By KevinMarcilliat, In Criminal Justice, 0 Comments

Human remains found in an undeveloped camping area near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming are those of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman from New York. Petito left in July on a cross-country van camping trip with her boyfriend, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie. The couple was later seen fighting and police separated them for a night. Then, Petito went inexplicably missing.

Now, Laundrie is missing, as well. Initially, after Petito’s disappearance, Laundrie returned alone to his parents’ home in Florida with the van. He then refused to speak with officers investigating the disappearance of Ms. Petito.

His parents now say they haven’t seen him since Sept. 14. Police are searching a large nature preserve where his parents said Laundrie might have gone. So far, nothing of interest has been found.

The story

Childhood sweethearts who had gone on a previous van trip, Laundrie and Petito left on July 2 to go van camping in some of our nation’s national parks. They documented their trip for a time on Instagram and YouTube.

According to the Associated Press, Petito’s family began worrying about Gabby after several days without contact. They tried calling her and Laundrie, along with other contacts, to no avail. It is unclear exactly when Petito went missing, other than that Laundrie returned home alone on Sept. 1. Petito was declared missing 10 days later.

On Aug. 12, a man in Utah called 911 after saying he had observed Laundrie slapping and hitting Petito. That same day, an officer pulled the couple’s van over for speeding. Bodycam footage shows Petito alive but upset. After an interview, the officer decided that domestic violence had occurred – but that Petito had been the aggressor. The officer separated the couple for the night without arresting anyone. Laundrie declined to press charges.

During that incident, the bodycam footage shows, Petito cried and said that she and Laundrie had been arguing about her excessive cleaning. Earlier, Laundrie had said the argument was about his having gotten into the van with dirty feet.

Whatever the source of the dispute, it does seem that Laundrie and Petito were arguing. If only the officer had done more than separate the couple for a single night.

Now Petito is known to be dead. Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case.

Refusal to speak to investigators doesn’t look good

One thing that seems to have excited interest in the case is that Laundrie refused to talk to investigators about Petito’s disappearance – and then disappeared himself.

The chief of police in North Port, Florida, where Laundrie’s parents live, said that Laundrie had exercised his constitutional right not to speak with investigators. That is certainly his right, but naturally it is frustrating. We would like to assume that an innocent person would cooperate with investigators. That isn’t necessarily the case; innocent people may still be uncomfortable with law enforcement.

Be that as it may, a lawyer would generally recommend cooperation, as long as the lawyer was present. And Laundrie does appear to have a lawyer. The police chief has hopes that Laundrie’s lawyer will be able to arrange a conversation with the young man.

We will have to wait until Laundrie resurfaces to hear his side of the story. He will be better off coming out with it. As it stands, he looks extremely suspicious.

The surprising national interest in this story ups the stakes for Laundrie. The coroner says that Petito was the victim of a homicide, and that homicide appears to have occurred in Wyoming. Wyoming is a death penalty state.

Are you in a violent relationship? There are resources in North Carolina

If you are involved in a relationship where someone is abusing you, you are not alone. There is help available. Here is a link to domestic violence resources in North Carolina, including hotlines, shelters, safe houses, education and other support.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.