The boyfriend of slain cross-country traveler Gabby Petito admitted killing her in a notebook found near his body in a Florida swamp, the FBI said Friday.
It was the first time authorities squarely pinned the blame for Petito’s death on Brian Laundrie, though he was the prime suspect all along.
Investigators meanwhile announced that Laundrie, 23, had sent text messages to intentionally deceive people that Petito, 22, was still alive after he beat and strangled her in late August, according to a statement released by the FBI in Denver.
“All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case,” Michael Schneider, FBI Denver Division special agent in charge, said in the statement. “The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito.”
Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 at a campground near Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. A coroner determined that she died about three weeks earlier of “blunt-force injuries to the head and neck, with manual strangulation.”
Laundrie returned home to Florida in early September and went missing soon after. In October, his parents found an item belonging to him in a nature preserve near their house.
Further searching turned up Laundrie’s remains, a revolver, backpack and the notebook. Medical examiners determined that Laundrie died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The FBI did not specify what Laundrie had written in the notebook and in the texts he’d sent to mislead. The texts were sent between Laundrie’s and Petito’s phones, according to the statement.
“The timing and content of these messages are indicative of Mr. Laundrie attempting to deceive law enforcement by giving the impression that Ms. Petito was still alive,” the statement said.
Grand Teton was the last place the couple visited during a cross-country van trip last summer that ended with Laundrie mysteriously returning home alone in the vehicle.
The couple documented their trip on Instagram. They crossed Colorado and on Aug. 12 were stopped by police in Moab, Utah, after the two got into a scuffle.
Police video showed Petito describing a fight that escalated. Authorities concluded that Petito was the aggressor, and officers decided to separate them for the night rather than file charges.
Attorneys for the Petito and Laundrie families did not immediately respond Friday to emails and text messages seeking comment about the FBI’s conclusions.
Associated Press reporter Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg, Fla., contributed to this report.