The suspicious disappearance of 22-year-old vlogger Gabby Petito took a tragic turn on Sunday when the FBI announced that human remains found in Teton County, Wyoming, were “consistent” with her description. Petito’s family reported her missing on Sept. 11, after her fiancé Brian Laundrie returned to Florida without her on Sept. 1. According to Laundrie’s family, he disappeared on Sept. 14, three full days after Petito’s disappearance was reported.
Laundrie is a high-profile person of interest in the case, with an attorney for the Petito family insisting “Brian is not missing, he is hiding.” Authorities have failed to find Laundrie, admitting on Friday that they don’t know where he is.
The lead agency on the case said on Monday that it “currently has no plans to conduct a major search” of the Carlton Reserve, an over 24,000-acre preserve in Sarasota County, Florida, where state police said they have “exhausted all avenues” in looking. The FBI also announced the execution of a search warrant at the Laundrie residence on Monday.
Laundrie was the only person with Petito on the couple’s Wyoming road trip and apparently failed to report her disappearance (or a potential explanation for it) when he returned. Yet the above efforts are taking place six days after Laundrie disappeared, nine days after Petito’s family reported her missing, and 19 days after Laundrie returned to Florida without his fiancée.
Meanwhile, the FBI spent the weekend worrying about a rally that turned out to be an uneventful, sparse showing of a few hundred people, with law enforcement agents outnumbering attendees. In the past, the FBI has shown its willingness to bring the full force of its investigative power down on cases and individuals where it was laughably unmerited (or worse, sinister).
The FBI should be doing its utmost to solve jurisdictionally appropriate crimes like the Petito case appears to be, not running partisan ops, setups, or sham investigations. The FBI has an annual budget of over $10 billion and employs more than 35,000 people. Its failure to apprehend Laundrie in the days before he disappeared does not stem from a lack of resources but seems to reflect the FBI’s dissolution from a serious crimefighting apparatus to a dangerously political machine that’s bad at its job.
Why has the FBI let Brian Laundrie run away, while they’ve pulled out the stops for far less serious (but more political) investigations? If Laundrie had done any of the things below, he could very well already be in federal custody.
1. Leave a Pull Rope in His Garage
When NASCAR reported a “noose” found in the garage assigned to race car driver Bubba Wallace, the FBI launched an investigation into what Wallace called a “despicable act of racism and hatred.” After devoting 15 agents to the situation, however, the FBI admitted that the “noose” had been there since the year prior, far before anyone knew Wallace would be in that garage.
Furthermore, a NASCAR statement conceded that the FBI had found that the “noose” was actually a garage door pull rope.
2. Be a 71-Year-Old Grandmother Who Attended Trump’s Capitol Rally
Linda Menk, a 71-year-old grandmother and member of the Coweta County School Board in Georgia, told The Federalist in August that a pair of FBI agents visited her after she attended the ill-fated rally at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Menk reportedly “remained on the outskirts of the crowd at Trump’s White House speech, standing on the grounds of the Washington Monument to watch the jumbotron from afar,” before leaving about 10 minutes before the first rioters broke through the barriers at the Capitol.
But later that month, according to Menk, two agents called on her and “at first appeared suspicious with business cards … featuring hand-written phone numbers over blotches of white-out.” Neither presented a warrant or would tell her their badge numbers, she noted.
In the months that followed, “agents in all but one of the FBI’s 56 field offices have been drafted to track down” participants nationwide from the Jan. 6 events, USA Today noted. “Investigators who typically work cases involving the trafficking of drugs, child pornography and sex have taken calls from rioter’s angry ex-wives and former girlfriends and employers turned tipsters.”
3. Be a Crackpot Who Dislikes Gretchen Whitmer
After the hubbub of hysteria about an apparent plot to kill Democrat Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has drawn the ire of many residents for strict lockdowns that even she doesn’t follow, it turned out that “of 14 people indicted, five (or more) were working as informants for the FBI.”
“The five people who seem to be the FBI informants were also the people who seemed to have all the kidnapping ideas and access to all the equipment needed for a paramilitary assault on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s vacation home,” Matthew Braun noted for The Federalist. “At one point, the leadership of the conspiracy met, and three of the five people in that discussion were FBI.”
These revelations prompted outrage that the FBI may have instigated a plot that, without their leadership, likely would never have moved from thought to action. A defense attorney for one of the accused insisted his client was only engaging in “big talk between crackpots” and was “never going to do anything” in what looks like FBI entrapment.
4. Bribe Colleges into Accepting His Kids
The FBI made hay out of rich parents’ fraud while ignoring its own fraudulent behavior, irking many who believed a college admissions fiasco should not be the greatest concern of the nation’s domestic law enforcement agency.
While parents paying under the table for their children to be listed as recruited athletes or for their children’s test scores to be altered is undoubtedly wrong, pigeonholing these behaviors into charges of “honest services mail fraud” to allow for federal criminal prosecution hardly seems like the way the system was intended to work. Why did the FBI devote such emphasis to this case, rather than letting college authorities fire and expel as needed while the bureau focused on more urgent and jurisdictional matters?
5. Run for President Against Hillary Clinton
Since Donald Trump ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, it’s been revealed that the FBI used a “defensive” briefing to spy on the Trump campaign, part of the Crossfire Hurricane attempt to meddle in the election and undermine the Trump transition team. Related to that corrupt investigation, the FBI spied on phone calls of the vice president of Fox News.
Gabby Petito and her family deserve the best efforts from law enforcement in bringing the facts of her death to light and, if she was murdered, her killer to justice. We can hope the bureau succeeds in bringing justice to families like Petito’s, instead of looking more and more like a political appendage to sic on partisan threats.
Elle Reynolds is an assistant editor at The Federalist, and received her B.A. in government from Patrick Henry College with a minor in journalism. You can follow her work on Twitter at @_etreynolds.