How social media gumshoes may have helped lead cops to suspected Petito remains
Scores of social-media sleuths sprang into action when Gabby Petito vanished — and some of their armchair detective work may have led authorities to her likely remains in Wyoming.
Petito’s suspected corpse was found Sunday in Bridger-Teton National Forest — after two YouTubers reviewed personal video they took of their trip there, noticed a van in the footage that matched the description of hers and alerted authorities.
“Most agencies don’t have that many detectives to canvass for witnesses, to canvass for any kind of evidence,” retired NYPD Detective Michael Alcazar told the Washington Post.
“Now we have so many eyes out there, millions of civilian investigators, because now they’re on the lookout. It’s kind of like an Amber Alert, but more effective.”
While some of the web gumshoes’ tips might be useless, others could have already provided key information to investigators — and may yet yield leads as probers try to piece the case together.
Gabby Petito’s suspected remains were found in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, according to the FBI.Instagram
YouTubers Jenn and Kyle Bethune posted to their channel Sunday that they may have recorded footage of the van Petito had been traveling in cross-country while the pair was reviewing tape from their family’s own trip to Grand Teton National Park.
“We came across a white van that had Florida plates,” Jenn Bethune said. “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.”
The Bethunes said they spotted the van parked off to the side around 6 or 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and later traveled back on the road and saw it again.
“It’s kind of freaky for a late Saturday evening,” Kyle Bethune said.
Eagle-eyed social media users noted that the video revealed rust near the gas cap consistent with Petito and Laundrie’s van, based on other photos of it, and also appeared to show an abandoned sandal on the ground near the vehicle, similar to a shoe Petito had been pictured wearing on the trip.
A wide-brimmed hat on the dashboard of the van in the video also seemed similar to a hat that Petito wore in her final Instagram post Aug. 25. The posting didn’t include location data with it, nor did the other photos.
Petito’s loved ones later thanked the couple for coming forward with the footage.
“We believe this is the van for multiple reasons,” the kin wrote Sunday on the “Find Gabby” Facebook page.
YouTubers spotted these clues in and near a van that looks like Gabby Petito’s.Red White & Bethune/YouTube
“Thank you so much, this is exactly why we are asking people to review older photos and video,” they added.
TikTok user Miranda Baker revealed in a series of videos that she and her boyfriend gave a lift to a man she believes was Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, at Grand Teton on Aug. 29.
TikTok user Miranda Baker believes she and her boyfriend gave Laundrie a ride.TikTok
Baker claimed the man told the couple he “needed to go to Jackson,” where she and her boyfriend were heading. But about 20 minutes later, she mentioned “Jackson Hole,” and he allegedly asked to get out.
“Once I said Jackson Hole, he became agitated,” she said in one of the videos. “He seemed like he needed to get out, he was kind of antsy. And that’s when things got weird.”
She said they let the man out near Jackson Dam and that he walked across the street and into a nearby crowded parking lot, presumably to try to continue hitchhiking.
“I’m hoping this can help someone identify him because I saw him from TikTok, which then made me call the authorities,” she said.
If the hitchiker was Laundrie, it’s unclear where he was headed at the time. He ended up arriving at his parents’ home in North Port, Fla., in Petito’s van — without her — Sept. 1. Laundrie, whom cops called a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance, vanished himself last week.
YouTubers Jenn and Kyle Bethune claim to have spotted Petito’s van in Wyoming. Red White & Bethune/YouTube
TikTok user Miranda Baker believes she and her boyfriend gave Laundrie a ride. TikTok
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