Gabby Petito, 22, went missing in late August during a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. Petito’s mother last heard from her daughter on Aug. 25, when the couple were in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
A dead body believed to be Petito’s has now turned up at Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. However, Laundrie, who has been declared a person of interest in the Petito case, has since gone missing.
Laundrie’s parents harbored their son for weeks after Petito disappeared and refused to speak to authorities. Could they face charges in her death?
Law Enforcement Experts Say Charges Unlikely
The discovery of what is likely Gabby Petito’s body – an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday – yielded enough probable cause for the FBI to execute a search warrant at Laundrie’s parents’ house on Monday. But legal sources told the New York Post it’s unlikely the parents themselves will face charges.
“I doubt it,” Alfredo Garcia, a former Florida assistant state attorney, told the Post. “To charge someone as an accessory after the fact, you have to establish that the person knew that they were harboring someone who had committed a crime and they did so in a way to prevent the police from apprehending him. That’s a fairly high threshold [authorities] have to find in terms of intent.”
Roberta and Christopher Laundrie refused to speak to police early on in the investigation. That means prosecutors have no way to charge them with lying to authorities.
What’s more, there is little indication the Laundries actively interfered in the investigation. That, law enforcement experts said, is the only way they’d likely be charged.
The Laundries reported Brian missing on Friday. They claim he had told them he was going on a hike three days earlier. He never returned.
Gabby Petito Autopsy Will Reveal Whether There’s Evidence of Foul Play
The autopsy should allow authorities to definitively identify the remains. It will also hint at the cause of death, and whether there was foul play.
“The autopsy really is the most important thing right now — and whatever else they find at the crime scene,” a former New York City detective told the Post. “If she fell, she could have blunt force trauma.”
“If she doesn’t appear to have fallen and she has a fractured skull, well, that shows something else,” the retired detective said. “Then you’re getting towards a homicide.”