Autopsy scheduled for body thought to be American 'van life' traveller Gabby Petito

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Autopsy Scheduled For Body Thought To Be American 'Van Life' Traveller Gabby Petito
A makeshift memorial dedicated to Gabby Petito in North Port, Florida. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images.
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By Dan Whitcomb

Medical examiners were scheduled to conduct an autopsy on Tuesday on a body found in Wyoming, seeking to determine if it is Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old "van life" traveller whose disappearance has gripped Americans.

The examination of the remains, which were discovered Sunday in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest, in western Wyoming, takes place as police and FBI agents search for her boyfriend Brian Laundrie.

Investigators have called Laundrie, 23, a "person of interest" in the sensational case. His parents, who live in North Port, Florida, told FBI agents they last saw him one week ago, when he told them he was planning to hike alone in the nearby 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve wilderness area.

North Port police called off their search of the swampy reserve on Monday after "exhausting all avenues" to find Laundrie there.

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Investigators spent much of Monday searching the Laundrie home, loading cardboard boxes into a van and towing away a silver Ford Mustang.

FBI agents begin to take away evidence from the family home of Brian Laundrie, who is a person of interest after his fiancé Gabby Petito went missing. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images.

Ms Petito and Laundrie left her home state of New York in late June or early July, heading west in her white van with plans to visit America's national parks and document the trip on social media.

Laundrie returned home to North Port alone in the van on September 1st. Ten days later members of Ms Petito's family reported her missing. Before disappearing, Laundrie had refused to speak with investigators and retained a lawyer.

Witnesses last saw Ms Petito on August 24th as she left a Salt Lake City hotel. She posted her final photo of the trip on social media the next day. Ms Petito's family believes she was headed to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when they last heard from her.

A body was discovered on the edge of that park, in a remote area less than 1,000 feet (300 metres) from where a pair of travel bloggers filmed the white van parked along a dirt road near Spread Creek on the evening of August 27th.

Texts and voice messages

An FBI spokesman has said the body was "consistent" with the 5'5, 110-pound Ms Petito. The autopsy scheduled for Tuesday was expected to identify the remains and determine a cause of death.

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In seeking search warrants, investigators have cited an August 27th text purportedly sent by Ms Petito to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, which describes getting repeated calls and voice messages from "Stan," Ms Petito's grandfather.

Ms Schmidt told investigators that message was odd because the young woman would not usually refer to her grandfather by his first name. Ms Petito's family has said a second text message also seemed suspicious.

Last week, police in Moab, Utah, released body camera footage of an August 12th encounter that two of their officers had with Ms Petito and Laundrie during a traffic stop.

Ms Petito sobs in the video as she describes a quarrel with Laundrie that she says became physical at times. The officers did not detain the couple but insisted they spend that night separately, Ms Petito in the van and Laundrie at a hotel.

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