The van-life Youtuber’s body was found on September 19th after someone on the Internet spotted a van that she shared with her Fiancé in Youtube Footage
Gabby Petito was a 22-year-old Youtuber who shared her channel with her Fiancé Brian Laundrie, 23. They documented their ‘van-life’ travelling across the United States until Petito’s family lost contact with her in late August 2021.
Petito was officially reported missing on September 11th. Mr Laundrie returned home to Florida alone with their white van on 1 September. He did not contact police or the Petito family on his return.
Laundrie’s lawyer announced that he would not be discussing the case which led to speculation about her whereabouts, with many on the Internet from Tiktok to Reddit to Youtube speculating for clues on the case.
Police are currently searching for Brian Laundrie whose currents whereabouts are unknown.
As the tweet above shows, a fellow Youtuber, ‘Red White and Bethune’ searched their own footage and spotted the couple’s van. The police searched the area and Gabby Petito’s body was found.
A coroner made an initial finding that her death was homicide but gave no indication as to how she died. Laundrie was been named as a ‘person of interest’ in the case but has not been charged with any crime.
The case has had widespread speculation on social media, since Miranda Baker, a Tiktok user posted a video describing picking up Brian Laundrie who was hitchhiking on September 17th. Miranda Baker alledges he ‘freaked out’ when she mentioned going to Jackson and he ‘hurried out of their car.’
While social media use did lead to a big break through on the case, many people have been discussing if it’s right that the Internet is having such a big involvement in the solving of this case.
The hashtag #gabbypetito currently has over 782 million views on Tiktok. Much of the current speculation on the app is focused on finding the location of Brian Laundrie.
Concern has been raised about streaming services captalising off of this case, much like Netflix’s successful documentary ‘Don’t Fuck With Cats’ which featured people online solving a case in a similar way.
Todd Shipley, president of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA) and retired senior detective sergeant in the Reno Police Department, co-authored the book Investigating Internet Crimes: An Introduction to Solving Crimes in Cyberspace. He’s wary of true crime enthusiasts and said that amateur sleuths can inundate small law enforcement agencies with irrelevant information. Local agencies usually have only a few detectives on staff and, while tips about social media posts might be helpful for officers looking into certain cases, receiving hundreds of tips about the same post can drown out helpful leads.
It calls into question if the future of cases of public figures will have to be controlled better. Whilst these true crime communities might mean well, it will now be difficult to find an un-bias jury and give Brian Laundrie a fair trial considering the social media speculation.
This twitter user says ‘the way true crime turns real people’s trauma into entertainment for profit is already disgusting. But watching it unfold in real time with Gabby Petito’s case is nauseating.’
Gabby Petito is a real person, with a real family and life and that must be respected outside of her becoming an online ‘murder mystery’ case.
Interested in reading more about Gabby Petito? Read about Missing Person Gabby Petito’s Last Instagram Post ‘Unusual’