WYOMING, USA — UPDATE (Sept. 23, 2021): A federal arrest warrant was issued for Brian Laundrie following a grand jury indictment in connection with the Gabby Petito case. Click here for the latest information.
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Sunday delivered heartbreaking news in the nationwide search for a Florida woman who vanished while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend.
The Teton County Coroner's Office confirmed a body was found in the section of Bridger-Teton National Forest where crews had been looking for 22-year-old Gabby Petito. That section is known as the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, and it will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
At an emotional news conference Sunday night, the FBI said the body matched the description of Petito, and her family had been notified. On Tuesday, forensic testing confirmed the human remains were hers. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
"On behalf of the FBI personnel and our partners, I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby's family," said Charles Jones with FBI Denver, as his voice quivered with grief.
Jones spoke at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, surrounded by other members of law enforcement.
"As any parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for the family and friends," Jones said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
"She touched the world," her father Joseph Petito tweeted.
Through a spokesperson, Petito's family asked for privacy and thanked law enforcement for their search efforts.
"Your tireless work and determination helped bring Gabby home to her parents. The family and I will be forever grateful," a Petito family lawyer said.
At this time, investigators are still looking for more information that can help them map out what happened in the days that led to this discovery.
The FBI had been searching Bridger-Teton National Forest since at least Saturday. The agency said it would have no additional comments Sunday, citing the ongoing investigation.
Petito vanished during a cross-country road trip with her 23-year-old fiancé, Brian Laundrie, who is considered a "person of interest" in the case. He is currently unaccounted for.
"Saddened and heartbroken to learn that Gabby has been found deceased," the North Port Police Department wrote in a statement. "Our focus from the start, along with the FBI, and national partners, has been to bring her home. We will continue to work with the FBI in the search for more answers."
The Florida couple left New York in early July and headed west, using social media to document their journey through Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
The FBI is still asking people who may have seen the van the two were driving between to contact federal authorities.
On Aug. 12, the young couple was stopped by police after a heated argument in Moab, Utah. Officers separated them for the night and sent them on their ways.
Petito, who typically checked in with her family several times a week, last FaceTimed her dad and stepmom on Aug. 21. Her last video chat with her mom was on Aug. 24.
The last text her mother received mentioned no service in Yosemite, but family members aren't sure if that Aug. 30 message was actually sent by Petito.
The final Instagram post on Petito's account was 5 days prior on Aug. 25.
On Saturday, North Port police officers and FBI agents were combing through a 24,565-acre nature preserve, searching for Laundrie.
He arrived home in Gabby's van on Sept. 1. He pulled into the North Port house where he had been living with his parents and Petito prior to the road trip.
Petito wasn't with him.
As the days dragged on, Petito's family still didn't get any calls or texts from her. By Sept. 11, they were worried enough to call the police.
Concerned relatives, who live on Long Island, filed a missing person report. That night, North Port police paid a visit to the Laundrie home. Officers say they found the van and were handed contact information for the Laundrie family's lawyer.
The Laundrie family attorney later told reporters that, on the advice of counsel, Laundrie would not be speaking to the public. Detectives say he didn't speak to them either -- prompting demands for answers from Petito's family.
Members of the public called for answers, too, lining up outside the Laundrie home in protest Friday, Sept. 17. They were there as police and members of the FBI arrived at the home that evening. Police had been called by the Laundrie family's attorney.
When investigators went inside, they were told Laundrie's parents hadn't seen Laundrie since Tuesday morning, and his whereabouts were unknown.
Federal and local authorities continue to search for him in Sarasota's Carlton Reserve where his family believes he went. It has more than 80 miles of hiking trails.
The search was suspended Sunday evening when it became dark. On Monday morning, police announced they have "exhausted all avenues" searching its grounds but will continue to search.
"The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking," a Laundrie family lawyer texted 10 Tampa Bay Sunday night. "The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family."
Anyone with information related to the case should call 1-800-CALL-FBI or click here to submit an anonymous tip online.