The tragic development came after the Teton County Coroner said authorities had responded to a body found at the Teton National Forest in Wyoming, the same general area where law enforcement had been searching for Gabby Petito.
FBI in Denver confirmed the discovery during a press conference Sunday night at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park.
They say full forensic identification has not been completed and they do not know the cause of death yet. An autopsy was set for Tuesday.
“Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100% that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Charles Jones said. “This is an incredibly difficult time for Petito’s family and friends.”
An undeveloped camping area on the east side of Grand Teton bordering national forest land will remain closed until further notice while the investigation continues, Jones said.
Petito’s father Joseph, tweeted a heartbreaking message following the discovery, saying “she touched the world.”
The Laundrie family attorney released a statement on Sunday night saying “The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.”
Separately on Monday, Brian’s sister Cassie Laundrie released a statement saying, “Right now my husband and I would like to express our condolences and prayers to the Petito family. Gabby was a fun and loving influence to” the boys” as she always referred to them. We will cherish all the time spent with her.”
The development in the Petito case comes as police in North Port concluded their search Sunday night for Brian Launderie, who remains missing.
North Port Police tweeted their condolences, saying they are “heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased.”
Saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased. Our focus from the start, along with the FBI, and national partners, has been to bring her home. We will continue to work with the FBI in the search for more answers.
— North Port Police (@NorthPortPolice) September 19, 2021
Just before the announcement by FBI, the North Port PD said they had nothing to report after another day searching a vast wildlife reserve for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Petito.
Local and federal law enforcement combed through a massive county park known as the Carlton Reserve, which spans more than 24,000 acres and is located just north of the home in which Laundrie and Petito shared with his parents.
Police readied ATV’s to be able to comb through as much of the reserve as possible, and blocked off all entrances to the public.
However, on Monday, they said in an email statement, “The North Port Police Department currently has no plans to conduct a major search of the Carlton Reserve today.”
The department then clarified, “The intention of the previous email was to respect your time in heading to the Carlton for coverage. At this time, we currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there. Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Brian Laundrie. More updates when available.”
Steven Bertolino, the Laundrie family attorney told ABC News on Sunday that the family picked up the car, Brian Laundrie was using, on Thursday morning from the reserve after going out on Wednesday to look for their son.
Laundrie left the family home on Tuesday morning with a backpack. Bertolino said that the family went out to the reserve on Wednesday to look for him and spotted a note from the North Port Police Department on the car saying it needed to be removed.
The family left the car overnight “so he could drive back,” the attorney said. When Laundrie didn’t come home Thursday morning, the family went back to retrieve the car.
The family then called police on Friday to file a missing person report, authorities said on Saturday.
Before the discovery of a body, FBI in Denver said they were conducting ground surveys at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, with help from the National Park Service and local law enforcement agencies, seeking clues to Petito’s disappearance.
They also tweeted a map, asking anyone who was around the Spread Creek Dispersed camping area near Grand Teton National Park between August 27 and August 30 to call the FBI.
If you were in the area of Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, as identified in the attached map, during the timeframe of August 27-30, 2021, and saw Gabby and/or her boyfriend or their vehicle, please provide that information to the FBI. pic.twitter.com/AN6KkxEeLl
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 19, 2021
Her last known contact with family members was from the national park known for its mountainous terrain.
The #FBIDenver Field Office and its Wyoming Resident Agencies, in coordination with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Teton County Sheriff’s Office & Jackson Police Department, have been conducting ground surveys at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area. pic.twitter.com/95HjWcEuDU
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 19, 2021
Former FBI agent, Brad Garrett, on the search for Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie:
About 45 seconds into to the Tik Tok video, Baker says “He offered to pay us like 200 dollars to give him a ride like 10 miles so that was kind of weird … without his fiancé.”
WATCH | Chopper hovers over police search for Brian Laundrie at Carlton Reserve
Petito’s family claims Laundrie is not missing but is in hiding.
The Petitos released the following statement through their attorney overnight Saturday:
All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing.
More than 50 police officers were accompanied by FBI agents, drones, K-9, and bloodhounds to search for Brian Laundrie, law enforcement said on Saturday.
Police shared new photos from the search for Laundrie around the Carlton Reserve area.
North Port, Florida police spokesperson Josh Taylor said at a news conference that a tip from the family drove law enforcement to the Carlton Reserve.
His family told police on Friday that they last saw the 23-year-old leaving on Tuesday with a backpack and told them he was going to the reserve.
Laundrie’s family told police about where he went after becoming “concerned about his whereabouts” and wanted to file a missing person’s report, according to Taylor.
He said that Laundrie’s vehicle was at the reserve and was found again at the family home but when pressed as to who or how the car would have gotten back without a sign of Laundrie, the spokesperson said “we are going by their family’s word.”
Laundrie’s family claims they have not seen Brian since Tuesday.
Investigators removed items from the Laundries’ house to assist in the search for him, according to his attorney Steven Bertolino.
RELATED | Gabby Petito disappearance timeline: What we know so far
Police said on Twitter that it was the first time the Laundrie family had spoken with them in detail about the case.
They reiterated that Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, but that they are “not currently working a crime investigation.”
Speaking to Good Morning America Saturday, North Port Police Public Information Officer Josh Taylor said police were “trying to corroborate everything they’ve been telling us.”
Taylor said detectives spoke with Chris and Roberta Laundrie in-person with their lawyer present over the phone.
“I wouldn’t say that it was, you know, a full conversation. Right now their focus was on us helping them find their son,” Taylor said.
Taylor said investigators were still working to piece together Brian’s trip from western states to their home in Florida.
“Certainly that truck did not drive from, you know, potentially, you know, the mountain west to here on one tank of gas so we know there were stops along the way. If people saw anything as far as those movements, we’re piecing that together, some parts of the time line we’ve solidified. We know her mother talked to her, saw her on facetime on the 25th of August,” Taylor said.
Watch the full GMA interview with Josh Taylor:
“We are happy they called the police in and they want to cooperate, but until…I’m not going to speculate, I don’t know what to believe,” said Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt.
A spokesperson for the department appeared on CNN later Friday night and said the department does have more details but they cannot be released just yet.
“I think that will come out here, very shortly, we just want to get our, our ducks in a row a little bit,” the spokesperson said. “This has been a very quickly developing situation here in just the last hour really for the most part. So we’re working through that. We want to make sure that we are accurate in everything that we’re saying.”
Petito, a 22-year-old woman originally from Long Island, disappeared on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie.
The Florida couple were traveling to Oregon when Petito stopped communicating with her family somewhere in Wyoming in late August.
Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest by police in North Port, Florida — returned to their Gulf Coast home in Petito’s 2012 white Ford Transit van on September 1, 10 days before Petito was reported missing by her family in Blue Point.
Police in North Port held a news conference last Thursday during which Petito’s father begged for her safe return and for Laundrie to speak up and stop hindering the investigation.
“What I need from everybody is help,” Joseph Petito said. “That goal is to bring Gabby home safely. I’m asking for help from everyone here. I’m asking for help from everyone at home. I’m asking for help from the parents of Brian, and I’m asking for help from the family members and friends of the Laundrie family as well.”
Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said the last video chat she had with her daughter was August 24 or 25, though they exchanged text messages for a few days following.
She has since said she is unsure if it was her daughter actually sending those texts.
The engaged couple had been documenting their trip on YouTube, and they were set to arrive in Portland in October.
Detectives are asking anyone with information on the case to contact Suffolk County police at 1-800-220-TIPS, the North Port Police Department at 941-429-7382, or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or 303-629-7171. Information can also be submitted online.
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.