What do we know about the affair that is shaking up the United States?

What happened to Gabrielle Petito? A body corresponding to that of the young American 22-year-old, recently missing, was found in a national park
from wyoming, West
the United States, announced the FBI, this Sunday.

“Earlier today, human remains were found matching Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito,” FBI agent Charles Jones told a press conference. The young traveler disappeared on September 11, 2021 after a road trip with his partner, Brian Laundrie, 23. The young man, who had returned home alone,
finally disappeared too a few days later.

What happened ? Why was Brian Laundrie not worried by the authorities? 20 minutes takes stock of this news item that moved Americans.

What happened ?

On July 2, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, 22, and her companion Brian Laundrie, 23, set off from New York for a road trip in a campervan across the United States for four months. To tell about this romantic trip, the two Americans regularly post photos and videos on Instagram and on YouTube. We see the young couple, who seem very much in love, strike a pose in idyllic places.

On September 1, Brian Laundrie returns home alone in North Port, Florida, without his girlfriend, with the van used for the trip, registered in Gabrielle Petito’s name. Ten days later, the parents of the young woman report the disappearance of their daughter to the authorities. The last publication of the young woman on Instagram dates back to August 25 and, according to New York Post, her last exchange with her parents was on August 30: “No service in Yosemite”, she texted her mother.

What are the troubling elements of this file?

On August 12, authorities in Moab, a small town in Utah, intervened in a marital dispute between the two young Americans at the entrance to Arches National Park. A scene filmed by the pedestrian camera of one of the police officers and made public. We see Gabrielle Petito, in tears. The young woman, who seems in distress, confides on an altercation that occurred the same morning with her boyfriend, while she was cleaning the van: “Some days, I have a very bad [trouble obsessionnel compulsif] », She explains to the police. “I would apologize to him and say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so mean,’” she continues. “She gets annoyed sometimes,” Brian Laundrie said to the police. Asked about the scratches on his face, the young man explains that his girlfriend hit him with his phone, according to the video released by the authorities.

But at the time of the report of the disappearance of the young woman, Brian Laundrie, declared person “of interest” by the investigators, refused to cooperate with the police, walling himself in silence. According to New York Times, the young man would have followed the advice of his lawyer, who argues that the companion is often the first person to whom the police “turn in this kind of case”. The case took a different turn on September 17, when the parents of the 23-year-old American called the authorities to report that their son was also missing. They then indicate that they have not heard from their son since September 14.

Where is the investigation?

On September 18, the day after Brian Laundrie’s disappearance was reported, the police announced that the investigation was being treated as “a case of multiple disappearances”. “The Laundrie family lawyer called FBI investigators Friday night indicating that the family wanted to talk about their son’s disappearance,” police said in a statement. “It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a felony. “

The next day, a body matching Gabrielle Petito’s description is discovered in an area of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the authorities said on Sunday. “Full forensic identification has not been done to 100% confirm that we have found Gabby, but her family has been made aware of this discovery,” FBI Agent Charles Jones told a conference. press, adding that the cause of death had not been determined.

Why did the FBI take over the case?

The investigation is now treated as “a case of multiple disappearances”, due to the disappearance of Brian Laundrie, it is the FBI, competent in this area, which recovered the file. “As soon as the authorities decided to deal with the investigation for ‘multiple disappearances’, the file passed from the local police to the FBI,” explained to 20 minutes Sophie Cilpa, international lawyer, specialist in American law, partner of the firm Action Avocats.

“Insofar as it is about a disappearance, which is perhaps related to a crime, it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which is competent. The FBI is also responsible for kidnapping, through its VICAP unit (The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program), created specifically to investigate violent crimes, kidnappings and worrying disappearances, ”explains the specialist.

Why was Brian Laundrie not arrested?

When Gabrielle Petito was reported missing on September 11, an investigation was opened and Brian Laundrie was declared a person “of interest” by investigators. “He is qualified as a” person of interest “because he is potentially involved in this affair, but there are no charges against him, we do not yet know his role. It is a means of preserving one’s presumption of innocence, ”Sophie Cilpa analyzes, who explains that in the United States, the authorities can be sued for slanderous denunciation, defamation or if a person’s reputation is damaged.

Despite the discovery of the body, why was the young man not taken into custody? “First, because he has disappeared, of course, and then because there are no charges against him, that is to say serious and consistent clues”, continues the lawyer. , which specifies that one cannot be indicted without charges in the United States.

What will happen if investigators find the young man?

“He can be arrested and questioned. He will then go before the Florida attorney, the “district attorney”. If there are well-founded charges, such as confessions or DNA records, for example, the latter may decide to place him in pre-trial detention pending trial, ”explains the specialist, who specifies that the young man could face life imprisonment if found guilty by a popular jury during a trial.

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