Why Gabby Petito Homicide Case Could Be a Jurisdictional Mess

by Leanne Stahulak
(Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

While the manhunt continues for person of interest Brian Laundrie, other factors complicate the case of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old hiker who died recently.

The authorities ruled her death as a homicide, although no specific cause of death or time of death has been declared. But now, TMZ reports that where she was killed could create a jurisdictional catastrophe when it comes to prosecuting the killer.

Per the outlet, investigators are trying to determine if she was killed in the same place where they found her body. Police discovered Gabby Petito’s remains in the vicinity of Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest Service in Wyoming. Both of those locations fall under federal jurisdiction.

But if she was killed off federal lands and then just buried in the national park or forest, the case gets turned over to state authorities. Currently, the FBI has been compiling evidence and conducting the investigation. The progress they’ve made could take a huge step back if suddenly state authorities have to take over the case.

But what happens if the authorities can’t determine the exact location where Gabby Petito died?

Then, according to TMZ, the case will default to the place where her body was found. So, federal lands and federal jurisdiction. The U.S.Attorney would lead the prosecution of the killer, whoever it might be.

As of right now, Gabby Petito’s boyfriend Brian Laundrie has only been deemed a person of interest in the case. Police do have a warrant out for his arrest for fraud after he used someone else’s debit card. But until the authorities find Laundrie, we won’t have the full picture of what happened to Petito during their months-long cross-country road trip.

What’s Going on in the Search for Gabby Petito’s Boyfriend, Brian Laundrie?

It’s been over three weeks since people last saw Brian Laundrie. His family reported that they last saw him on Sept. 14, after he claimed he was going for a hike in Carlton Reserve. Police have been searching the nature reserve near the Laundrie’s home in North Port, Florida, for weeks now.

Other sources say they saw him in North Carolina, like hiker Dennis Davis. The 53-year-old called 911 on Saturday after speaking to a strange man on the Appalachian Trail. The man in a white pick-up truck waved him down near the North Carolina-Tennessee border.

At the time, Davis didn’t know who he spoke to. But now he’s absolutely certain it was Gabby Petito’s boyfriend.

“He was talking wild, he said that his girlfriend left him and he had to go out to California to see her,” Davis said in the audio clip. “He was acting funny. And I wasn’t sure what he looked like. And then … I went and parked and pulled up the photographs of him. I’m 99.99 percent sure that was him.”

Davis reportedly spoke to the FBI Wednesday, Oct. 6, about his experience. We’ll see if there’s any credibility to his claim.