Gabby Petito’s murder case will remain open while the FBI documents every step of the investgiation, every interview and every piece of evidence in case a future discovery contradicts the FBI’s findings.
In mid January, the FBI concluded that Gabby’s boyfriend Brian Laundrie claimed responsibility for her death in his notebook that was found next to his body after he shot himself.
It seemed at the point the case was closed, but the FBI told The Sun in an email this week that “the case is still open pending administrative actions prior to closing.”
The Bureau declined to comment further.
But David Shapiro – a retired FBI agent and distinguished lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice – peeled back the curtail and explained what happens before a case is officially closed.
“After this young woman went missing, they conducted an investigation and talked to people and whatever else was done. All that was documented, and that becomes the investigative file,” Shapiro told The Sun in exclusive interview this week.
“The investigative file is then stored electronically and in a paper file … It’s essentially dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but it’ an essential process to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“Just because the case is closed, the issue is not dead. Newly discovered evidence in the future can change things.”
This process takes at least three months – and many times more – depending on the complexity of the case, Shapiro said.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE NOTEBOOK?
Evidence – particularly something as vital as Laundrie’s notebook – may never be released, even to the family, Shapiro said.
The FBI said in its highly-anticipated report, which was released in mid January, that Laundrie admitted to killing Gabby in a suicide note in his notebook before he shot himself.
The Sun filed a Freedom of Information request for the notebook, which was denied by the FBI.
“The records responsive to your request are law enforcement records,” FBI said in response to The Sun’s public records request.
“There is a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding relevant to these responsive records, and release of the information could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
During the interview with Shapiro, which was days before the FBI’s response, Shapiro said the notebook “is probably going to be under lock and key because it’s a vital piece of the case.
“His parents can try to get, but it might be too important to give back to them, unless a court decides differently,” he said.
CAN THIS PROCESS DETERMINE THE NATURE OF GABBY’S DEATH?
The cause of death was revealed by about a month after Gabby’s body was found in a Wyoming state forest on September 19, 2021.
Her autopsy revealed that she was strangled up to four weeks before her body was found, but law enforcement never said if her murder was premeditated, sudden passion or self defense.
That likely won’t ever be known, Shaprio said.
“You need people with evidence to prove that, and honestly, some issues can’t be resolved,” he said.
“If there’s surveillance, maybe you can, but there’s only so much law enforcement can do.
“You can try to make links. You call this person who knows this and has this piece of evidence. Absent that, sometimes we just don’t know.”