A graphic designer who has spent the past four years living in her Airstream said that she she believes she led the FBI to Gabby Petito’s body, after agents told her: ‘you guys are the ones that really tipped us off to the right place’.
Jessica Schultz, a 38-year-old ‘van lifer’, believes she saw Brian Laundrie on August 26, 27 and 28 near where Gabby Petito’s body was found
Jessica Schultz told them she spotted Petito’s boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, near the Spread Creek campsite in Wyoming on August 26, 27 and possibly 28.
Petito, 22, was found dead on Sunday, and on Tuesday a coroner confirmed her death was a homicide.
She had set out to travel with Laundrie in July, and the couple were journeying in their white Ford Transit van across the West – but were seen arguing in mid August.
Petito was last seen alive on August 24, and was reported missing on September 11. Laundrie returned home alone to Florida on September 1, and went missing on September 14. A manhunt is underway, with him being deemed officially a ‘person of interest’.
Schultz, 38, said that the publicity surrounding the missing New Yorker encouraged her to come forward, and she spoke to the FBI on September 16.
She said in a TikTok that she and a group of friends were camped at Spread Creek from August 22 to 29.
‘In that time frame, we all independently noticed that van,’ she said.
Schultz said that she noticed the van because it was trying to park, and blocking her way. She very clearly recalled seeing a man alone – who she now believes was Laundrie.
She said she was ‘100 per cent certain’ that it was him.
‘He was very… kind of awkward and confused,’ she said on TikTok.
‘It was just him, there was no Gabby.’
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito had been traveling since early July. Petito was reported missing on September 11, and on September 16 a fellow ‘van life’ traveler told the FBI she believed she had spotted Laundrie
Jessica Schultz describes on TikTok seeing Laundrie
‘So I saw Brian Laundrie parking his van August 26 at Spread Creek.
‘So I had already reported to the FBI what I had seen.
‘And I wasn’t 100 per cent sure, but now that there is dashcam footage of the van where I saw it, I’m 100 per cent certain that I did see him parking his van.
‘And he was very kind of awkward and confused.
‘And it was just him. There was no Gabby.
‘But that’s only because, as a van lifer, I was checking out their van and I was checking out to see if it was a couple or a solo dude.
‘So it was a solo dude, as far as I could see. Unless she was in the back somewhere.
‘But when I pulled up he was driving still and hadn’t yet pulled over.
‘So I was like, hey, what are you going to do? Are you going to let me pass because it’s only one car width of a road.
‘And he kind of pulled over like half way, and made me drive half out into the road to go around him.
‘So I thought it was just really weird.
‘And for a timeline, it was parked on the 26th, I believe.’
‘Sorry my last video cut off. I guess I only get 60 seconds.
‘It’s probably a good thing as the FBI actually called me back. Not as a result of my TikTok.
‘So a group of friends and I were camping at Spread Creek from the 22nd to the 29th.
‘And in that time frame we all independently noticed that van parked there.
‘And I noticed it particularly because I had seen that van trying to park.
‘And also because it wasn’t actually parked in a designated spot.
‘The Spread Creek camping area is a series of designated spots and you’re not supposed to camp outside those spots.
‘This van was not in a real spot so I figured that he would get booted by the people who patrol the area.
‘But the van was there for several days and nights and it did not get booted.
‘The weirdest part was that there was no indication that there was anybody at the van.
‘Usually small van people have their doors open, they’re outside, they have a hammock, something. But we didn’t see any signs of actual life at the van.’
Schultz approached the van to see if the man wanted to join their group, but saw that he was much younger than them so decided against extending the invite.
‘He was just acting weird,’ she told The San Francisco Chronicle.
‘You know, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, your hackles go up when you see something that’s out of the ordinary.’
She added: ‘I’m pretty sure he got out of the van to like look around or something.
‘There’s definitely nobody in that passenger seat; like he definitely doesn’t have a girl in there.’
On August 27, Schultz saw the van again.
This time, she was traveling as a passenger in her friend’s vehicle, and noticed that the van belonging to Petito and used by her and Laundrie was in the same area.
‘I was like, ‘Oh, that guy stayed the night,’ Schultz recalled telling her friend.
She remembered it clearly, she said, because it was not a designated parking spot.
Schultz also believes she saw the van on August 28, because she recalled thinking it was surprising the owners had not been asked to move on to an actual parking place.
‘The weirdest part of it was that there was no indication there was anybody at the van,’ Schultz recounted on TikTok.
When footage of the missing couple began circulating, Schultz noticed the distinctive hat that was on the dashboard – which she had seen.
‘My friend texted me a picture of the hat on the dashboard and I just lost my s***,’ Schultz said.
‘And that’s when I called the FBI and said, ‘Guys, look at Spread Creek.’
Petito, 22, is pictured with her boyfriend Laundrie, 23, in a YouTube video made to document their ‘van life’ road trip. A body believed to be Petito’s was found on Sunday and on Tuesday the coroner confirmed it was her. Laundrie has disappeared
The van that Petito and Laundrie were traveling in was spotted by multiple travelers, including Schultz
Police in Florida are seen on Tuesday searching the Carlton Reserve, where Laundrie’s car was found abandoned
A memorial of stones arranged in a cross pattern was spotted Monday evening at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite east of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
The memorial is placed near to where authorities found Gabby Petito’s body on Sunday
Lupe Alvarez, a friend of Schultz’s who was camping at the site, said he and his partner first saw teams of police crews looking for Petito arrive on Friday evening.
On Saturday a forest ranger approached them as they were about to set off on a hike and asked them not to destroy any evidence.
‘She told us, ‘You’ve probably heard about the missing girl and the van,’ Alvarez said.
Schultz said someone with the FBI called her and her friends back for an interview just before 10am on Sunday – before it was announced that Petito’s remains had been found.
Schultz recalled that the FBI agent said” ‘I’ve talked to hundreds of people, but you guys are the ones that really tipped us off to the right place, so thank you.’
She added: ‘We’re triumphant — we were right and we led them in the right direction.
‘But then, of course, it’s not something you like to be right about. It’s been emotionally exhausting for sure.’
A huge manhunt was launched on September 11 to find the missing woman, and police said that they eventually received more than 1,000 tips.
As of Tuesday, the hashtag #GabbyPetito has received more than 650 million views on the social media platform TikTok, according to the Associated Press.
Petito and Laundrie had cultivated a following on social media as the traversed the West in their van, and fellow social media users jumped into the hunt for clues.
The van was spotted in footage made by YouTubers, a TikTok user said that she had given an ‘antsy’ Laundrie a lift when he was hitchhiking on August 29, and an Idaho woman who owns a shop in the town of Victor said that she had seen the pair around that time.
Laundrie and Petito are seen in a photo dated July 29. The pair met at high school on Long Island, New York, and begun dating several years ago
Petito is pictured in a bath at Mystic Hot Springs, in Monroe, Utah, in a picture posted on July 26
Petito and Laundrie are seen at Monument Rocks in Utah in a post dated July 4
Inside Laundrie’s room
Photos from a realty website have revealed the inside of the modest three-bedroom, two-bathroom home where Brian Laundrie lived in with his parents in North Port, Florida, as the manhunt for the ‘person of interest’ in his fiancée’s homicide continues.
The images show what appears to be a gun hanging from a bookcase in Laundrie’s bedroom, as well as a disturbing poster of dark figures with hammers and spheres violently attacking each other.
Pictures of Laundrie’s bedroom show what appears to be a gun hanging from a bookcase, as well as a disturbing poster of dark figures with hammers and spheres violently attacking each other
The pictures were taken in 2017 and were first obtained by the New York Post.
Also visible is a Darth Vader helmet on a book shelf, and a collection of Watchmen books.
Watchmen is a series of graphic novels set in an alternative universe in which ‘the mere presence of American superheroes changed history: The U.S. won the Vietnam War, Nixon is still president and the Cold War is in full effect,’ according to its description from DC Comics.
Laundrie, 23, an apparently avid reader, was previously seen in a video uploaded to his and Gabby Petito’s YouTube page reading what appears to be Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, a 2014 novel about four females who venture into Area X, where three die and a fourth disappears permanently.
Laundrie was apparently an avid reader, with some pointing to a video on the couple’s YouTube page showing him reading a book about a missing woman. He is seen here camping on the Appalachian trail with Petito in March for her birthday
On Tuesday, a coroner in Wyoming has confirmed that a body found on Sunday is that of Petito, and that her death was a homicide.
On Tuesday night TMZ reported that Laundrie is viewed by prosecutors as the prime suspect, but they are waiting to see if he is found alive, and if there is evidence that he killed her.
The search for Laundrie in the swampy 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve has ended for the night, police in Florida said on Tuesday evening – adding that they will resume on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the FBI in Denver tweeted: ‘Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999.
‘Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide.
‘The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results.’
The FBI on Tuesday said that a forensic search of the camping area where her body was found had ended, and appealed for anyone who was in the area from August 27 to August 30 to contact them.
‘We extend sincere condolences to Gabby’s family, friends, and all the people whose lives she touched,’ the FBI said in a statement.
They also added her to their ‘seeking information’ site, describing her as a ‘homicide victim’.
Petito’s case was being referred to as a criminal investigation for the first time on Tuesday.
‘This is an FBI-led criminal investigation and North Port Police are assisting our federal partner in any way we can to bring this investigation to a close,’ said Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for Florida’s North Port Police Department, in a statement.
Laundrie’s family said on Tuesday evening, through their lawyer: ‘May Gabby Rest In Peace.’
The Petito family said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that they will speak publicly after her body is returned home.
Police were alerted on September 11 by Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt.
Schmidt said that she last spoke to her daughter on August 24.
She then received two text messages from her phone, but the wording sounded odd and she is unsure if Petito sent them.
The couple had been in contact with police shortly before she vanished.
On August 12, a passerby in Moab, Utah, called police after seeing a man and a woman in a blazing row, physically fighting each other.
In the audio, obtained by DailyMail.com, the male caller tells a Grant County sheriff that a ‘gentleman’ in a white van with a Florida license plate had slapped a girl in the vehicle before driving away.
A witness, known only as Christopher, wrote in his statement – obtained by Fox News – that ‘they were talking aggressively [at] each other [and] something definitely seemed off.’
He added: ‘At one point, they were sort of fighting over a phone – I think the male took the female’s phone. It appeared that he didn’t want her in the white van.
‘I heard her say, ‘Why do you have to be so mean?’
He said he saw Petito allegedly ‘punching him in the arm’ and trying to get inside the vehicle – which was registered in her name. She had been working as a pharmacy technician to save money for the four-month trip.
‘From my point of view, something definitely didn’t seem right,’ Christopher wrote.
‘It was as if the guy was trying to leave her, and maybe take her phone? Not sure but wanted to help out.’
Petito’s case was added to the ‘seeking information’ site on Tuesday, with her described as ‘homicide victim’
Petito and Laundrie were both interviewed by police, and Petito said that Laundrie sometimes hit her.
Melissa Hulls, the visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park, told Petito that her relationship with Laundrie ‘seemed toxic’.
Hulls told Deseret News: ‘I was probably more candid with her than I should’ve been.
‘I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life.
‘She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida.’
In the end, Petito stayed with Laundrie.
‘This wasn’t a good day for anybody. We thought we were making the right decision when we left them.’
A tearful Petito is seen in the back of the police car. Laundrie admits he ‘pushed her’ during the altercation and cops determine Petito was ‘the primary aggressor’
Laundrie is seen with scratches on his face which he tells an officer were caused when Petito ‘was trying to get the keys from me’ and ‘hit me with her phone’
Laundrie and Petito set off on their dream road trip from New York on July 2
The pair had been traveling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11
The statement from Brian Laundrie’s attorney:
‘Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence.
‘In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focus their attention on in cases like this and the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance.
‘As such, on the advice of counsel Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on the matter.
‘I have been informed that the North Port, Florida police have named Brian Laundrie as a ‘person of interest’ in this matter.
‘This formality has not really changed the circumstances of Mr. Laundrie being the focus of attention of law enforcement and Mr. Laundrie will continue to remain silent on the advice of counsel.’
Petito’s body was located on Sunday at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area.
The camp site is on the edge of the Grand Teton national park, and has views of the stunning mountain range.
Campers are allowed to stay on the undeveloped site, in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Laundrie’s whereabouts are now the subject of intense interest.
Petito’s family issued a withering statement through their lawyer, Richard Stafford, demanding Laundrie tell police what he knows.
‘All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing,’ they said on Friday.
In a letter, Petito’s family implored Laundrie’s parents on Thursday to tell them ‘where Brian left Gabby.’
Stafford said on Thursday the family was ‘devastated.’
Petito is the eldest of six children.
‘They’re at the point that desperation has turned to anger,’ Stafford said during a news conference.
‘They know that the Laundries know where their daughter is, and they will not tell them. That’s infuriating.’
His car has been recovered, abandoned, from the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida. The Mustang had a note on it asking for the car to be removed.
Police on Monday said they had ‘exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there,’ but are still looking for Laundrie.
Carlton Reserve is described by locals as swampy, alligator-filled, and full of snakes and mosquitoes.
Yet despite their statement suggesting the search was done, they continued to scour the area.
On Tuesday evening they tweeted: ‘Search of the Carlton & nearby lands concluded for the evening. Nothing of note. The current plan is to return Wednesday with a similar operation.’
On Tuesday the teams were searching the Venice sector of the reserve. It was unclear why they chose that particular site to hone in on.
Police were also investigating a possible sighting of him on Tuesday, after someone baring a resemblance was spotted in a wooded area 500 miles from his Florida home.
The photo image provided to police by Bass shows a man with a backpack as he is walking through the woods. The man appears to have the same physical features as Laundrie, including a slim build and a bald head
‘I’m not saying this is the guy but whoever was on my trail camera this morning in Baker, Fl strongly fits the description of Brian Laundrie, authorities have been contacted but people in the North West Florida area be on the look out,’ Bass wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday
The alleged sighting took place some 500 miles from Laundrie’s North Port, Florida home. North Port Police on Tuesday resumed a search for Laundrie at the Carlton Reserve, a swampy region where he is last believed to have visited before his disappearance last week
Sam Bass told police that he spotted a man while he set up his deer camera in the wilderness in Baker, Florida in Okaloosa County early on Monday morning.
But the local sheriff’s office said that it followed up on the report and ‘no one – and nothing – of note was located.’
‘The OCSO did its due diligence in response to this report and is wrapping up an extensive search that took place in this area to include nearby farmlands,’ the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
‘No one – and nothing – of note was located. The individual referenced in the post below has no known ties to our area.’
The photo image provided to police by Bass shows a man with a backpack as he is walking through the woods in the Florida Panhandle.
The man appears to have the same physical features as Laundrie, including a slim build and a bald head.
More than 50 searchers from at least eight law enforcement agencies led by the FBI are using huge swamp-busting amphibious vehicles, ATVs, bloodhounds, other K9s and drones as they ramp up efforts to track down the 23-year-old.
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, announced that at the request of local law enforcement, he had ‘directed all state agencies under my purview to continue to assist federal & local enforcement as they continue to search – we need justice for Gabby’.
Police in North Port, Florida – who are facing criticism for allowing Laundrie to disappear – issued a statement last week defending themselves.
‘We understand the community’s frustration. We are frustrated too,’ the department said in a tweet.
‘For six days, the North Port police department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian’s fiancée Gabby Petito.
‘Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail.
‘It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing persons investigation.’
John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, told CNN on Tuesday he wanted to know whether Laundrie was ever inside his parents’ house, and asking whether it was possible that the Carlton Reserve story was all part of an elaborate plot to allow the 23-year-old to escape.
Laundrie’s father Christopher Laundrie broke cover for the first time Tuesday – but refused to answer questions about his missing son.
The 62-year-old is seen in exclusive DailyMail.com photos walking out onto his driveway around 3pm, a day after the FBI raid on the North Port, Florida home he shares with wife Roberta, 55.
Brian Laundrie’s father Christopher Laundrie made a rare foray into town on Tuesday, one day after the FBI raided the North Port, Florida home he shares with his wife Roberta
Laundrie, who was dressed in khaki shorts and a black top, strode out to his red Dodge Ram pick-up truck and drove past the police presence outside his home before returning 20 minutes later with half a gallon of milk
Brian Laundrie’s father is seen for the first time
Brian Laundrie’s father Christopher Laundrie was seen on Tuesday for the first time, but refused to comment.
The 62-year-old is seen in exclusive DailyMail.com photos walking out onto his driveway around 3pm.
He drove his Dodge Ram pick-up truck past the police outside his home.
He returned 20 minutes later with half a gallon of milk and quickly disappeared back into the house.
The Laundrie residence has become somewhat of a media circus since Brian returned home alone September 1 from a cross-country trip with fiancée Gabby, 22, who was reported missing 10 days later. Her body was found in a remote area of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sunday.
Gabby’s disappearance took a bizarre turn last week after Brian, who has refused to cooperate with authorities in the investigation, also vanished.
Dressed in khaki shorts and a black top, Laundrie strode out to his red Dodge Ram pick-up truck and drove past the continued police presence outside his home.
He returned 20 minutes later with half a gallon of milk and quickly disappeared back into the house.
The Laundrie residence has become somewhat of a media circus.
Christopher and Roberta Laundrie told police on September 17 that their son had told them three days earlier he was going for a hike, and never returned.
In the early days of the investigation, they refused to speak to investigators and their son hired a lawyer.
The attorney, Steven Bertolino, was planning to hold a press conference from Long Island, New York, at 1 pm. on Tuesday.
He canceled the press conference on Monday night after discussions with the FBI.
On Tuesday photos obtained by The New York Post showed the inside of Laundrie’s bedroom.
The wanted man appeared to have a gun in his bedroom, and displayed a poster of dark figures with hammers and spheres violently attacking other.
The three bedroom, two bath 1,448 square feet home has belonged to the family since 2015, and comes with a small pool in the backyard.
The family, which has a history of buying and selling properties, bought the home for $120,000 and two years later attempted to list it for $215,000, with a price reduction a month later.
The Laundries took the home back off the market shortly after, in January 2018, the paper said.