The FBI’s investigation into Gabby Petito’s murder is still open, despite last month’s announcement that Brian Laundrie killed her and then took his own life, The Sun reports.
The agency in January said that Laundrie wrote a suicide note in which he admitted to murdering Petito. Investigators believe he then shot himself.
“All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case,” FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a January 21 press release. “The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito. The FBI’s primary focus throughout the investigation was to bring justice to Gabby and her family.”
But in an email this week, the FBI told The Sun that “the case is still open pending administrative actions prior to closing.”
Retired FBI agent David Shapiro explained what may be happening with the case.
“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 newspaper.
“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’s an essential process to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Notably, Shapiro said that even when the case becomes formally closed, there is always the possibility of new evidence emerging.
“Just because the case is closed, the issue is not dead,” Shapiro told The Sun. “Newly discovered evidence in the future can change things.”
The administrative steps to close a case can take three months or much longer, Shapiro told the news outlet. It depends on the complexity of the investigation.
As for the evidence that investigators recovered like Laundrie’s notebook, the FBI may never release it, even to family, according to the newspaper.
The Sun sought a copy of the notebook through the federal Freedom of Information Act, which the FBI denied.
“The records responsive to your request are law enforcement records,” the FBI wrote in response to the FOIA 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.”
Shapiro speculated that the notebook is likely locked away because of how important it is to the investigation.
“His parents can try to get, but it might be too important to give back to them, unless a court decides differently,” Shapiro told The Sun.
Petito captured the nation’s attention when the 22-year-old went missing in August while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie.
On September 19, Petito’s remains were found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, prompting the FBI to open a homicide investigation.
An autopsy on Petito’s remains indicated that she had been strangled, but authorities have not said publicly whether they have determined exactly how the death occurred.
Laundrie had returned to his parents’ house in North Port, Florida, and had refused to speak with investigators about what happened to Petito. His parents later reported him missing after they told police that he went for a hike but had not returned for several days. His remains were found October 15 at a wildlife preserve near his parents’ home.