I’m calling him a full manipulator

NORTH PORT, FL — By all appearances, “van life” couple Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie seemed happy — the perfect, adventurous couple — sharing Instagram photos and a YouTube video from their idyllic cross-country road trip exploring national parks in the western United States in a converted camper van this summer.

But the relationship of the North Port, Florida, couple wasn’t everything it appeared to be outwardly on social media. Their trek ended with Petito’s death by homicide in the mountains of Wyoming, and Laundrie disappeared from his parents’ home one month ago, Sept. 13.

During this months-long trip, Petito missed plans to meet up with friends on the road and stopped responding to text messages and phone calls from her family in New York, worrying those who cared about her.

Her family last heard from her at the end of August; they officially reported the 22-year-old New York native missing to Suffolk County police Sept. 11.

Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. On Tuesday, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said her cause of death was homicide by strangulation.

Laundrie, 23, was named a person of interest in the disappearance and death of his fiancée. He returned to his parents’ Florida home, where both he and Petito lived for the past two years, alone, in her van.

Two days after Petito was reported missing, Laundrie was nowhere to be found himself. His parents told North Port police on Sept. 17 that their son had left for a hike at Sarasota County’s Carlton Reserve Sept. 14 — weeks later telling authorities he actually left their home Sept. 13 — and he hasn’t been seen since.

Wednesday marks one month since Laundrie fled his parents’ home. But are authorities any closer to finding him?

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Here’s everything we know about the case and the FBI-led search for Laundrie.

What We Know About Their Relationship

Both Laundrie and Petito are Long Island, New York, natives who met as teens while attending Bayport-Blue Point High School. When they first started dating, he was a year older — Petito was a sophomore and Laundrie was a junior, according to People.

Their relationship was on-again, off-again and friends sometimes couldn’t keep up with their current status. But they weren’t concerned, and one friend, Alyssa Chen, told People that “they had very low lows and very high highs,” but she “never saw any sort of physical abuse.”

Another friend, Ben Matula, said the couple “always had some drama.”

They took one of their longest breaks after Laundrie graduated in 2016. During this time, Petito finished high school.

They eventually got back together, though, and decided to skip college and build a different kind of life for themselves.

They moved to Florida, into Laundrie’s parents’ home, where his older sister and her husband were living at the time.

Together, they dreamed of traveling and seeing the world, taking on different jobs locally, mostly to fund their trips. Petito was a pharmacy technician and worked at Taco Bell at one point, while Laundrie worked at a Publix in North Port, according to CBS News. He also sometimes sold his artwork.


Petito’s closest friend in Florida, Rose Davis, said Laundrie is “very charismatic” and “a sweet person.” The couple was “cute” together, and he’d make her breakfast and do little things for her.

There was a darker side to their relationship, though, Davis said, according to CBS.

“When Brian wants something, he’s gonna get it. And I don’t mean in a physical way, he’s gonna force it. He’s just gonna … I don’t want people to say I’m calling him a full manipulator, but he’ll manipulate the situation to get what he wants out of it,” she said, recounting one night where he took Petito’s I.D. so she couldn’t go to a bar with Davis. “This was really upsetting to her, you know, you’re engaged. It’s not, you know, it’s not supposed to be like that.”

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