Five bodies have been found since Gabby Petito vanished and thrust missing people into spotlight

Spotlight on Gabby Petito’s death and the disappearance of Brian Laundrie has sparked renewed focus on other mysterious deaths

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Wednesday 20 October 2021 21:59
Gabby Petito's mother says she thought Brian Laundrie 'would take care of her'
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The bodies of at least five missing persons have been found amid the intense focus on Gabby Petito’s homicide and the disappearance of fugitive Brian Laundrie.

Mr Laundrie has been missing for five weeks after going on the run from authorities following the death of Ms Petito, who was found in a remote national forest in Wyoming on 19 September.

Authorities also suspected Mr Laundrie of involvement in a double homicide in Moab, Utah, but later admitted he had no involvement in the murder case.

The discovery of missing Colorado woman Sara Bayard’s body this week was the latest in a series of unexplained deaths in locations linked to Mr Laundrie.

While local law enforcement and the FBI have not officially linked Mr Laundrie to any other deaths, and have ruled some suicide, the coincidence has set off a intense speculation online.

A Reddit group dedicated to following the case, which has attracted nearly 150,000 members, was the first to point out Mr Laundrie’s connection to the deaths.

One person pointed out it was not “statistically significant”, given the number of people who died each week in the US.

“People here are hyper-focused on certain parts of the country right now so they think anything that happens is relevant,” The Sun reported one Reddit member as saying.

The desperate families of other missing persons say they have tried to generate interest using social media sites like TikTok after seeing how it was used to help find the remains of Ms Petito.

Sara Bayard

Sara Bayard, who had been missing since June, was found dead last week in Colorado

Ms Bayard, 55, was last seen at a convenience store in Parker, Colorado, on 28 June and was reported missing on 4 July.

The Denver Channel reported she was found dead in Parker Colorado on 9 October, no cause of death has been released.

The Reddit community highlighted her disappearance after it was noticed the couple were travelling in the area at the time of her disappearance.

Ms Petito had checked in on Instagram at the Monument Rocks in Colorado, about 200 miles away, on the day she disappeared, and she and Mr Laundrie travelled to Colorado Springs, about 60 miles south of Parker, on 8 July.

Lauren Cho

Lauren Cho disappeared after going for a walk alone in the Yucca Valley

The 30-year-old chef from New Jersey disappeared on 28 June while hiking alone in California’s Yucca Valley.

Her case received renewed attention after Ms Petito went missing, and on 9 October the authorities searching for her discovered human remains in the open desert.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said it may take months to formally identify the remains.

Critics of that investigation alleged there was more interest in Ms Petito than missing minorities, including Ms Cho, who is Korean-American.

Robert Lowery

Robert Lowery’s remains were found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, 65kms from where Ms Petito was located

Mr Lowery, a 46-year-old father of two from Texas, was last seen on 20 August in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest carrying a black duffel bag, sleeping bag and tent.

Search teams scoured the Black Canyon Trail for him but it was only after Ms Petito’s case began attracting national attention that they received crucial tips that led to his remains being located.

The Teton County Search and Rescue team located a body matching Mr Lowery’s description on Tuesday at the base of the Teton Pass, about 65kms (40 miles) from where Ms Petito’s body was found.

His death has been ruled as suicide.

Josue Calderon

Josue Calderon’s death is being treated as a homicide

Mr Calderon, 33 was found dead in the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic route that links to national parks in North Carolina, on 9 October.

The discovery of his body sparked rumours it may be that of Mr Laundrie, who was the subject of dozens of unconfirmed sightings in the area.

The boayd was identified as that of Mr Calderon, of Rhode Island, several days later.

Local station WLOS reported he had been stabbed to death, and the case was being treated as a homicide.

“At this time, there is no evidence to connect or any reason to believe it is related to the search for fugitive Brian Laundrie,” the FBI said in a statement.

Unidentified Alabama man

Brian Laundrie

As police were chasing down dozens of sightings of Brian Laundrie, they zeroed in on a tip that he had been spotted in Tillman’s Corner, southwest of Mobile, Alabama, on 18 September.

A large police presence swooped on an area near the Walmart store there after police found a dead body in a dumpster close to the sighting.

They later ruled out any link to Mr Laundrie, and said the deceased man was a local homeless person.

Courtney Bryan

Family of missing Courtenay Bryan appeal for help on TikTok

The family of missing woman Courtney Bryan have been using TikTok to spark interest in the case, after she vanished from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, northern California on 23 September.

Desperate for answers and having seen how effectively social media was used in Ms Petito’s case, Ms Bryan’s sister Katana Curven has taken to TikTok asking for help.

“Hey TikTok, I need you guys to do your thing, please. My sister is missing, her name is Courtney Bryan.”

The case attracted significant interest from the TikTok videos, and the family worked with authorities to investigate dozens of possible sightings.

But Ms Bryan was still missing as of 20 October.

Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner

Crystal Turner (left) and Kylen Schulte were found dead on 18 August, 2021.

The murder of the newlywed couple near the town of Moab, Utah, in mid-August remains the only homicide that was at one point officially linked to Mr Laundrie.

The couple were found shot dead at a campsite near Moab on 18 August, and had told friends about a “creepy man” staying next to their campsite in the days before their death.

It later emerged that an eyewitness placed a call to 911 about a violent argument between Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie outside the Moonflower Community Cooperative grocery store, where Ms Schulte had worked for four years.

“We’re looking at everything, I mean, anything and everything that was suspicious around that time or we’re not ruling anything out at this time,” a spokesman for the Grand County Sheriff’s Office said on 16 September.

Several days later, they confirmed the sheriff’s office confirmed they no longer considered Mr Laundrie to be a suspect.

The case remains unsolved.

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