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Autopsy will be conducted this week on remains found in Gabby Petito case


By Madeline Holcombe, CNN

The case of missing Gabby Petito took a tragic turn Sunday when police found human remains during their search for her — and officials are working to determine whether the discovery could answer questions regarding what happened to the 22-year-old.

Teton County, Wyoming, Coroner Dr. Brent Blue told CNN an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, saying officials would confirm the identity of the remains through photographs, personal identification or DNA.

Petito had been traveling with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, on a road trip through several western states. Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida, without her on September 1, according to police, and her family reported her missing on September 11.

The remains were found as authorities conducted a search around the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park, officials said Sunday.

Her family has been notified of the discovery, though a full forensic identification will be needed to confirm it is Petito, said Charles Jones, FBI Denver’s supervisory senior resident agent in Wyoming.

Authorities also need to identify the cause of death, he said. The investigation is active and ongoing.

The area around Spread Creek Campsite will remain closed to the public until further notice, and authorities continue to ask for tips from anyone who may have seen Petito, Laundrie or the vehicle they had been traveling in, Jones said during a news conference Sunday.

Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, tweeted a picture of her Sunday evening, saying, “She touched the world.”

Richard Stafford, an attorney representing Joseph Petito and her mother, Nicole Schmidt, in a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WABC, asked that the family be given space and said, “I will be in contact with you when Gabby’s family is ready to make a public statement,”

Laundrie’s family called the discovery of remains in Wyoming “heartbreaking” and said, “The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family,” a statement from Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino read.

Florida police are looking for Laundrie, who his family said has not been seen since last Tuesday. The statement added that they are unaware of his whereabouts.

Petito and Laundrie were on a road trip to national parks

Petito is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when her family was last in contact with her, North Port police said.

The two began their road trip in June with a plan to visit state national parks across the western United States, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said last week.

She had been excited to share her journey with her family and others on social media, he said.

“She maintained regular contact with her family members during her travels, however that communication abruptly stopped around the end of August,” the police chief added.

Police had an encounter with the couple in Moab, Utah, on August 12, where officers described them as having “engaged in some sort of altercation.”

Although the two are described as getting into a physical fight following an argument, “both the male and female reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” a report from officer Eric Pratt said.

At officers’ suggestion, the couple separated for the night, the report said, which described Petito as “confused and emotional.”

“After evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis,” officer Daniel Robbins wrote in the police report. No charges were filed.

On August 24, Petito FaceTimed with her mother and told her she was leaving Utah and heading to the Teton range in Wyoming, Stafford said.

Over the next three days, Petito and her mother exchanged texts, he said. They receive one last message on August 30 that read “No service in Yosemite,” but her family doubts she wrote it, Stafford said.

The search for Laundrie

Laundrie returned to North Port, Florida, without Petito on September 1, according to police. Officials later found the van the couple had been traveling in at the home Petito shared with Laundrie and his parents in North Port, a city in Sarasota County some 80 miles south of Tampa.

Police visited the Laundrie family home after Petito was reported missing, but Laundrie’s family refused to talk, Taylor said last week, and instead gave authorities the information for their attorney.

The home was searched Friday evening after Laundrie’s family told police they had not seen him for days. He left home with his backpack Tuesday and told them he was going to a local nature reserve, North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor said Saturday.

This weekend, federal and local authorities conducted their search for Laundrie in the “vast” Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, police said. The search was suspended Sunday evening and there was “nothing to report,” North Port Police said on Twitter.

The search effort included the use of drones and bloodhounds who used articles of Laundrie’s clothing taken from his home to get his scent, Taylor said in a news conference at the scene of the search Saturday. Police initially focused their search on a nearby park about 200 acres large before expanding to the rest of the reserve.

Laundrie is not wanted for a crime, officials have said.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Joe Sutton, Artemis Moshtaghian, Laura James, Chris Cuomo, Travis Caldwell, Andy Rose, Jenn Selva, Alta Spells, Shawn Nottingham, Christina Maxouris, Aya Elamroussi, Rob Frehse, MiSeon Lee and Deanna Hackney contributed to this report.

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