The boyfriend of Gabby Petito, a social media influencer whose disappearance and death gripped America last year, confessed to her killing in writing before taking his life, the FBI said Friday.
Brian Laundrie killed himself with a bullet to the head amid suspicion about his possible role in the young woman's death as the two of them took a cross-country road trip, filming themselves along the way and posting the videos online.
His body was found October 20 in a nature reserve in Florida along with some belongings, including a notebook.
"A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death," the FBI said in a statement.
The FBI probe did not identify anyone else involved in the death of Petito, it said.
The 23-year-old Laundrie had disappeared in September, shortly after police described him as a "person of interest" in the investigation into Petito's death.
Petito's family, after talking to the FBI, said they were convinced Laundrie killed their 22-year-old daughter.
"The quality and quantity of the facts and information collected by the FBI leave no doubt that Brian Laundrie murdered Gabby," the family said in a statement released by their lawyers.
The Petito case caused a huge media stir in the United States for weeks. Petito and Laundrie had left New York in July to tour the western United States in a van for four months after Petito quit her job.
For days, they published images on social networks in which they were seen smiling on what appeared to be an idyllic road trip.
But on September 1, Laundrie returned without his girlfriend to North Port, Florida, where they both lived with his family.
His attitude raised suspicions about his role in her disappearance, especially after he refused to answer police questions and then fled on September 13.
Petito's body was found on September 19 in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, and on October 12 police announced she had been strangled to death.
A video released in September by police in Moab, a small town in Utah, further raised suspicions around Laundrie. In the images, Petito could be seen crying in a car after police intervened in a dispute she had with him.
Petito's story is all too common in a country where hundreds of thousands of people go missing every year.
But the non-stop media attention devoted to the case sparked controversy over the disproportionate attention paid to the disappearances of white women compared to those from minority groups.
As outrage grows this week over U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's obstruction of her own party's pro-democracy agenda, a movement to back a 2024 primary challenger to the right-wing Arizona Democrat is gaining momentum.
"At this point, Krusty the Clown could beat Sinema in a Democratic primary."
"It's official," the Primary Sinema Project said in a Friday fundraising email after Sinema joined Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and all 50 Republican senators to uphold the filibuster and kill Democratic voting rights legislation. "We're going to hold her accountable for what she did."
"Kyrsten Sinema is unfit to be a United States senator," the group added. "Just like the filibuster itself, we need to get rid of her if we want to save our democracy before it's too late."
Kyrsten Sinema joined Manchin and all 50 Republican Senators to defend the #filibuster and kill any chance of passing a voting rights bill.\n\nIf you've had enough of Sinema, chip in to the Arizona activist-led campaign to #PrimarySinema:https://pccc.me/31XA2Hp— BoldProgressives.org (@BoldProgressives.org) 1642795201
While she's been praised by numerous Republicans, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the GOP U.S. senators who lined up to shake her hand after she voted against modifying Senate filibuster rules—a move that would have stopped Republicans from blocking the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act—Sinema's obstructionism has infuriated many Democrats.
"So the level of frustration is there among voters, organizers, and volunteers," Kirkland added, including her own former staff and campaign volunteers.
I talked to more than a dozen volunteers and former staff who worked hard to elect @SenatorSinema in '18. Now? They feel "betrayed," "livid," "crushed."\n\n"People need to know she sucks," one former campaign staffer told me.https://www.vice.com/en/article/z3nzay/kyrsten-sinema-volunteers-staffers-feel-betrayed\u00a0\u2026— Cameron Joseph (@Cameron Joseph) 1642779886
In addition to losing the backing of progressive organizations including the reproductive rights groups EMILY's List and NARAL Pro-Choice America, Sinema's actions have fueled increasing support for Democratic primary challengers. Ninety-four percent of respondents to a Tuesday "flash poll" of members of the progressive activist group Indivisible said they favor primarying Sinema if she does not change course.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), widely viewed as a potential primary challenger to Sinema, says numerous Democrats have asked him to make a run for the Senate.
When asked who's asking him to run, Gallego coyly told CNN that "it wasn't Bernie, I'll tell you that," a reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent said earlier this week that Sinema and fellow right-wing Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) are imperiling "the future of American democracy," and that he is open to supporting primary challengers to run against the obstructionists.
"I have gotten a lot of encouragement from elected officials, from senators, from unions, from your traditional Democratic groups, big donors," said Gallego, a United States Marine Corps veteran who has served for seven years in the House. "Everything you can imagine under the sun."
Gallego said he believes Sinema is "vulnerable because nobody in the state has seen hide nor hair of her for the last three years."
"She hasn't had one town hall; everything she does is scripted," he added. "She says she refuses to negotiate in public, but we want to know who is she negotiating for? Is it for Arizonans? Or is it for the pharmaceutical companies or whatever other interests that she is more likely to have meetings with than... with the actual constituents?"
Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts wrote Friday that "Gallego could beat Sinema in a primary. Probably, at this point, Krusty the Clown could beat Sinema in a Democratic primary," a reference to the deeply troubled but beloved children's celebrity in the long-running animated TV series The Simpsons.
"Gallego has a great story and he's a rising star on the left," she continued. "The question is, could he win the general election? Two years ago, no way. But two years from now? That's the calculation Democrats need to make."
Roberts asserts that "if Republicans regain their sanity in the next two years and put up a candidate with broad appeal, Gallego would have a hard time pulling out a win."
However, she adds that if the GOP continues its "bizarre obsession" with former President Donald Trump, and nominates a "Big Lie-spouting, pandemic-downplaying, misinformation-peddling" candidate—someone, she says, like state Republican Chair Kelli Ward—then "Gallego's fortunes would dramatically improve."
Florida Republicans advance bill banning discussion of LGBTQ people in school under guise of ‘parental rights’
Under the guise of “parental rights” and “student welfare” a Florida House committee has advanced legislation that would ban primary school discussion of LGBTQ people or topics, could require school officials to notify a parent if a student comes out as LGBTQ, bans schools from withholding that information from parents in many cases, and allows parents to sue if schools violate those policies.
Florida House Bill 1557, “Parental Rights in Education,” was advanced out of the Education and Employment Committee, The Tampa Bay Times reports. Its author, Rep. Joe Harding, the founder of a local lawn care company, was described by a local paper when he won his 2020 race as as “a supporter of anti-abortion legislation and the Second Amendment.”
The bill in part reads: “A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director, spoke out against the legislation Thursday:
Today, lawmakers moved forward a bill to ban discussion of LGBTQ people in schools. Our own Jon Harris Maurer had a powerful reply:\n\n"We're parents, students, & teachers. We are your brothers & sisters. Conversations about us aren't something dangerous that should be banned." pic.twitter.com/4vxM5dAxgV— Equality Florida (@Equality Florida) 1642712137
The bill must pass through one additional committee before being voted on by the full House.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), who is running for governor, weighed in:
HB 1557 & SB 1834 would ban all discussion of LGBTQ issues, history, people and more in the classroom.\n\nIt's a direct attack on our LGBTQ+ youth who already face higher risks of bullying and suicide. These bills are anti-history and go against creating safe learning environments.— Charlie Crist (@Charlie Crist) 1642779858
A call to Rep. Harding’s office was not returned.