GABBY Petito's stepdad left a cross made of stones and a bouquet of flowers while visiting the Wyoming campground where her body was found over the weekend.
Petito, 22, was found dead by investigators at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forrest on Sunday, more than a week after she was reported missing by her mother, Nicole Schmidt.
Nicole's husband, James Schmidt, who had been assisting with search and rescue efforts in the region, visited the site on Wednesday and left a small memorial to honor Gabby.
There was also another larger cross made out of stones near to where Gabby was found, though a friend of the family told the media that it was simply happenstance.
“We did go – the small cross with flowers was made by Jim and myself,” Jame's friend Gary Rider told The Independent.
“That larger cross was not done by anyone connected with the search or recovery of Gabby," he said. "It was just a coincidence, we confirmed that."
BRINGING GABBY HOME
Schmidt had flown out from his native of Long Island, New York to Wyoming last Wednesday to help find Gabby, handing out fliers and leading searches around sites that she and her fiance Brian Laundrie had visited.
Nicole Schmidt told the New York Post that her husband "won't be leaving until he brings Gabby home."
"Now we have eyes, ears, feet on the ground … in both her home states and where she was last seen."
Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…
Following Sunday's discovery, investigators announced on Tuesday that a preliminary autopsy ruled that Gabby's death was a homicide.
An official cause of death has not yet been determined, but she's believed to have died sometime between August 27 and August 30.
In a tribute on Tuesday, Gabby's father, Joseph Petito, posted a photo of his smiling daughter posing with angel wings with the caption, "she touched the world."
Speaking to People days earlier, he described Gabby as a "free spirit" and talented artist.
"She's so artistic. She's an amazing artist. She loves to draw. She has a great eye with decorating," he said. "She's that flower child type of personality. The old soul, you know?"
GABBY'S LAST MOVEMENTS
Gabby was reported missing by her mother on September 11 – 10 days after Laundrie quietly returned home to Florida alone, two months into their four-month road trip across the US.
Her final known movements took place between August 24 and August 27.
On August 24, she was seen leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah as she and Laundrie made their way to Wyoming.
The following day, Gabby Facetimed with her mother 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 as the trip went on.
She also uploaded what would prove to be her final Instagram post, showing her holding a small pumpkin with the caption: "Happy Halloween."
Then, according to a new bombshell claim, Gabby and Laundrie were seen for the last time at the Merry Piglets restaurant in Jackson Hole on August 27.
Witnesses inside the restaurant claim that Laundrie had an "explosive" argument with wait staff inside the eatery, while Gabby was seen crying and even attempted to apologize for his behavior.
It's unclear what sparked the altercation, but a manager for the restaurant confirmed "an incident" happened on that date and that the FBI has been notified.
Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple's van "abandoned" on a dirt road.
Gabby's mom also received a text that day from her daughter's phone that "concerned her."
“Can you help Stan," the text read. "I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls."
“Stan” refers to Petito’s grandfather, but her mother, Nicole Schmidt, told police that Gabby never referred to him by his first name.
“The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter” after getting the text, according to a police report.
LAUNDRIE AT LARGE
Laundrie, 23, disappeared sometime around September 14, three days after Gabby was reported missing.
According to his parents, he told them he was going hiking in Carlton Reserve, near Venice, Florida, but failed to return.
They didn't inform investigators he was missing until three days later.
Local police and FBI have been scouring the park by foot, air, and water for the last five days but have so far found no trace of Laundrie.
He is not currently considered a suspect in Gabby's homicide but he is considered a person of interest.
Survival expert Mark Burrow said he doubts that Laundrie was ever in the Carlton Reserve, suggesting it may have been a ruse concocted by his parents to buy him more time to flee.
"If he's down there in the Carlton Reserve, he's living in hell," Burrow told local media.
He added that if authorities haven't found evidence yet that Laundrie was in the reserve, that means he probably never was.
By now, police should have seen either tracks leading to him or signs that he was eaten by an alligator or any other wildlife, he said.
Police continued their search on Thursday.
No additional information is currently available.
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. The video receives more than 200,000 views.
- 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.
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