Brian Laundrie 'forced Gabby Petito to say she was his fiancé' at Idaho ice cream shop on road trip

BRIAN Laundrie "prompted" Gabby Petito to say she was engaged during an "odd" encounter at an Idaho ice cream shop shortly before she was murdered, a store worker has claimed.

Sunny Mason, who works at Victor's Emporium, just 30 miles from Grand Teton National Park, says she believes Gabby, 22, and Brian, 23, stopped by her store on either August 25 or August 26.


August 25 is the date Gabby uploaded what would be her final Instagram post and Facetimed her mother for the last time. August 26 is the day before witnesses claimed to have seen Brian screaming at wait staff in a Wyoming restaurant while Gabby stood nearby in tears.

During Mason's alleged encounter with the couple, she said she remembered bonding with Gabby about the flower tattoo on the vlogger's left arm.

'STRANGE' BEHAVIOR

She says Gabby told her that she and her partner were on a road trip touring US national parks, with Yellowstone being their next stop.

But it was Brian's "strange" behavior that really stood out, Mason said.

"It felt to me that he almost prompted her to tell me that she was engaged," Mason remembered to a local news outlet. "We get a lot of engaged couples and it doesn't usually come up that way.

"It just felt kind of odd," she continued, "like it was a reminder to her to be like 'Ooh look, we're engaged.

"It felt like he felt slighted for her not talking about her engagement, or her not being excited [about it]."

Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…

Other store owners and workers have previously claimed to have interacted with the couple in the area at around the same time as Mason.

Last month the owner of Rustic Row in Victor, Idaho, said the couple also made a stop at their store on August 25 or August 26.

"They told me they were traveling from Florida," the owner, who wasn't named, told EastIdahoNews.com. "They had just been to Teton Park and they said they were interested in going to Yellowstone and I told them they could go to the west entrance."

The store owner added: "They seemed happy and when they left, she hollered back from the door that they were engaged and then I said congratulations."

FINAL MOVEMENTS

The following day, the same day Brian was allegedly spotted shouting in a Wyoming restaurant, Gabby's mother Nichole Schmidt said she received an "odd" text from her daughter's phone.

It read: "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls."

Schmidt, however, said she doesn't believe Gabby sent the "odd" text, as Stan is Gabby's grandfather whom she doesn't refer to by his first name.

Days later, on September 1, Laundrie then returned home to North Port Florida in the couple's repurposed van but there was no sign of Gabby.

Laundrie offered no explanation about where Gabby was and immediately retained an attorney.

She was eventually reported missing by her mother on September 11.

Gabby's remains were then found at a campsite near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on September 19.

The manner of Gabby's death was ruled a homicide and coroner's revealed on Tuesday that she had been strangled to death by "human force", which is otherwise referred to as throttling.

She had also been left out in the wilderness for between three to four weeks, coroners said.

That puts her time of death around the end of August, sometime between August 25 and August 29.

QUESTIONS REMAIN

Officials have so far refused to speculate who they believe killed Gabby. They also say they're unsure whether the killer "used hands or an instrument" to strangle her to death.

Brian has not yet been named as a suspect in the case but is considered a person of interest.

He is also wanted by police for alleged bank fraud after investigators said he used a credit card believed to have belonged to Gabby in late August, racking up charges amounting to $1,000.

A tireless four-week search for Brian has so far failed to yield any concrete leads.

Law enforcement have been focusing their efforts on the Carlton Reserve, while TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter has been conducting his own search in Fort De Soto Park, where Brian had gone camping with his parents before disappearing.

An investigation into Gabby's murder continues.



Gabby Petito timeline

Gabby Petito, 22, was last seen on August 24, leaving a hotel in Utah. Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito’s disappearance:

  • June 2021 – Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie set off on a cross-country trip across the US.
  • July 4 – Gabby posts photos of herself barefoot in Gove County, Kansas.
  • July 8 – Gabby posts photos of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
  • July 18 – Gabby and Brian post photos of themselves at Utah's Zion National Park.
  • August 12 – Body camera footage was released in September showing an encounter Brian and Gabby had with police in Utah. Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.
  • August 19 – Gabby and Brian post a video on their YouTube channel chronicling their trip.
  • August 24 – Gabby is spotted leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • August 25 – Gabby Facetimes her mom, Nichole Schmidt, for the final time. In a later police report, Schmidt said her conversations with her daughter revealed "more and more tension" between her and Brian.
  • August 25 – Gabby also posts her last Instagram. No location is given.
  • August 27 – Gabby is seen for what's believed to be the final time. Witnesses claim they saw Brian in an explosive argument with staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, leaving Gabby in tears.
  • August 27 – Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple's van "abandoned" on a dirt road.
  • September 1 – Brian returns home to Florida without Gabby.
  • September 11 – Gabby's parents report her missing to Suffolk County police.
  • September 14 – Brian's family issues a statement saying he has retained an attorney and will not be cooperating with investigators.
  • September 14 – Brian is allegedly last seen by his family. He reportedly told them he was going hiking in Cartlon Reserve but failed to return.
  • September 15 – Florida's North Port police announce Brian is a person of interest in the case. He is not charged with any crime.
  • September 16 – Utah police release body camera footage of the police encounter with Brian and Gabby.
  • September 17 – Brian's parents say they have not seen their son in a couple of days and report him missing.
  • September 18 – Police announce they were searching Carlton Reserve in Florida for Brian. Police announce they have not found anything.
  • September 19 – Authorities in Wyoming say they found a body in Grand Teton National Park. The FBI announces the body was believed to be Gabby's but a full forensic identification needs to be completed first to confirm.
  • September 20 – Police execute a search warrant on Laundrie's home, seizing his silver Mustang and a hard drive that may contain "evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed."
  • September 21 – Officials announce they will be conducting an autopsy on the remains found in Wyoming to confirm whether or not they belong to Gabby. Police also resumed their search for Laundrie, this time on the Venice side of Carlton Reserve.
  • September 21 – The FBI announced the body found in Wyoming was identified as Gabby's. The cause of death was not yet revealed.
  • September 21 – The Teton County Coroner's office said Gabby's official cause of death was still pending but the initial manner of death is homicide.
  • September 22 – Police continue to scour Carlton Reserve for a trace of Laundrie but yield no leads. A specialist dive team is called in to assist with the hunt.
  • September 23 – Officials announced a federal arrest warrant for Brian was issued.
  • September 26 – Gabby's funeral was held on Long Island, New York.
  • October 12: Gabby's autopsy results were made public. Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed Gabby died by strangulation.

 

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