After weeks of piecing together the last moments of the life of Gabby Petito, her family and her supporters finally have a crucial answer in her case. A Wyoming coroner disclosed on Tuesday that after examining Gabby’s remains—located on September 19 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest—that Gabby had died as a direct result of strangulation. The Teton County Coroner, Dr. Brent Blue, had previously ruled her death as a homicide with the manner of homicide undetermined. No further details have been released at this time. The Petito cause of death likely comes as little comfort to the country at large, which is currently in the grips of a wide-scale man-hunt for Gabby’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in her murder.
The Petito cause of death is just one more piece in composing the 1000-piece puzzle of Gabby’s last days. Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie were on a cross-country trip in a repurposed Ford Transit van, documenting their travels and experiences through social media. Before Gabby fell completely out of contact with her family in late August, her family was unable to determine if the scant few text messages they received were even authored by Gabby. Even more disturbing, Brian Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida alone on September 1, 2021. Gabby wasn’t reported missing until her family finally filed a missing person report on September 11, 2021. However, when authorities went to question Brian Laundrie on his knowledge of Gabby’s whereabouts, his parents shielded him from police. Not long after that, Brian Laundrie was nowhere to be found, leaving even more questions about what his exact role was in the Petito cause of death. He told his family on September 14 that he was going out for a hike and has not been seen since.
In addition to determining cause of death, Blue was also able to determine that Gabby’s remains had been in the wilderness for approximately 3-4 weeks before she was found by authorities, placing her time of death in mid to late August. While Laundrie has only been named a ‘person of interest’ by law enforcement, there is still a warrant out for his arrest after authorities determined Laundrie used Gabby’s debit card without her permission. While the internet has speculated highly about the relationship dynamic between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, one of the only hard pieces of evidence available to the public is a police body-cam video that captured the aftermath of an argument between them following a report to 911 that a man in Utah had witnessed Laundrie slap Gabby. When the responding officer pulled the Ford Transit over with Gabby in the passenger seat, the couple was separated for the evening to avoid domestic violence charges.
While the search for Brian Laundrie continues throughout the United States—even with the help of Dog the Bounty Hunter—missing person experts like Thomas Lauth suspect that Brian had evaded police through a combination of survival knowledge and help from third parties, “I have never thought he would stay in Florida very long,” Lauth said. “I believe he had some outside resources available to him early on, but those outside resources have likely cut him off because he’s a fugitive…He’s been a savvy traveler for many years. When I say ‘savvy,’ he’s able to live off the land and he knows how to travel alone and lightly.”
When a drone enthusiast set out to capture the Palm Bay scenery from above, little did he know that he was about to be plunged into a twelve-year-old missing person case. Dan Osterhout had flown his drone above the Bayside Lakes neighborhood in Palm Bay, central Florida, many times before. However, within his drone’s destined route on Thursday 27th May, unusually dry weather had triggered a unique set of circumstances that would yield unexpected results in the drone flight.
The water level of a nearby retention pond was lower than ever, and the water was particularly clear. As Osterhout examined his captured footage of the depths below, he realized that he could see a vehicle submerged in the water, and he quickly reported it to the authorities. The silver 2002 Ford Mustang in question was connected to a 2009 missing person case that had long gone cold.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Philippe Desir
Philippe Desir vanished from Palm Bay on February 7th, 2009, just around the corner from the pond in question. In a disappearance shrouded in mystery, Police Lieutenant Chris Imel shared that “his wife reported him missing during the middle of the night.” He reported that Desir’s wife had said that “he just got up and left the house and that was pretty much the end of it.” The missing man was 38 years old at the time when he vanished, and would be 50 years old today.
The Missing Endangered Persons Alert issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement described Desir as an African-American male, last seen wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. With no indication of suspicious circumstances and no trail to follow, the case of Desir’s disappearance soon went cold. Fast forward to 2021, following Osterhout’s discovery, it was Desir’s distinctive 2002 silver Ford Mustang that would signal the connection between the 2009 case and the tragic discovery of human remains within the Palm Bay pond.
Arrival of the Underwater Recovery Team
Upon investigation, members of the Palm Bay Police Underwater Recovery Team were able to locate the metallic two-door Mustang seen by the drone that would later be confirmed as registered to Desir. The car was found upside-down, with the windows rolled down. Its tires were reportedly mangled, and the windshield damaged, leading to speculation as to how the vehicle may have arrived in its submerged state.
After the recovery team slowly pulled the sediment-filled vehicle from the water, investigators confirmed that skeletal remains were found within it—including an intact skull. While it may seem logical to conclude that the remains are that of Philippe Desir, absolute certainty will remain out of reach until the medical examiner’s investigation is finalized.
Possible Closure on A Long-Unsolved Case
Speaking to Florida Today about the Philippe Desir missing person case, Police Lieutenant Jeff Spears of the Palm Bay Police Department explained, “this was a cold case. But it’s one of those situations where we do what we do. We always follow up on missing person cases every year to validate that the person is still missing.”
Following these most recent developments, Lieutenant Imel is reported to have added, “at this point, there does not appear to be any indication of foul play, but yet again it is still under investigation. As far as suicide goes, that is something else that is under investigation.”
There has been no media mention of Desir’s friends and family over the course of recent coverage but, whenever a person’s disappearance remains unexplained, there is likely to be those who carry the burden of not knowing what happened to their loved one. While it is true that the sad loss of a life—far too young—has been revealed under the strangest of circumstances, there may be some small comfort to find in answers to those questions that remained unresolved for so many years.
In Chicago, Illinois, the search is still underway for a missing United Airlines executive who went disappeared on August 6, 2020. Jake Cefolia, 49, is the senior vice president of United Airlines worldwide sales. He was last seen on August 6 before plans to go for a run in his neighborhood. Even after twenty days missing, police have declared they still have no leads in his disappearance.
After he was reported missing on August 8, a search campaign was immediately launched to find the airline executive, including law enforcement, citizen volunteers, and a Facebook group that continues to grow every day. As of August 24, Elmhurst Police Chief, Michael Ruth, informed the press that authorities had yet to find any reason to suspect foul play in Cefolia’s disappearance. One of the scant clues in Cefolia’s disappearance was his abandoned vehicle. After two days of searching, the vehicle was finally located in a Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve parking lot.
Law enforcement circled resources, including over 100 volunteers and K-9 dog units to search the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. Chief David Peterson of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County told ABC7 Chicago said that they knew Cefolia commonly ran a 10-mile loop in the preserve, “We don’t know for sure he’s still at the forest preserve, but at this point there’s been no contact with family or friends.” The area law enforcement have been searching for the missing United Airlines executive spans 2,500 acres, and required additional deployment of foot patrol, K-9 units, drones, boats, and all-terrain vehicles. “We are hoping to find him. Every time our phone is ringing, I’m wondering, is this the call where we find him.” Peterson told ABC7. In addition to his car, the Elmhurst Police also had a chance to review surveillance footage from a gas station nearby after Cefolia was seen at his home the day he went missing. Chief Michael Ruth pointed out that although the footage is low-quality, Jake Cefolia’s manner of dress was not consistent with a person who was going on a run.
His employer also took notice when Cefolia did not report for work on August 7, and has released a statement pertaining to the missing United Airlines executive, “Our friend and colleague, Jake Cefolia, SVP of Worldwide Sales, was last seen Thursday evening, August 6th. We are concerned about his well-being and have been in touch with Jake’s family over the last couple of days to offer them our support. At the request of the family, we won’t be releasing any additional details at this time.”
Independently of law enforcement, Jake Celfolia’s family has organized their own search efforts, including a Facebook page with over 1000 members where people can compare information and intelligence on their own searches. The police report on Cefolia’s disappearance states that he “had been stressed out lately” due to work pressures, and that his ex-wife had told police her former husband had sometimes fantasized about “going off the grid.” There were also reports that Cefolia might have been feeling despondent recently due to a breakup with a girlfriend.
In a recent article published by CrimeOnline, journalist Ellen Killoran reported that prior to the onset of Cefolia’s missing person case, the missing United Airlines executive was the subject of a criminal probe. Chief Ruth was unable to provide further details, but stated that “a criminal investigation was underway” prior to Cefolia’s disappearance. It should be noted that Cefolia has not been charged with any crimes, and that there are no warrants for his arrest. “We would like to find him and reunite him with his family, and [continue with] the other aspect that we have going on.”
An arrest has been made in the disappearance of Colorado missing boy Gannon Stauch.
Letecia “Tecia” Stauch has been arrested on first-degree murder charges in the disappearance of her stepson Gannon Stauch. It has been nearly five weeks since Gannon was reported missing.
According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at a press conference, the arrest occurred on the morning of March 2, 2020, in Horry County, South Carolina. El Paso County Sheriff’s Office detectives, FBI agents, and members of the El Paso County 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office made the arrest of Letecia Stauch without incident.
Letecia will be held without bail in the Horry County Jail on the charges of Murder in the First Degree of a Child Under Twelve, Child Abuse Resulting in Death, a charge of Tampering with a Deceased Body, and Tampering with Physical Evidence. She is currently awaiting extradition back to El Paso County, Colorado.
Gannon, 11, was reported missing by Letecia Stauch on January 27, 2020, claiming Gannon had gone to a friend’s home in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood and failed to come home.
Initially, authorities called Gannon a runaway when they first asked the public to help find the little boy. But the sheriff’s office announced January 30 that Gannon was considered a missing endangered child because of his age, the time he had been gone, and his reliance on medication.
The search that was supposed to take place last Friday in the area of Highway 105 and Highway 83 was postponed and authorities announced a major development in the investigation that would be released during the press conference held at noon.
During the press conference, investigators said they believe Gannon is no longer alive and they have yet to locate him. They reiterated search efforts to locate Gannon’s remains would continue.
“Today I got the worst news and the best news,” said Gannon’s biological mother Landen Hiott had been holding out hope her son was still alive. “Obviously we know what the worst news is. The best news is that justice will be served. And I’ll make sure that justice is served because my boy did not deserve any of this that happened.”
Authorities said the affidavit has been sealed and remains tight-lipped on the evidence that led them to arrest Letecia.
“Just hold on to questions until we know that this person, this stepmom that I even trusted, that she will pay 100 percent for this heinous thing she done,” said Landen. “And I know that’s what will be done.”
Al Stauch, Gannon’s father did not speak at the press conference, but a sheriff’s department spokesperson held back tears as her voice cracked while reading Al’s statement.
“The person who committed this heinous horrible crime is the one that I gave more to than anyone else on this planet and that is a burden that I will carry with me for a very long time,” Al said.
He writes that his heart stopped on the day that Gannon was born on September 29, 2008, coming way too early and weighing only one pound six ounces–and again on March 2, 2020, when he learned his little boy would never be coming home.
“I’d been looking forward to his teenage years, and the fun we had ahead of us as he became a young man,” Al said. “My little boy is not coming home. We will never play Nintendo again. No more Taco Tuesdays. No more smooth looking haircuts. No more “Big Bubba” for my Lana. And no more G Man for the world.”
“While we have not yet found Gannon, information has been developed that is helping us narrow our search, said Lieutenant Mitch Mihalko of the sheriff’s office.
Since Gannon vanished, crews have been scouring dozens of acres of southern Douglas County, in search of the missing boy’s body.
“As you can see from the arrest sadly, we do not believe Gannon is alive. Our work is just beginning, and you will continue to see many law enforcement officials in El Paso County over the coming weeks and possibly months as we continue our relentless pursuit of justice for Gannon and his family.”
Prior to the arrest, Letecia had been obsessively posting on various social media sites, professing her innocence and offering explanations as to what happened to Gannon, even developing a timeline she posted on Facebook.
Letecia claimed she was harassed online and should be offered an apology from everyone who suspected she could have ever hurt her stepson.
However, Gannon’s family has continuously urged the public to call in with any information to contact law enforcement so that they may be able to give Gannon a proper burial.
“I know where my son’s at without a shadow of a doubt, said Landen. “I want to leave this earth knowing justice was served for my boy.”
Prosecutors and the sheriff’s office are still asking for information from the public to help bring their promise for justice to fruition.
“One, we still want to bring Gannon home so that he can have a proper burial and his family can get the closure they need,” said Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen. “But we also want to hold the person we are charging, Letecia Stauch accountable for what she did.”
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Gannon Stauch, please call the El Paso County Sheriff at 719-520-6666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The nation has been feverishly following the dramatic events that surround the disappearance of two Idaho children, whose mother and stepfather fled the state following a request for a wellness check by a family member. Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and Tylee Ryan were last seen last fall, around the time their mother, Lori Vallow pulled J.J. from public school, citing a new job that would require the family to move out of state.
Authorities tracked Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband,
Chad Daybell to the island of Kauai in Hawaii at the beginning of 2020.
Authorities told her that she had until January 30th to produce her
children to a state office to prove they were alive and well, but that date
came and went—still no sign of J.J. or Tylee.
Despite failure to produce her children, Lori Vallow Daybell
was not immediately arrested on a contempt of court charge, much to the
public’s bewilderment. However, there are legal experts who said that law
enforcement must build a strong case before taking a legal swing at Vallow
Daybell. Samuel Newton, an assistant law professor at the University of Idaho
said, “I’m willing to bet what everyone is trying to do is get enough evidence
to get an arrest and prove some sort of felony. What they don’t’ want to do is
file a charge and then have it get dismissed because there’s nothing to support
Lori Vallow Daybell was finally arrested last week on the island of Kauai where she fled with her husband. The couple had been seen “island-hopping” while law enforcement built a case against her. When she appeared in court on her bail hearing, the judge handed down a judgement of $5 million dollars. Vallow appeared in court again on Wednesday to have that bail reduced to $10,000. Her extradition from Hawaii is being reportedly expedited by Idaho governor, Brad Little, who told a local news station, “I hope there is justice, and I hope the children are found.”
On New Year’s Eve, vandals defaced a billboard of KIMT anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit, from Mason City, Iowa.
The billboard is among three in Mason City, that shows a picture of the beautiful Iowa news anchor, asking the question “Someone knows something, is it you?”
The cryptic words sprayed in bright yellow paint say, “Frank Stearns Machine Shed” across the bottom half of the billboard. Frank Stearns was a longtime detective with Mason City Police Department who diligently worked Jodi’s case. Now retired, Stearns is now a city death scene investigator.
In 2011, in a bizarre twist of events, the Globe Gazette reported that former Mason City police officer Maria Ohl accused two Mason City police officers and a retired Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agent of being involved in the abduction and potential murder of Jodi.
Ohl, a ten-year veteran, said she received credible information from an informant in 2007, and again in 2009, who implicated Lt. Frank Stearns, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd and Bill Basler in the abduction. Ohl said she told her superiors but heard only crickets.
Ohl says she was terminated due to her handling of Jodi’s case information.
“It’s horrifically disturbing. They’re still working on the taxpayers’ dollar – the whistleblower was put on administrative leave and terminated.”
Joshua Benson, an evening anchor at an Orlando ABC affiliate who founded FindJodi.com, said Ohl had also confided in him but he could not find any information that would corroborate her claims.
In fact, at the time the complaint was filed, an official investigation also found no validity in Ohl’s claims.
Cold Case investigator Steve Ridge told KIMT that he knows how and when the billboard was vandalized. He says two individuals dressed in black parked in the rear alley behind a tattoo parlor and erected an aluminum ladder against the wall at 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
While one held the ladder, the other spray-painted “Frank Stearns” in large letters and “Machine Shed” in smaller print below. Ridge said the parking lot of the nearby bar was full, as dozens of cars passed right below the billboard while the individuals were vandalizing it.
Ridge spoke to Frank Steans at his residence on January 3, 2020. His residence in a rural community does have a detached building on the premises, however, Stearns lived elsewhere in 1995. While the billboard vandals surely meant to dredge up old wounds and accusations, Stearns remains a respected member of the community and says he hopes they are found and punished.
Jodi, 27, vanished from the outside of her downtown apartment in Mason City on Tuesday, June 27, 1995. The day before, Jodi had played in the local Chamber of Commerce golf tournament. According to friend John Vansice, afterward, Jodi went to his house to view a videotape of a birthday celebration that he had set up for her earlier in the month.
Jodi went home and called a friend before going to bed. She usually left for work at 3:00 a.m. to anchor the morning show at KIMT. At approximately 4:00 a.m. KIMT producer Amy Kuns noticed that Jodi had not shown up to work. “I called her twice. I talked to her and woke her up the first time,” Kuns told WFLA news anchor Josh Benson. “The second time it just rang and rang. I don’t remember the times. I had obviously woken her up. She asked what time it was. I told her. She said she would be right in.”
Jodi was usually prompt and never missed work, so by 7:00 a.m. KIMT staff had called the Mason City Police Department to conduct a welfare check.
The Police Investigation
When police arrived at Jodi’s apartment, shortly after 7:00 a.m., her red Mazda Miata was in the parking lot. Officers found a pair of red women’s pumps, a bottle of hairspray, blower dryer and earrings, along with a bent car key, strewn around the car reflecting a struggle had taken place at the vehicle.
A search was conducted of Jodi’s apartment, the parking lot, and the nearby Winnebago River.
Early on, the then Mason City Police Chief Jack Schlieper said he suspected foul play. Investigators from the Iowa DCI and the Federal Bureau of Investigation would eventually join the search. It was later reported that investigators had lifted an unidentified palm print off her car.
By that Wednesday, as Jodi’s desk sat empty, police continued their extensive search for the young news anchor. Schlieper told reporters at a news conference that police and K-9 units were continuing to search along a two-mile area of the Winnebago River that runs through a park near Jodi’s apartment on North Kentucky Avenue.
Police did discover items of clothing along the riverbanks but at the time could not determine if they were Jodi’s.
Police confirmed that some residents heard noises that sounded like an animal or animal noises the morning Jodi vanished. We now know she screamed as she was dragged back down the center of the parking bumpers by her car, as her heel marks were left in the dirt on the pavement.
Neighbors also reported seeing a white van in the parking lot with its parking lights on that evening.
Eventually, there would be questions about whether the crime scene was correctly processed. In hindsight, the answer would be no. For instance, a friend of Jodi’s said police didn’t immediately tape off the crime scene which could have resulted in contamination or evidence being overlooked. In addition, Jodi’s car was released to her parents shortly after the disappearance instead of being kept as evidence.
Current Chief of Police Jeff Brinkley was asked by 48 Hours if he thought the car was released in haste. He replied, “Maybe.”
“We don’t have it,” Brinkley said. “But we just have to live with what we got, and –and try to do as good as we can with that.”
Brinkley is the fourth police chief to have Jodi’s case under his command.
“Basically, all my free time is following up on this case,” said Mason City Police Officer Terrance Prochaska, who took over the case in 2010.
“What caused her to sleep in that day? What caused her to answer the phone and rush to work? What was she doing the night before? We all want to know the fine details. We know where she was at. She was golfing. She had driven home and made a phone call to her friend. Those are facts. But it’s that gray area in between we don’t understand.”
Person of Interest
It is known after work; Jodi attended the gold tournament. While at the tournament, she told some of her friends that she had been receiving prank phone calls and was thinking of going to the police and changing her number.
Afterward, John Vansice, who was 22 years older than Jodi, was the last person to have seen her. They watched a video he had shot at the surprise birthday party he had arranged for her.
“She was like a daughter to me, she was like my own child,” Vansice said to KIMT in 1995. “I treated her like my own child.”
Though Vansice has long been suspected by friends of Jodi to have been involved in her abduction, a friend of Vansice named LaDonna Woodford says there is no way, because she had called him at 6:00 a.m. that morning wanting to go for a walk. When they walked, she says he didn’t seem anxious or out of sorts in any way.
Vansice also passed a polygraph in 1995 and never named an official suspect. However, in March 2017, search warrants were issued for the GPS records of Vansice’s 1999 Honda Civic and 2013 GMC 1500. It was the most substantial break in the case in decades. However, nothing of importance was ever recovered.
“We have never closed the case,” Chief Brinkley told 48 Hours. “It’s never been a closed case for us. It’s been an active investigation since it happened.”
“I’m not ready to quit yet,” Brinkley added.
JoAnn Nathe also told 48 Hours that she was once suspicious of John, but “we have to be objective; we have to have an open mind. It could be somebody we least expect.”
It has already been reported that Jodi had gone water skiing with John Vansice and a couple of friends the weekend before she vanished.
In Jodi’s June 25, 1995, entry in her journal she wrote, “Got home from a weekend trip to Iowa City — oh we had fun! It was wild, partying and water skiing. We skied at the Coralville Res. I’m improving on the skis — hips up, lean, etc. John’s son Trent gave me some great ski tip advice.”
In November 2019, Cold Case Investigator Steve Ridge revealed that Jodi also boarded the Mastercraft ski boat of two younger men she had met the same weekend.
Ridge told KWWL News that he spoke to witnesses who were at the lake that Saturday in 1995, who said Vansice was not enthused she had left to spend time with younger men, but he did not overreact or cause a scene, as some said Vansice was inclined to do.
Ridge said that once Jodi and a female friend boarded the boat, they were seen drinking and dancing on the boat. Ridge said the owner of the boat took a video of them which was given to Mason City Police investigators.
Ridge said he was still investigating whether one or both of the young men may have visited Jodi, or attempted to visit her the next day, or Monday, the night she was abducted.
Ridge believes it is conceivable that a confrontation could have occurred that would shed light on a motive for Jodi’s abduction. “A lot of unfortunate things came together in a relatively short period of time just before Jodi went missing,” claims Ridge.
Ridge continues to work with authorities though he is an independent investigator.
Jodi was born June 5, 1968, and raised in Long Prairie, Minnesota, a small town of less than 3,500 in 2010. She was the youngest daughter of Maurice Huisentruit and her mother Imogene “Jane” Anderson.
In high school, Jodi excelled at golf and was considered to have amazing talent at the game. Her team won the Class A tournament in 1985 and 1986.
After high school, Jodi went to St. Cloud University, where she studied speech and mass communications, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1990.
Though she wanted to be a reporter, after graduating, Jodi’s first job was with Northwest Airlines. She began her broadcasting career with KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as the station’s bureau chief. She then returned to Minnesota for a job with KSAX in Alexandria before returning to Iowa for the position as a news anchor with KIMT.
“She wanted to be famous,” her childhood friend Kim Feist told 48 Hours.
Jodi was driven but she also was very close to her mom. In a late January 1994 diary entry, it said “improve my career, make more money, communicate, have more impact on a larger audience. Get the Huisentruit name out. Make Mom proud.”
“I couldn’t have had a better kid sister,” said Jodi’s sister JoAnn Nathe told WOWT in Omaha. “She tried to motivate me. What are your goals? That makes me stronger. It’s a nightmare not knowing where she is. We thought we would find her in the first few months.”
Their mother, Imogene, passed away in December 2014 at age 91, not knowing where her daughter was. “She so wanted to find Jodi,” Nathe said.
As time passes, it doesn’t get easier for families. Memories fade and tips wane, but the hope to bring Jodi home for a proper burial still burns bright in the hearts of those that loved her.