'Freaked out': Woman says she picked up Gabby Petito's boyfriend hitchhiking

·News Reporter
·3-min read

Another woman claims to have picked up the hitchhiking boyfriend of slain Gabby Petito just two days after she was last seen.

A manhunt for the 22-year-old YouTube blogger's partner, Brian Laundrie, is underway after the 23-year-old was reported missing by his parents on September 17. They hadn't seen him in three days after he set off for a hike.

Ms Petito, who was last seen on August 27, was found dead at a national park in Wyoming this week after a cross-country van trip with Mr Laundrie. 

Police named him as a person of interest after he returned to their Florida home on September 1 without Ms Petito. 

This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was travelling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park.
Brian Laundrie speaks to a police officer after being pulled over in the van he was travelling in with Gabby Petito in August. Source: AAP

On Thursday (local time), Norma Jean Javolec told Fox News she had just realised that she had picked up Mr Laundrie, who was hitchhiking, on August 29 and dropped him off at the Spread Creek camping area where Ms Petito’s remains were found.

Ms Javolec said she had been at a church service in the area when she spotted the 23-year-old and asked him where he was going.

After she revealed that she lived in the opposite direction that he wanted to go, Ms Javolec said Mr Laundrie jumped into her passenger seat and asked to taken to Spread Creek.

She told Fox News the pair made small talk, during which he told her he had a fiancee and offered money for petrol. 

At one point, she said she made a sharp turn and her bible fell from the dashboard onto the 23-year-old's lap. He simply placed it back. 

Gabby Petito, 22, is pictured.
Gabby Petito, 22, was reported missing on September 11 and later found dead in a national park. Source: AAP

However, Ms Javolec told the publication that when she offered to drive him into the camping area instead of dropping him off out front, Mr Laundrie "freaked out" and tried "to get out of the moving car".

"Everything's legitimate. Everything's corroborated. I already talked to the FBI," she said, adding that she only realised she had given Mr Laundrie a lift after spotting a TikTok video by Miranda Baker. 

Ms Baker also claims to have given Mr Laundrie a ride.

Search for Brian Laundrie continues

In Florida, searchers spent an unsuccessful week searching for Mr Laundrie in the forbidding wilderness preserve near his parents’ home.

The search at the Carlton Reserve park began after Mr Laundrie told his parents he was going there, several days after returning home alone.

On Friday, Ms Petito's friend has revealed Mr Laundrie has the skills needed to survive in the wilderness.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Rose Davis revealed the 23-year-old had spent three months hiking the Appalachian trail last year by himself.

The US District Court of Wyoming issued a federal arrest warrant for Mr Laundrie on Wednesday (local time), relating to "activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito".

FBI agents begin to take away evidence from the family home of Brian Laundrie, who is a person of interest after his fiancee Gabby Petito went missing on in North Port, Florida.
FBI agents take away evidence from the family home of Mr Laundrie. Source: Getty Images

The warrant, however, was issued in relation to the “unauthorised use of a debit card”. The FBI is yet to comment further.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue has classified Ms Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but did not disclose how she was killed pending further autopsy results.

Officials urged anyone with knowledge of Mr Laundrie’s role in Ms Petito’s death or his whereabouts to contact the FBI. 

With online sleuths and theories multiplying by the day, the FBI and police have been deluged with tips about possible Mr Laundrie sightings.

with The Associated Press

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