Tragic Gabby Petito’s ‘unusual’ final Instagram submit that set alarm bells ringing

It seemed like an innocent picture of a young woman in the prime of her life enjoying an epic adventure across America.

But Gabby Petito’s last ever Instagram post instantly rang alarm bells. She was pictured with a crocheted pumpkin wishing followers a “Happy Halloween”…on August 25 – more than two months prior to the holiday.

The image was taken in front of a butterfly mural outside The Monarch restaurant in Utah – but the brief caption was strangely accompanied by an emoji of a fly. Straight away, fans, who’d been glued to her regular posts about her “Nomadic Statik” life on the road, sensed something was off.

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And when her mum received two “weird” messages just days later from the 22-year-old’s phone before being unable to get hold of her, she contacted police who eventually launched a missing persons investigation.

Gabby and Brian got engaged before their trip
Gabby and Brian got engaged before their trip

It quickly became a case that gripped the world and set in motion an army of internet sleuths in a bid to find Gabby – but noone was prepared for the many twists and turns that were about to happen.

Gabby had embarked on cross-country road trip in her Ford Transit van along with her fiancé Brian Laundrie on July 2, 2021.

Everything seemed perfect and the couple quickly attracted a large following, documenting their journey on social media and sharing their adventures across the vast national parks.

Gabby would contact her parents regularly, post long updates on YouTube and Instagram and send packages home with handwritten postcards and pictures for both hers and Brian’s family.

Gabby kept family and followers updated on life on the road
Gabby kept family and followers updated on life on the road

But contact stopped after Gabby’s mum, Nicole Schmidt received two “strange” text messages appearing to be from Gabby.

One abruptly just said: “No service in Yosemite” when she wasn’t even supposed to be in that area.

Another said: “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.”

In a three-part ITVX documentary called The Disappearance of Gabby Petito, Nicole explains how Gabby’s grandfather is called Stan but she never referred to him by his first name.

“It made no sense,” she said.

“I started to text her every day – for the first few days I thought she’s definitely camping in a place that has no service because I was used to hearing from her every day.”

Nicole said she also sent messages to Brian and his parents but never got any response.

Later, conspiracy theorists would suggest that Stan could’ve been an acronym for “Sent The Authorities Now.”

It came after police released bodycam footage that captured officers talking to Gabby and Brian at the roadside on August 12 after a witness reported seeing them having a violent argument.

Gabby was seen crying on the bodycam footage
Gabby was seen crying on the bodycam footage

The video shows Gabby crying and telling police they had been “fighting” and that they were having some “personal issues.”

But the pair were later released and continued on with their fateful journey.

Unbeknown to Gabby’s family, Brian returned home to Florida without Gabby on September 1. Once the public found out she was missing and he was home, angry protestors staked out outside his parents’ property for weeks demanding to know where she was.

The family who were represented by a top lawyer friend maintained their silence and police never questioned Brian as they had no evidence of any wrongdoing.

Brian's parents maintained their silence after he returned home without Gabby
Brian’s parents maintained their silence after he returned home without Gabby

Until he too went missing just days before Gabby’s body was found wrapped in a blanket near Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming on September 19.

Her death was ruled homicide by manual strangulation.

The following month, Brian’s body was found in a Florida nature reserve. He’d shot himself leaving behind a notebook in which he confessed to killing Gabby, but said it was a mercy killing after she slipped and hurt herself in a stream.

The news sent shockwaves around the world and the family never got to look their daughter’s killer in the eye or see him face justice.

Gabby and Brian's adventures ended in tragedy
Gabby and Brian’s adventures ended in tragedy

Earlier this week, Gabby’s mum Nicole spoke at CrimeCon 2024 in Tennessee where she said she’d forgiven Brian but expressed anger at his “mastermind” mum, Roberta.

She told the audience: “I speak for myself here when I say Brian, I forgive you.

“I needed to release myself from the chains of anger and bitterness, and I refuse to let your despicable act define the rest of my life.”

She added: “As for you, Roberta, and I call you out individually because you are evidently the mastermind that shattered your family and mine with your evil ways, I see no empathy in your eyes.

“No remorse in your heart and no willingness to take responsibility for your actions.”

Gabby’s parents sued the Laundries and accused them of knowing their son had murdered Gabby and helping him with the cover up of her death.

An undated letter from Roberta with “burn after reading” written on the envelope was released after a judge ruled the letter could be used as evidence in the suit.

The letter reads in part: “We will always love each other. If you’re in jail, I will bake a cake with a file in it.

“If you need to dispose of a body, I will show up with a shovel and garbage bags.”

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