The story of Gabby Petit, boosted by the epidemic of social media and crime nonfiction

Disappearance and almost certain death Gabby Petit And police searching for her boyfriend created a whirlwind online. Numerous armchair detectives and others share tips, possible sightings, and theories. Ticktaku Instagram When YouTube

It’s not clear if the enthusiasm of attention and internet detectives helped in the investigation, but it did reveal a crossroads between social media and the public’s appeal to crime stories.

A few months before she disappeared, there were over 500 million views of TikTok, Petito, and 22- and 23-year-old boyfriends. Brian Laundry She departed from Florida on a cross-country road trip during the summer in a van decorated in a boho chic style.

They videotape their adventures, invite social media users to continue their journey, share scenes of happy couples who appear to be cartwheeling on the beach, hike on mountain trails, and Utah. I camped in the desert.

However, they quarreled along the way and Laundry went home alone in a van in September. Over the weekend, a supposedly petite body was found on the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Investigators did not say how she died, but identified Laundry, who is currently missing, as an interested person.

Social media users are fascinated by the incident and are pondering a wealth of online videos and photos for clues.

Joseph Scott-Morgan, a professor of forensic medicine at Jacksonville State University and a well-known murder authority, said: “They are young and attractive people,” he added.

Another source of attraction is a police body camera video released last week showing a couple after being pulled in August in Moab, Utah. There, a van was seen hitting a curb for speeding. They were caught in a quarrel and Petit wept. Laundry said tensions were rising between them as they traveled with them for months.

Theory and observation gained momentum on Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.

Users scrutinized Petito’s Spotify music playlists, Laundrie’s reading habits, and couples’ digitally bookmarked trails. TikTok users reported picking up a Laundrie hitchhiking.

And the couple recording a bus trip on YouTube said they saw some video footage from near Grand Teton and found them saying it was the couple’s white van. They posted an image of it with a big red arrow pointing to it and the words “I found Gabby Petit’s van”. They said that was the reason they led the investigators to the area where the bodies were found.

The FBI hasn’t identified what led to the discovery, nor did it say whether other tips from internet detectives helped.

Michael Alcazar, a former detective in New York City and a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Petit’s Instagram account gave investigators a starting point and social media is a source of rich hints. Said that it became.

“Instagram is like a picture of a milk carton, except that it reaches so many people quickly,” he said.

Meanwhile, some users have disseminated false information and reported potential sightings of Petito and Laundrie that turned out to be wrong.

Hannah Matthews, a TikTok user at Salt Lake City, admitted that she was obsessed with the incident, equated it with Petito, and said she felt it could be her. She detailed the theory of what went wrong and produced 14 short videos providing up-to-date information on the incident. One of them suggests that Petito didn’t write any Instagram posts. It has been viewed nearly 2 million times.

“It looked like a strange case from the beginning, and after further research and (cooperating) with others on social media, the case continued to grow and there were twists and turns,” she said. ..

As of Tuesday, the hashtag #gabbypetito has been played over 650 million times on TikTok. By comparison, #FreeBritney’s post on a bid for pop star Britney Spears to end the power of attorney received 1.9 billion views.

Kelly Bowling, a professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who studied audience acceptance, said: Crime nonfiction podcast.

She said that those who were fascinated by such incidents could be victims of domestic violence who believed that such materials could help cope with their own experiences.

“Some people are really attracted to it from places of healing, or from places that want to find justice for young women,” Bowling said.

While expressing sympathy for Petito, she is young and white, so media and online detectives complain that they are investing heavily in this case and consider it a racial double standard. Some people have detected things.

Alex Picero, a criminal scholar at the University of Miami, said:

At least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020 in the same state where Petito was found.

It was also reported that an LGBT couple who lived in Van was missing, after which Petit and her boyfriend were found shot dead at a campsite near Moab shortly after being stopped by police. The deaths of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner produced some media coverage, but nothing like the Petito case.

The incident also occurred, perhaps as a reaction to the isolation forced by people by the outbreak of COVID-19, especially when there was a great deal of interest in cross-country travel in vans and motorhomes. According to Picero, the couple’s plans sounded like something in a romantic movie had failed terribly.

“It has this whole air of conspiracy. People have real illusions about being able to solve crimes,” he said.


Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writer Barbara Ortutay of San Francisco and Mike Schneider of Orlando, Florida contributed to this report.

The story of Gabby Petit, boosted by the epidemic of social media and crime nonfiction

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