VILE trolls and incels have raced to the defense of Gabby Petito's fiance Brian Laundrie, painting him as a victim of domestic violence, a symbol of anti-male bias, and an example of how bald men are allegedly treated as inferior by the rest of society.
Laundrie, 23, is not currently considered a suspect in the death of Gabby, 22, but has been identified as a person of interest. He vanished several days before her remains were found at a Wyoming campsite on September 19 and hasn't been seen since.
Prior to his disappearance, Laundrie failed to report Gabby missing and refused to cooperate with a police investigation into her disappearance and murder.
In a statement issued by his attorney, Steve Bertolino, it was claimed that Laundrie chose not to speak to investigators because police often focus on "intimate partners" in situations such as this.
"The warning that 'any statement made will be used against you' is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance," he wrote. "As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on the matter."
Days later, Laundrie was reported missing by his parents. They claimed he told them on September 14 that he was going hiking in Florida's Carlton Reserve but never returned.
A week-long search of the 24,000-acre reserve has so far yielded no trace of Laundrie.
While he is not currently wanted for Petito's murder, a warrant was issued for his arrest on Thursday on allegations of unauthorized use of a debit card that's believed to have belonged to Gabby.
As the search for Laundrie continues, culture-war trolls, incels and men's rights groups have come to his defense online, insisting he is a victim and Gabby an abuser
Followers of the crackpot conspiracy QAnon have also asserted that the 23-year-old is merely a fall guy in a vast – and entirely unfounded – conspiracy seeking to distract from criticism over President Joe Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal.
Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…
As first reported by The Daily Beast, a page on Reddit called r/FriendsofBrian is drawing in trolls and incels in droves.
Followers of the thread have even created "Brian Lives Matter" art in a parody of the Black Lives Matter logo.
"The new BLM movement you need to get behind," a page pinned to the top of the thread reads.
Another reads: "Say it together… BRIAN'S LIFE MATTERS #BLM."
The thread, as is common with corners of the internet populated by the far-right, the Friends of Brian subreddit is rife with conspiracy theories about what may have happened between the couple.
One post by user u/dannydoofus asks whether Gabby may have framed "Brian for her murder and commit[ed] suicide in a last sadistic act of domestic violence.
"First off, thanks for creating a safe place to talk about domestic violence. We know Gabby was an abuser, and everything she did was for the cameras – is this all a setup so she can "live forever" in books, documentaries, and movies?" the user wrote.
The post elicited a number of responses, with one reading: "I can't believe I didn't think of this, but yeah, she definitely seems like the type of person to do something like that. She just wants everyone around her to feel pain."
"There are a lot of possibilities, but that seems like the most straightforward and obvious one," a second wrote. "It can't just be a coincidence that she's found dead a few days after Brian goes missing."
A second topic of discussion posted to the thread asked whether "body shaming" is at play, suggesting that Laundrie is being blamed for Gabby's death simply because he isn't conventionally attractive.
The post was uploaded four days ago and titled "Is Brian not attractive enough for gabby cultist (observation)."
It begins: "One has to wonder if there is body shaming at play here. Brian is being accused of killing Gabby (with no evidence of doing so) and brians [sic] name is being dragged through dirt. These same people will watch a Ted Bundy documentary and fawn and swoon over Ted as Ted is almost seen as a celebrity and idolized by them.
"One should ask themselves in today’s superficial oppressive culture we all should be trying to remove ourselves from and evolve, is Body shaming taking place?"
LAUNDRIE FRAMED AS 'VICTIM'
Much of the support for Brian from the subreddit's 947 members comes in reference to a domestic violence incident between Gabby and Laundrie on August 12 -bodycam footage of which was released days before Petito's remains were found.
Officers in Moab, Utah confronted the couple at the roadside near a grocery store after a witness called 911 to report that he'd seen Laundrie punching Gabby before the couple got into their van and drove away.
Gabby told cops Laundrie "really stresses her out" and said it had been a "rough morning".
She admitted to hitting Laundrie and suggested that Laundrie had struck her in the face.
A smiling Laundrie, meanwhile, told the officers he didn't hit Gabby but had pushed her several times in a bid to fend her off.
The vlogger was visibly distressed as she explained to the officer what they had been arguing about, while Laundrie was seen joking and laughing with the cops.
Supporters of Laundrie appear to be pointing to the footage as evidence that Brian was a victim of domestic abuse, and that police and the media are treating him with a "double standard."
"The funny thing is if you simply reversed the genders in this case then everyone would be defending Gabby as having acted in self-defense from an abusive boyfriend," one user suggested in a Monday post.
"They would point to the clear evidence in the video of all the scratches and bruises on her while he had no visible injuries. If he admitted to attacking her simply because she was telling him to calm down then he would be seen as an evil, violent MONSTER devoid of a soul. And even if she mercilessly killed him it would be labeled 'self defense' and everybody would be cheering the fact that he 'got what he deserved'."
The user concluded: "The bloodthirsty vengeful Feminist SIMP mobs of self-entitled Narcissistic KARENS would forever point to the body cam video evidence of the cuts, scratches and bruises as total 100% justification for her to end his life."
Another vilely chimed in: "I wish someone would have stopped gabby. the police clearly saw her for the monster she is."
A number of the posts appear to reference incel ideology, such as the Black Pill, which suggests that men who fail to meet society's standards of conventional attractiveness are maligned and unfairly treated.
One such post, titled "STOP CRIMINALIZING MALE PATTERN BALDNESS", bizarrely asserts that Brian is being blamed for Gabby's death because he's bald.
"Follicle privilege is a real problem in this country and I'm tired of people pretending it isn't. MPB-afflicted male-identifying individuals in this country are treated like complete crap.
"We aren't entitled to the same rights or presumption of innocence as the hair-privileged and the very image of our affliction is relentlessly criminalized by the anti-bald media. We aren't even given a chance to be the kind of people we WANT to be," the post reads.
Other posts ask who would play Laundrie in a movie, fantasize about sexual encounters with him, and call for a fundraiser to be set up for him to help to cover his legal costs.
"Maybe I missed it, but is there anywhere we could donate to Brian?," one user enquired. "Confident in Brian’s innocence, but the media and criminal justice cartels seem to have it in for him. He’s likely facing a lengthy and expensive legal battle to clear his name. The sleuth work some have put in is commendable, but he may need more from us."
Another user also strangely claimed that "Brian's story saved me from my own abusive relationship!"
The author of the post, who identifies themself as a woman, said they were in a "very similar relationship to Brian with my own girlfriend."
"My girlfriend was just like Gabby, she would punch me, scratch me, slap me, rape me, drive dangerously, etc," the user wrote. "I was dealing with it everyday up until I saw Brian's story which empowered me to leave my own abusive relationship.
"I think if there's anything to take from this case, it's that Brian has taught us how to escape an abusive relationship – no matter what it takes. He has likely saved countless lives because his actions have shown us how to be empowered and take action … Thank you Brian!"
QANON PUSH 'COVER-UP'
Petito supporters have descended on the subreddit to decry the sickening comments.
"People defending Brian should be ashamed of themselves,” one commenter hit back last week.
"Domestic violence is never a joke, even on reddit it can lead to harm in the real world. Some of these comments make me ill," another added.
Similar pro-Laundrie rhetoric is also being shared in the Facebook Group "Justice for Brian Laundrie."
The community has cover art that displays Laundrie as an angel and Petito as a red devil, according to The Beast.
“Brian was framed,” one member posted. "This entire thing was a government coverup to distract from Biden’s Afghanistan mistakes as the Taliban flaunts their new American weapons and the southern border turns into a shitshow. Brian will not be reappeared until it’s timely for us to need further distraction."
LAUNDRIE STILL MISSING
Laundrie, who is still missing, hasn't been identified as a suspect in Gabby's murder but is considered a person of interest.
He quietly returned home to Florida on September 1 in the couple's repurposed van without Gabby, around two months into their planned four-month trip across the US.
On September 16, five days after Petito’s mother reported her missing, North Port’s police chief announced Laundrie was exercising his constitutional right to remain silent.
The following day, Laundrie’s parents told cops they hadn’t seen their son since September 14.
The search to find him entered its second week on Monday.
Officials said the hunt will be scaled back in the coming days as the FBI takes point on the investigation.
Josh Taylor, of North Port Police Department, told Fox: “The FBI is now leading the search. I’m told, it will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence."
Officers from NPPD will still be involved in the investigation.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the FBI's tips line on 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).
Gabby Petito timeline
Gabby Petito, 22, was last seen on August 24, leaving a hotel in Utah. Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito’s disappearance:
- June 2021 – Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie set off on a cross-country trip across the US.
- July 4 – Gabby posts photos of herself barefoot in Gove County, Kansas.
- July 8 – Gabby posts photos of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
- July 18 – Gabby and Brian post photos of themselves at Utah's Zion National Park.
- August 12 – Body camera footage was released in September showing an encounter Brian and Gabby had with police in Utah. Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.
- August 19 – Gabby and Brian post a video on their YouTube channel chronicling their trip. The video receives more than 200,000 views.
- August 24 – Gabby is spotted leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- August 25 – Gabby Facetimes her mom, Nichole Schmidt, for the final time. In a later police report, Schmidt said her conversations with her daughter revealed "more and more tension" between her and Brian.
- August 25 – Gabby also posts her last Instagram. No location is given.
- August 27 – Gabby is seen for what's believed to be the final time. Witnesses claim they saw Brian in an explosive argument with staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, leaving Gabby in tears.
- August 27 – Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple's van "abandoned" on a dirt road.
- September 1 – Brian returns home to Florida without Gabby.
- September 11 – Gabby's parents report her missing to Suffolk County police.
- September 14 – Brian's family issues a statement saying he has retained an attorney and will not be cooperating with investigators.
- September 14 – Brian is allegedly last seen by his family. He reportedly told them he was going hiking in Cartlon Reserve but failed to return.
- September 15 – Florida's North Port police announce Brian is a person of interest in the case. He is not charged with any crime.
- September 16 – Utah police release body camera footage of the police encounter with Brian and Gabby.
- September 17 – Brian's parents say they have not seen their son in a couple of days and report him missing.
- September 18 – Police announce they were searching Carlton Reserve in Florida for Brian. Police announce they have not found anything.
- September 19 – Authorities in Wyoming say they found a body in Grand Teton National Park. The FBI announces the body was believed to be Gabby's but a full forensic identification needs to be completed first to confirm.
- September 20 – Police execute a search warrant on Laundrie's home, seizing his silver Mustang and a hard drive that may contain "evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed."
- September 21 – Officials announce they will be conducting an autopsy on the remains found in Wyoming to confirm whether or not they belong to Gabby. Police also resumed their search for Laundrie, this time on the Venice side of Carlton Reserve.
- September 21 – The FBI announced the body found in Wyoming was identified as Gabby's. The cause of death was not yet revealed.
- September 21 – The Teton County Coroner's office said Gabby's official cause of death was still pending but the initial manner of death is homicide.
- September 22 – Police continue to scour Carlton Reserve for a trace of Laundrie but yield no leads. A specialist dive team is called in to assist with the hunt.
- September 23 – Officials announced a federal arrest warrant for Brian was issued.
- September 26 – Gabby's funeral was held on Long Island, New York.
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