The disappearance of a 22-year-old woman attracted widespread interest, partly thanks to amateur detectives’ internet investigation.

Gabby Petito had been travelling cross-country in a white van with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, and had recorded their travels on YouTube and Instagram.

Petito’s status as a missing person had gone hugely viral in the days leading up to FBI officials’ announcement on September 19 — and confirmation on Tuesday, Sept. 21 — that her corpse had been recovered near Grand Teton in Wyoming.

This case has captivated the nation’s attention since she went missing nine days ago, particularly among young people online who are expressing their responses and actively trying to solve the case themselves.

The drama became one of the most popular news stories of 2021 when it was revealed that Laundrie had evaded police and gone on the run under increasing public scrutiny.

Petito’s cause of death was murder, according to a coroner in Teton County, Wyoming, who verified it following an autopsy on Sept. 21. Laundrie is the sole person of interest in the investigation for now.

Petito’s case is eerily similar to other true crime instances in which a victim of alleged domestic abuse goes missing. Too often, as with Laundrie, the partner just remains silent, obstructing the investigation into the person’s disappearance. 

However, Petito and Laundrie’s case attracted such widespread attention that an enormous amount of public effort was invested in tracking her down, with internet and social media sites ranging from TikTok to YouTube playing a key part in the search.

As a consequence of these numerous factors and national attention, Petito’s case has been a focus for talks regarding domestic abuse concerns, the racial dynamics of missing people investigations in the United States, and the pros and cons of “web sleuthing.”

We’re still learning new things about Petito, her life, and her death in the midst of it all. This drama is not yet over, since Laundrie is still missing.