SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah county sheriff said Friday detectives have determined there is no connection between the disappearance of a Florida woman who went missing during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend and a still-unsolved slaying of two women who were fatally shot.
Police in Florida had said Thursday a possible connection was being explored because the women were found dead in the same tourist town of Moab, Utah, where the missing woman, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie had an emotional fight to which police had been called.
But Grand County Sheriff Steven White said in a news release the two cases are unrelated, without providing any details.
The two women killed, newlyweds Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Turner, 38, had told friends they feared a “creepy man” they had seen nearby might harm them before their bodies were found Aug. 18.
The dispute between Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, occurred on Aug. 12 and was caught on police body camera. Ultimately Moab police decided not file any charges and instead separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the converted sleeper van.
Petito and Laundrie started their drive across the U.S. in July from New York’s Long Island, where both grew up. They intended to reach Oregon by Halloween, according to their social media accounts. But Petito vanished after her last known contact with family in late August from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, authorities said.
Laundrie drove the Ford Transit van back to Florida on Sept. 1 alone, police said. Petito’s family filed a missing persons report last Saturday with police in Suffolk County, New York.
Police in North Port, Florida, where the couple lived, say Laundrie is a “person of interest” in her case. He has not been charged, but he is also not cooperating.
Petito’s parents released a letter through their attorney on Thursday to Laundrie’s parents, asking them to help investigators locate Petito, despite their instinct to protect their son.
Laundrie’s attorney, Steven Bertolino, said the Laundrie family is hoping for Petito’s safe return, but he has asked them not to speak with investigators.