The discovery of Gabby Petito’s body might have been assisted by three TikTokers who shared their evidence online in recent weeks.
The 22-year-old disappeared in late August during a road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie – he returned home alone and refused to speak to authorities about her whereabouts when she was listed as a missing person on September 11.
He soon went missing too, and online detectives took up the case. More than half a billion TikTok users have viewed at the hashtag #GabbyPetito since her disappearance.
Petito’s body was then found and later identified in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park area on Tuesday and the FBI have confirmed that she died by homicide, pending a final autopsy.
These particular social media accounts are thought to have helped move the investigation along significantly by leading authorities to her body.
1. The TikToker who claimed she picked Laundrie up when he was alone
Miranda Baker posted TikTok videos on September 17 explaining that she and her boyfriend had picked up Laundrie while he was hitchhiking on August 29.
The couple claim they gave him a lift at Grand Teton National Park, where Petito’s body was found, and that Laundrie offered $200 (£146) for just a 10-mile ride.
When Baker told him she was travelling to Jackson Hole, Laundrie urgently asked her to stop so he could get out.
Baker recalled: “He became agitated. He seemed like he needed to get out, he was kind of antsy. And that’s when things got weird.”
Reportedly he said he was going to find “someone else” to hitchhike.
North Port Police Department later confirmed they had spoken to Baker about her evidence.
2. The TikToker who apparently saw Laundrie alone at Spread Creek
Jessica Shultz also posted videos online after telling the FBI she had seen a white van thought to have been the van Laundrie and Petito were driving for their road trip.
She said she had seen it near Grand Teton National Park on August 26 – a day after Petito’s last video call with her mother, believed to be the last confirmed sighting of the 22-year-old – and that she saw Laundrie acting in a strange way.
Shultz claimed Petito was not around as Laundrie parked his van at Spread Creek.
On TikTok, Shultz added: “He was very awkward and confused and it was just him, there was no Gabby.”
She claimed she advised the FBI to look for Petito near Spread Creek after that incident – and the body was found near this area on Sunday.
She alleged the FBI also told her “You guys are the ones that really tipped us off to the right place, so thank you.”
3. The YouTubers who saw the abandoned van Laundrie and Petito were driving
Jenn and Kyle Bethune say they saw the couple’s van on August 27, the day Petito is thought to have disappeared, at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, where her body was later found.
They said: “We came across a white van that had Florida plates, a small white van.
“We were going to stop and say hi because we’re from Florida too, but the van was completely dark, there was nobody there so we decided to continue on our way.”
They claimed the van seemed “abandoned” when they drove past it.
In the footage captured from their GoPro and posted on YouTube, the Bethunes also speculated that they could see a dark shape digging in a field past the trees behind the van.
Petito’s family said they and the FBI are aware of the Bethunes’ video.
The investigation continues
The FBI is still appealing for members of the public to come forward if they have any additional information about the case.
“For photos and details, please see the FBI’s Seeking Information poster for Ms Petito. Relevant information may be submitted to the FBI online at tips.fbi.gov, or by phone to 1-800-CALL-FBI or 303-628-7171.
“Photos and videos may be uploaded via the FBI’s digital media tip line dedicated to this case: fbi.gov/petito.”