's counterintuitive actually for what we do in my field,” Morgan, host of the podcast Body Bags, explained.
“It's interesting that they came out with the manner first, that's the fascinating thing.
“Based on my career experience, I can say that they saw something glaring. They saw something glaring.”
Gabby Petito timeline
Gabby Petito, 22, was last seen on August 24, leaving a hotel in Utah. Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito’s disappearance:
- June 2021 – Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie set off on a cross-country trip across the US.
- July 4 – Gabby posts photos of herself barefoot in Gove County, Kansas.
- July 8 – Gabby posts photos of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
- July 18 – Gabby and Brian post photos of themselves at Utah's Zion National Park.
- August 12 – Body camera footage was released in September showing an encounter Brian and Gabby had with police in Utah. Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.
- August 19 – Gabby and Brian post a video on their YouTube channel chronicling their trip.
- August 24 – Gabby is spotted leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- August 25 – Gabby Facetimes her mom, Nichole Schmidt, for the final time. In a later police report, Schmidt said her conversations with her daughter revealed "more and more tension" between her and Brian.
- August 25 – Gabby also posts her last Instagram. No location is given.
- August 27 – Gabby is seen for what's believed to be the final time. Witnesses claim they saw Brian in an explosive argument with staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, leaving Gabby in tears.
- August 27 – Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple's van "abandoned" on a dirt road.
- September 1 – Brian returns home to Florida without Gabby.
- September 11 – Gabby's parents report her missing to Suffolk County police.
- September 14 – Brian's family issues a statement saying he has retained an attorney and will not be cooperating with investigators.
- September 14 – Brian is allegedly last seen by his family. He reportedly told them he was going hiking in Cartlon Reserve but failed to return.
- September 15 – Florida's North Port police announce Brian is a person of interest in the case. He is not charged with any crime.
- September 16 – Utah police release body camera footage of the police encounter with Brian and Gabby.
- September 17 – Brian's parents say they have not seen their son in a couple of days and report him missing.
- September 18 – Police announce they were searching Carlton Reserve in Florida for Brian. Police announce they have not found anything.
- September 19 – Authorities in Wyoming say they found a body in Grand Teton National Park. The FBI announces the body was believed to be Gabby's but a full forensic identification needs to be completed first to confirm.
- September 20 – Police execute a search warrant on Laundrie's home, seizing his silver Mustang and a hard drive that may contain "evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed."
- September 21 – Officials announce they will be conducting an autopsy on the remains found in Wyoming to confirm whether or not they belong to Gabby. Police also resumed their search for Laundrie, this time on the Venice side of Carlton Reserve.
- September 21 – The FBI announced the body found in Wyoming was identified as Gabby's. The cause of death was not yet revealed.
- September 21 – The Teton County Coroner's office said Gabby's official cause of death was still pending but the initial manner of death is homicide.
- September 22 – Police continue to scour Carlton Reserve for a trace of Laundrie but yield no leads. A specialist dive team is called in to assist with the hunt.
- September 23 – Officials announced a federal arrest warrant for Brian was issued.
- September 26 – Gabby's funeral was held on Long Island, New York.
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