Authorities ‘checking’ on Brian Laundrie tip after man shown on trail camera in Florida


OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Authorities in northwest Florida said they are aware of a photo that shows someone who “fits the description” of Brian Laundrie walking on a trail in Okaloosa County, according to WKRG.

Sam Bass captured a photo of the man on his trail camera and shared it on Facebook.

“I’m not saying this is the guy but whoever was on my trail camera this morning in Baker (Florida) strongly fits the description of Brian Laundrie,” Bass wrote on Facebook. “Authorities have been contacted but people in the North West Florida area be on the look out.

The photo has been shared over 23,000 times on Facebook. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Tuesday and said they are aware of the photo.

“We wanted to let you know we are aware of this report and are actively checking it out,” the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “There is no confirmation of this information. Obviously we will keep everyone in the loop if and when there is anything to report.”

The disappearance and almost-certain death of Gabby Petito and the police hunt for her boyfriend have generated a whirlwind online, with a multitude of armchair detectives and others sharing tips, possible sightings and theories by way of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Whether the frenzy of attention and internet sleuthing has helped the investigation is not clear, but it has illuminated the intersection between social media and the public’s fascination with true-crime stories.

“This is one of the first cases where we really see in the public spotlight just what social media can do with regards to potentially solving a case or tracking down evidence,” Ráchael Powers, an associate professor of the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida, told WFLA.

On the flip side, Powers said this type of access to information can overwhelm investigators.

“Someone has to sort through all of those tips to find out which ones are really relevant and can help the investigation versus which ones are well-meaning but perhaps are barking up the wrong tree,” Powers said.

Months before her disappearance drew more than a half-billion views on TikTok, Petito, 22, and 23-year-old boyfriend Brian Laundrie set out from Florida on a cross-country road trip over the summer in a van she decorated boho-chic style.

They documented their adventure on video and invited social media users to follow along on the journey, sharing scenes of a seemingly happy couple cartwheeling on a beach, hiking on mountain trails and camping in the Utah desert.

But they quarreled along the way, and Laundrie returned home alone in the van in September. Over the weekend, a body believed to be Petito’s was discovered at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Investigators have not said how she died but have identified the now-missing Laundrie as a person of interest.

Social media users have been fascinated by the case and have been poring over the wealth of online video and photos for clues.

“A lot of it has to do with the cross-country journey they were documenting, going on social media on this grand adventure,” said Joseph Scott Morgan, a Jacksonville State University professor of forensics and an authority on high-profile murder cases. And he added: “They are young, they are attractive people.”

Another source of fascination: a police bodycam video, released last week, showing the couple after they were pulled over in August in Moab, Utah, where the van was seen speeding and hitting a curb. They had gotten into a fight, and Petito was in tears, with Laundrie saying tension had been building between them because they had been traveling together for months.

Theories and observations picked up steam on Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.

Users have delved into Petito’s Spotify music playlists, Laundrie’s reading habits and the couple’s digitally bookmarked trails. A TikTok user reported having picked up Laundrie hitchhiking.

And a couple who document their bus travels on YouTube said they went through some of their video footage from near Grand Teton and spotted what they said was the couple’s white van. They posted an image of it with a big red arrow pointing to it and the words, “We found Gabby Petito’s van.” They said that was what led investigators to the area where the body was found.

The FBI has not specified what led to the discovery or said whether other tips from internet sleuths have helped.

Michael Alcazar, a retired New York City detective and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that Petito’s Instagram account gave investigators places to start and that social media became a rich source of tips.

“Instagram is kind of like the photo on the milk carton, except it reaches so many people quickly,” he said.

On the other hand, some users have spread misinformation, reporting potential sightings of Petito and Laundrie that turned out to be wrong.

Hannah Matthews, a TikTok user from Salt Lake City, admitted becoming obsessed with the case, saying she identified with Petito and felt that could have been her. She has made 14 short videos detailing theories of what could have gone wrong and providing updates on the case. One of them suggests Petito did not write one of her Instagram posts. It has gotten nearly 2 million views.

“It just seemed like an odd case from the beginning and after doing more research and (collaborating) with other people on social media, the case just kept growing and having twists and turns,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the hashtag #gabbypetito had received more than 650 million views on TikTok. By way of comparison, #FreeBritney posts about pop star Britney Spears’ bid to end her conservatorship had gotten 1.9 billion views.

“There’s a lot of different complicated reasons that people are drawn to it, and it’s not all sinister or malicious or creepy,” said Kelli Boling, a professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has studied audience reception to true-crime podcasts.

She said those fascinated by such cases are sometimes domestic-violence victims who find that such material can help them deal with their own experiences.

“Some people are really drawn to it from a place of healing, or from a place of wanting to find justice for the young lady,” Boling said.

While expressing sympathy for Petito, some have detected what they see as a racial double standard, complaining that the media and online sleuths are heavily invested in this case because she is young and white.

“There are a lot of women of color, and especially immigrants, this happens to all the time, and we never hear about it,” said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Miami.

In the same state where Petito was found, at least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020.

Also, an LGBT couple who lived in a van were reported missing and later found shot to death at a campsite near Moab, not long after Petito and her boyfriend were stopped by police there. The deaths of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner generated some media coverage but nothing like the Petito case.

The case also came at a time when interest in cross-country travel, especially in vans or recreational vehicles, is at a high, perhaps as a reaction to the isolation forced on people by the COVID-19 outbreak. The couple’s plans sounded like something out of a romantic movie gone terrible awry, Piquero said.

“It has this whole air of intrigue,” he said. “People have a real fantasy about being able to solve crimes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Hot tip for travelers: Leave firewood at home


Wherever your travels may take you this summer, you can make more room for your favorite recreational gear, your pet or even an extra friend by choosing to leave firewood at home.

Moving firewood when you camp, hunt or head out for a weekend getaway means you risk carrying tree-killing insects and diseases inside the firewood. Bugs can crawl out, infesting trees and carrying diseases that can forever change the landscape of the places you love.




oak wilt Hoffmaster state park“Much like the emerald ash borer – which spread across the state in the early 2000s, killing many of Michigan’s 700 million ash trees – invasive oak wilt, beech bark disease and hemlock woolly adelgid are threatening tree species that are critical components of our forests and landscapes,” said Robin Rosenbaum, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Plant Health Section manager.


According to MDARD, there are 140 pests and diseases that can be moved with firewood. Some are already present in Michigan, while others, including Asian longhorned beetle, beech leaf disease and spotted lanternfly, are infesting nearby states.


“On their own, these insects and diseases can’t travel very far, but they can travel hundreds of miles on firewood,” said Sue Tangora, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Health and Cooperative Programs Section supervisor. “Trees cut for firewood often died due to insects or disease. Why risk carrying oak wilt to your cabin or beech bark disease to your favorite camping spot?”

Keep the fire burning

You can still have a roaring campfire, or a cozy night in front of the fireplace, if you just know how to burn safe.

  • Wood that looks clean and healthy can still have tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungi spores that can start a new and deadly infestation. Always leave your backyard firewood at home, even if you think it looks fine.
  • Buy firewood near where you will burn it – a good rule of thumb is only using wood that was cut within 50 miles of where you’ll have your fire.
  • Use FirewoodScout.org to find a firewood vendor near your destination. With over 350 Michigan listings, you can comparison shop before you arrive.




bundle of firewood with USDA certification stamp

  • Certified, heat-treated firewood is safe to move long distances. Look for a federal stamp or seal on the package, and keep the firewood in the original packaging if entering a campground that requires heat-treated wood.
  • Aged or seasoned wood is still not safe. Just because it is dry doesn’t mean it’s clean. A recent study showed insects continued to emerge from firewood even three years after it had been cut.
  • If you buy firewood and don’t burn it all, don’t bring it home or to your next destination.
  • Tell your friends not to bring wood with them – everyone needs to know they should not move firewood.

Know before you go

Firewood policies vary greatly among the national parks, national forests, private campgrounds and other lands in Michigan. Call ahead or visit DontMoveFirewood.org for more information.




Buy where you burnIn state parks, the DNR requests visitors purchase certified, heat-treated firewood sold in the parks or at some local stores and roadside stands.


For cross-country travels, be mindful of state and federal quarantines that may prohibit the movement of firewood or certain wood products. The Nature Conservancy provides information on rules for U.S. states, Canadian provinces and Mexico at DontMoveFirewood.org/Map.

Find out more

Tuesday, May 25, at 9 a.m., Michigan’s NotMISpecies webinar series features “Dynamite! And other tools to protect Michigan’s state park trees,” exploring how and why tree health is a critical component of state park management. Learn about the variety of tools, including explosives, used to control invasive insects and diseases to keep the forest ecosystem intact and ensure you have a great recreation experience. Register for the webinar at Michigan.gov/EGLEEvents under “Featured Webinar Series.”

Information on invasive tree pests and diseases of concern in Michigan can be found at Michigan.gov/Invasives.

Michigan’s Invasive Species Program is cooperatively implemented by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, the Department of Natural Resources; and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

/Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Suggested caption information follows.

Certified: A certification stamp and the name and address of the firewood supplier should be visible on any certified firewood label. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Buy-burn: To prevent spreading invasive pests and diseases, buy firewood near or at your destination.

Hoffmaster: Hundreds of trees have been removed from the campground at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon due to an infestation of oak wilt./



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Authorities ‘checking’ on Laundrie tip from social media


OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Authorities in northwest Florida said they are aware of a photo that shows someone who “fits the description” of Brian Laundrie walking on a trail in Okaloosa County.

Sam Bass captured a photo of the man on his trail camera and shared it on Facebook. “I’m not saying this is the guy but whoever was on my trail camera this morning in Baker (Florida) strongly fits the description of Brian Laundrie,” Bass posted. “Authorities have been contacted but people in the North West Florida area be on the look out.”

The photo has been shared thousands of times on Facebook. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Tuesday and said they are aware of the photo.

“We wanted to let you know we are aware of this report and are actively checking it out,” said the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “There is no confirmation of this information. Obviously, we will keep everyone in the loop if and when there is anything to report.”

The disappearance and almost-certain death of Gabby Petito and the police hunt for her boyfriend have generated a whirlwind online, with a multitude of armchair detectives and others sharing tips, possible sightings, and theories by way of TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

Whether the frenzy of attention and internet sleuthing has helped the investigation is not clear, but it has illuminated the intersection between social media and the public’s fascination with true-crime stories.

“This is one of the first cases where we really see in the public spotlight just what social media can do with regards to potentially solving a case or tracking down evidence,” Ráchael Powers, an associate professor of the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida, told WFLA.

On the flip side, Powers said this type of access to information can overwhelm investigators. “Someone has to sort through all of those tips to find out which ones are really relevant and can help the investigation versus which ones are well-meaning but perhaps are barking up the wrong tree,” Powers said.

Months before her disappearance drew more than a half-billion views on TikTok, Petito, 22, and 23-year-old boyfriend Brian Laundrie set out from Florida on a cross-country road trip over the summer in a van she decorated boho-chic style.

They documented their adventure on video and invited social media users to follow along on the journey, sharing scenes of a seemingly happy couple cartwheeling on a beach, hiking on mountain trails, and camping in the Utah desert.

But they quarreled along the way, and Laundrie returned home alone in the van in September. Over the weekend, a body believed to be Petito’s was discovered at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Investigators have not said how she died but have identified the now-missing Laundrie as a person of interest.

Social media users have been fascinated by the case and have been poring over the wealth of online video and photos for clues. “A lot of it has to do with the cross-country journey they were documenting, going on social media on this grand adventure,” said Joseph Scott Morgan, a Jacksonville State University professor of forensics and an authority on high-profile murder cases. And he added: “They are young, they are attractive people.”

Another source of fascination: a police bodycam video, released last week, showing the couple after they were pulled over in August in Moab, Utah, where the van was seen speeding and hitting a curb. They had gotten into a fight, and Petito was in tears, with Laundrie saying tension had been building between them because they had been traveling together for months.

Theories and observations picked up steam on Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. Users have delved into Petito’s Spotify music playlists, Laundrie’s reading habits, and the couple’s digitally bookmarked trails. A TikTok user reported having picked up Laundrie hitchhiking.

And a couple who document their bus travels on YouTube said they went through some of their video footage from near Grand Teton and spotted what they said was the couple’s white van. They posted an image of it with a big red arrow pointing to it and the words, “We found Gabby Petito’s van.” They said that was what led investigators to the area where the body was found. The FBI has not specified what led to the discovery of said whether other tips from internet sleuths have helped.

Michael Alcazar, a retired New York City detective and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that Petito’s Instagram account gave investigators places to start and that social media became a rich source of tips. “Instagram is kind of like the photo on the milk carton, except it reaches so many people quickly,” he said.

On the other hand, some users have spread misinformation, reporting potential sightings of Petito and Laundrie that turned out to be wrong. Hannah Matthews, a TikTok user from Salt Lake City, admitted becoming obsessed with the case, saying she identified with Petito and felt that could have been her. She has made 14 short videos detailing theories of what could have gone wrong and providing updates on the case. One of them suggests Petito did not write one of her Instagram posts. It has gotten nearly 2 million views.

“It just seemed like an odd case from the beginning and after doing more research and (collaborating) with other people on social media, the case just kept growing and having twists and turns,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the hashtag #gabbypetito had received more than 650 million views on TikTok. By way of comparison, #FreeBritney posts about pop star Britney Spears’ bid to end her conservatorship had gotten 1.9 billion views.

“There’s a lot of different complicated reasons that people are drawn to it, and it’s not all sinister or malicious or creepy,” said Kelli Boling, a professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has studied audience reception to true-crime podcasts.

She said those fascinated by such cases are sometimes domestic-violence victims who find that such material can help them deal with their own experiences. “Some people are really drawn to it from a place of healing, or from a place of wanting to find justice for the young lady,” Boling said.

While expressing sympathy for Petito, some have detected what they see as a racial double standard, complaining that the media and online sleuths are heavily invested in this case because she is young and white.

“There are a lot of women of color, and especially immigrants, this happens to all the time, and we never hear about it,” said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Miami. In the same state where Petito was found, at least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020.

Also, an LGBT couple who lived in a van was reported missing and later found shot to death at a campsite near Moab, not long after Petito and her boyfriend were stopped by police there. The deaths of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner generated some media coverage but nothing like the Petito case.

The case also came at a time when interest in cross-country travel, especially in vans or recreational vehicles, is at a high, perhaps as a reaction to the isolation forced on people by the COVID-19 outbreak. The couple’s plans sounded like something out of a romantic movie gone terribly awry, Piquero said.

“It has this whole air of intrigue,” he said. “People have a real fantasy about being able to solve crimes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Authorities ‘checking’ on Brian Laundrie tip after man shown on trail camera in Florida


OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Authorities in northwest Florida said they are aware of a photo that shows someone who “fits the description” of Brian Laundrie walking on a trail in Okaloosa County, according to WKRG.

Sam Bass captured a photo of the man on his trail camera and shared it on Facebook.

“I’m not saying this is the guy but whoever was on my trail camera this morning in Baker (Florida) strongly fits the description of Brian Laundrie,” Bass wrote on Facebook. “Authorities have been contacted but people in the North West Florida area be on the look out.

The photo has been shared over 23,000 times on Facebook. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Tuesday and said they are aware of the photo.

“We wanted to let you know we are aware of this report and are actively checking it out,” the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “There is no confirmation of this information. Obviously we will keep everyone in the loop if and when there is anything to report.”

The disappearance and almost-certain death of Gabby Petito and the police hunt for her boyfriend have generated a whirlwind online, with a multitude of armchair detectives and others sharing tips, possible sightings and theories by way of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Whether the frenzy of attention and internet sleuthing has helped the investigation is not clear, but it has illuminated the intersection between social media and the public’s fascination with true-crime stories.

“This is one of the first cases where we really see in the public spotlight just what social media can do with regards to potentially solving a case or tracking down evidence,” Ráchael Powers, an associate professor of the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida, told WFLA.

On the flip side, Powers said this type of access to information can overwhelm investigators.

“Someone has to sort through all of those tips to find out which ones are really relevant and can help the investigation versus which ones are well-meaning but perhaps are barking up the wrong tree,” Powers said.

Months before her disappearance drew more than a half-billion views on TikTok, Petito, 22, and 23-year-old boyfriend Brian Laundrie set out from Florida on a cross-country road trip over the summer in a van she decorated boho-chic style.

They documented their adventure on video and invited social media users to follow along on the journey, sharing scenes of a seemingly happy couple cartwheeling on a beach, hiking on mountain trails and camping in the Utah desert.

But they quarreled along the way, and Laundrie returned home alone in the van in September. Over the weekend, a body believed to be Petito’s was discovered at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Investigators have not said how she died but have identified the now-missing Laundrie as a person of interest.

Social media users have been fascinated by the case and have been poring over the wealth of online video and photos for clues.

“A lot of it has to do with the cross-country journey they were documenting, going on social media on this grand adventure,” said Joseph Scott Morgan, a Jacksonville State University professor of forensics and an authority on high-profile murder cases. And he added: “They are young, they are attractive people.”

Another source of fascination: a police bodycam video, released last week, showing the couple after they were pulled over in August in Moab, Utah, where the van was seen speeding and hitting a curb. They had gotten into a fight, and Petito was in tears, with Laundrie saying tension had been building between them because they had been traveling together for months.

Theories and observations picked up steam on Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.

Users have delved into Petito’s Spotify music playlists, Laundrie’s reading habits and the couple’s digitally bookmarked trails. A TikTok user reported having picked up Laundrie hitchhiking.

And a couple who document their bus travels on YouTube said they went through some of their video footage from near Grand Teton and spotted what they said was the couple’s white van. They posted an image of it with a big red arrow pointing to it and the words, “We found Gabby Petito’s van.” They said that was what led investigators to the area where the body was found.

The FBI has not specified what led to the discovery or said whether other tips from internet sleuths have helped.

Michael Alcazar, a retired New York City detective and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that Petito’s Instagram account gave investigators places to start and that social media became a rich source of tips.

“Instagram is kind of like the photo on the milk carton, except it reaches so many people quickly,” he said.

On the other hand, some users have spread misinformation, reporting potential sightings of Petito and Laundrie that turned out to be wrong.

Hannah Matthews, a TikTok user from Salt Lake City, admitted becoming obsessed with the case, saying she identified with Petito and felt that could have been her. She has made 14 short videos detailing theories of what could have gone wrong and providing updates on the case. One of them suggests Petito did not write one of her Instagram posts. It has gotten nearly 2 million views.

“It just seemed like an odd case from the beginning and after doing more research and (collaborating) with other people on social media, the case just kept growing and having twists and turns,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the hashtag #gabbypetito had received more than 650 million views on TikTok. By way of comparison, #FreeBritney posts about pop star Britney Spears’ bid to end her conservatorship had gotten 1.9 billion views.

“There’s a lot of different complicated reasons that people are drawn to it, and it’s not all sinister or malicious or creepy,” said Kelli Boling, a professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has studied audience reception to true-crime podcasts.

She said those fascinated by such cases are sometimes domestic-violence victims who find that such material can help them deal with their own experiences.

“Some people are really drawn to it from a place of healing, or from a place of wanting to find justice for the young lady,” Boling said.

While expressing sympathy for Petito, some have detected what they see as a racial double standard, complaining that the media and online sleuths are heavily invested in this case because she is young and white.

“There are a lot of women of color, and especially immigrants, this happens to all the time, and we never hear about it,” said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Miami.

In the same state where Petito was found, at least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020.

Also, an LGBT couple who lived in a van were reported missing and later found shot to death at a campsite near Moab, not long after Petito and her boyfriend were stopped by police there. The deaths of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner generated some media coverage but nothing like the Petito case.

The case also came at a time when interest in cross-country travel, especially in vans or recreational vehicles, is at a high, perhaps as a reaction to the isolation forced on people by the COVID-19 outbreak. The couple’s plans sounded like something out of a romantic movie gone terrible awry, Piquero said.

“It has this whole air of intrigue,” he said. “People have a real fantasy about being able to solve crimes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Authorities ‘checking’ on Brian Laundrie tip after man shown on trail camera in Florida


OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Authorities in northwest Florida said they are aware of a photo that shows someone who “fits the description” of Brian Laundrie walking on a trail in Okaloosa County, according to WKRG.

Sam Bass captured a photo of the man on his trail camera and shared it on Facebook.

“I’m not saying this is the guy but whoever was on my trail camera this morning in Baker (Florida) strongly fits the description of Brian Laundrie,” Bass wrote on Facebook. “Authorities have been contacted but people in the North West Florida area be on the look out.

The photo has been shared over 23,000 times on Facebook. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Tuesday and said they are aware of the photo.

“We wanted to let you know we are aware of this report and are actively checking it out,” the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “There is no confirmation of this information. Obviously we will keep everyone in the loop if and when there is anything to report.”

The disappearance and almost-certain death of Gabby Petito and the police hunt for her boyfriend have generated a whirlwind online, with a multitude of armchair detectives and others sharing tips, possible sightings and theories by way of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Whether the frenzy of attention and internet sleuthing has helped the investigation is not clear, but it has illuminated the intersection between social media and the public’s fascination with true-crime stories.

“This is one of the first cases where we really see in the public spotlight just what social media can do with regards to potentially solving a case or tracking down evidence,” Ráchael Powers, an associate professor of the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida, told WFLA.

On the flip side, Powers said this type of access to information can overwhelm investigators.

“Someone has to sort through all of those tips to find out which ones are really relevant and can help the investigation versus which ones are well-meaning but perhaps are barking up the wrong tree,” Powers said.

Months before her disappearance drew more than a half-billion views on TikTok, Petito, 22, and 23-year-old boyfriend Brian Laundrie set out from Florida on a cross-country road trip over the summer in a van she decorated boho-chic style.

They documented their adventure on video and invited social media users to follow along on the journey, sharing scenes of a seemingly happy couple cartwheeling on a beach, hiking on mountain trails and camping in the Utah desert.

But they quarreled along the way, and Laundrie returned home alone in the van in September. Over the weekend, a body believed to be Petito’s was discovered at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Investigators have not said how she died but have identified the now-missing Laundrie as a person of interest.

Social media users have been fascinated by the case and have been poring over the wealth of online video and photos for clues.

“A lot of it has to do with the cross-country journey they were documenting, going on social media on this grand adventure,” said Joseph Scott Morgan, a Jacksonville State University professor of forensics and an authority on high-profile murder cases. And he added: “They are young, they are attractive people.”

Another source of fascination: a police bodycam video, released last week, showing the couple after they were pulled over in August in Moab, Utah, where the van was seen speeding and hitting a curb. They had gotten into a fight, and Petito was in tears, with Laundrie saying tension had been building between them because they had been traveling together for months.

Theories and observations picked up steam on Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.

Users have delved into Petito’s Spotify music playlists, Laundrie’s reading habits and the couple’s digitally bookmarked trails. A TikTok user reported having picked up Laundrie hitchhiking.

And a couple who document their bus travels on YouTube said they went through some of their video footage from near Grand Teton and spotted what they said was the couple’s white van. They posted an image of it with a big red arrow pointing to it and the words, “We found Gabby Petito’s van.” They said that was what led investigators to the area where the body was found.

The FBI has not specified what led to the discovery or said whether other tips from internet sleuths have helped.

Michael Alcazar, a retired New York City detective and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that Petito’s Instagram account gave investigators places to start and that social media became a rich source of tips.

“Instagram is kind of like the photo on the milk carton, except it reaches so many people quickly,” he said.

On the other hand, some users have spread misinformation, reporting potential sightings of Petito and Laundrie that turned out to be wrong.

Hannah Matthews, a TikTok user from Salt Lake City, admitted becoming obsessed with the case, saying she identified with Petito and felt that could have been her. She has made 14 short videos detailing theories of what could have gone wrong and providing updates on the case. One of them suggests Petito did not write one of her Instagram posts. It has gotten nearly 2 million views.

“It just seemed like an odd case from the beginning and after doing more research and (collaborating) with other people on social media, the case just kept growing and having twists and turns,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the hashtag #gabbypetito had received more than 650 million views on TikTok. By way of comparison, #FreeBritney posts about pop star Britney Spears’ bid to end her conservatorship had gotten 1.9 billion views.

“There’s a lot of different complicated reasons that people are drawn to it, and it’s not all sinister or malicious or creepy,” said Kelli Boling, a professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has studied audience reception to true-crime podcasts.

She said those fascinated by such cases are sometimes domestic-violence victims who find that such material can help them deal with their own experiences.

“Some people are really drawn to it from a place of healing, or from a place of wanting to find justice for the young lady,” Boling said.

While expressing sympathy for Petito, some have detected what they see as a racial double standard, complaining that the media and online sleuths are heavily invested in this case because she is young and white.

“There are a lot of women of color, and especially immigrants, this happens to all the time, and we never hear about it,” said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Miami.

In the same state where Petito was found, at least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020.

Also, an LGBT couple who lived in a van were reported missing and later found shot to death at a campsite near Moab, not long after Petito and her boyfriend were stopped by police there. The deaths of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner generated some media coverage but nothing like the Petito case.

The case also came at a time when interest in cross-country travel, especially in vans or recreational vehicles, is at a high, perhaps as a reaction to the isolation forced on people by the COVID-19 outbreak. The couple’s plans sounded like something out of a romantic movie gone terrible awry, Piquero said.

“It has this whole air of intrigue,” he said. “People have a real fantasy about being able to solve crimes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Brian Laundrie Sighting Tip | Eyewitness News


OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Authorities in northwest Florida said they are aware of a photo that shows someone who “fits the description” of Brian Laundrie walking on a trail in Okaloosa County, according to WKRG.

Sam Bass captured a photo of the man on his trail camera and shared it on Facebook.

“I’m not saying this is the guy but whoever was on my trail camera this morning in Baker (Florida) strongly fits the description of Brian Laundrie,” Bass wrote on Facebook. “Authorities have been contacted but people in the North West Florida area be on the look out.

The photo has been shared over 23,000 times on Facebook. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Tuesday and said they are aware of the photo.

“We wanted to let you know we are aware of this report and are actively checking it out,” the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “There is no confirmation of this information. Obviously we will keep everyone in the loop if and when there is anything to report.”

The disappearance and almost-certain death of Gabby Petito and the police hunt for her boyfriend have generated a whirlwind online, with a multitude of armchair detectives and others sharing tips, possible sightings and theories by way of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Whether the frenzy of attention and internet sleuthing has helped the investigation is not clear, but it has illuminated the intersection between social media and the public’s fascination with true-crime stories.

“This is one of the first cases where we really see in the public spotlight just what social media can do with regards to potentially solving a case or tracking down evidence,” Ráchael Powers, an associate professor of the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida, told WFLA.

On the flip side, Powers said this type of access to information can overwhelm investigators.

“Someone has to sort through all of those tips to find out which ones are really relevant and can help the investigation versus which ones are well-meaning but perhaps are barking up the wrong tree,” Powers said.

Months before her disappearance drew more than a half-billion views on TikTok, Petito, 22, and 23-year-old boyfriend Brian Laundrie set out from Florida on a cross-country road trip over the summer in a van she decorated boho-chic style.

They documented their adventure on video and invited social media users to follow along on the journey, sharing scenes of a seemingly happy couple cartwheeling on a beach, hiking on mountain trails and camping in the Utah desert.

But they quarreled along the way, and Laundrie returned home alone in the van in September. Over the weekend, a body believed to be Petito’s was discovered at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Investigators have not said how she died but have identified the now-missing Laundrie as a person of interest.

Social media users have been fascinated by the case and have been poring over the wealth of online video and photos for clues.

“A lot of it has to do with the cross-country journey they were documenting, going on social media on this grand adventure,” said Joseph Scott Morgan, a Jacksonville State University professor of forensics and an authority on high-profile murder cases. And he added: “They are young, they are attractive people.”

Another source of fascination: a police bodycam video, released last week, showing the couple after they were pulled over in August in Moab, Utah, where the van was seen speeding and hitting a curb. They had gotten into a fight, and Petito was in tears, with Laundrie saying tension had been building between them because they had been traveling together for months.

Theories and observations picked up steam on Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.

Users have delved into Petito’s Spotify music playlists, Laundrie’s reading habits and the couple’s digitally bookmarked trails. A TikTok user reported having picked up Laundrie hitchhiking.

And a couple who document their bus travels on YouTube said they went through some of their video footage from near Grand Teton and spotted what they said was the couple’s white van. They posted an image of it with a big red arrow pointing to it and the words, “We found Gabby Petito’s van.” They said that was what led investigators to the area where the body was found.

The FBI has not specified what led to the discovery or said whether other tips from internet sleuths have helped.

Michael Alcazar, a retired New York City detective and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that Petito’s Instagram account gave investigators places to start and that social media became a rich source of tips.

“Instagram is kind of like the photo on the milk carton, except it reaches so many people quickly,” he said.

On the other hand, some users have spread misinformation, reporting potential sightings of Petito and Laundrie that turned out to be wrong.

Hannah Matthews, a TikTok user from Salt Lake City, admitted becoming obsessed with the case, saying she identified with Petito and felt that could have been her. She has made 14 short videos detailing theories of what could have gone wrong and providing updates on the case. One of them suggests Petito did not write one of her Instagram posts. It has gotten nearly 2 million views.

“It just seemed like an odd case from the beginning and after doing more research and (collaborating) with other people on social media, the case just kept growing and having twists and turns,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the hashtag #gabbypetito had received more than 650 million views on TikTok. By way of comparison, #FreeBritney posts about pop star Britney Spears’ bid to end her conservatorship had gotten 1.9 billion views.

“There’s a lot of different complicated reasons that people are drawn to it, and it’s not all sinister or malicious or creepy,” said Kelli Boling, a professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has studied audience reception to true-crime podcasts.

She said those fascinated by such cases are sometimes domestic-violence victims who find that such material can help them deal with their own experiences.

“Some people are really drawn to it from a place of healing, or from a place of wanting to find justice for the young lady,” Boling said.

While expressing sympathy for Petito, some have detected what they see as a racial double standard, complaining that the media and online sleuths are heavily invested in this case because she is young and white.

“There are a lot of women of color, and especially immigrants, this happens to all the time, and we never hear about it,” said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Miami.

In the same state where Petito was found, at least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020.

Also, an LGBT couple who lived in a van were reported missing and later found shot to death at a campsite near Moab, not long after Petito and her boyfriend were stopped by police there. The deaths of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner generated some media coverage but nothing like the Petito case.

The case also came at a time when interest in cross-country travel, especially in vans or recreational vehicles, is at a high, perhaps as a reaction to the isolation forced on people by the COVID-19 outbreak. The couple’s plans sounded like something out of a romantic movie gone terrible awry, Piquero said.

“It has this whole air of intrigue,” he said. “People have a real fantasy about being able to solve crimes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Share a tip on an autumnal UK garden for the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher | Travel


Winter is on its way, but before the cold and dark days truly settle it’s time to savour the changing seasons and take an opportunity to head into the outdoors to see trees cloaked in russet-coloured leaves; shrubs bursting with ripe red berries and an abundance of fiery, colourful foliage.

Tell us where can you enjoy a magnificent autumn garden display – maybe with a lovely coffee shop attached or a historic building to dive into nearby – with websites and prices where appropriate.

If you have a relevant photo, do send it in – but it’s your words that will be judged for the competition.

Keep your tip to about 100 words

The best tip of the week, chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet, will win a £200 voucher to stay at a Sawday’s property – the company has more than 3,000 in the UK and Europe. The best tips will appear on the Guardian Travel website, and maybe in the paper, too.

We’re sorry, but for legal reasons you must be a UK resident to enter this competition.

The competition closes on 28 September at 9am BST

Have a look at our past winners and other tips

Read the terms and conditions here

If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here and privacy policy here



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Low-Tech ‘Targeting Mesh’ Drones Could Tip The Odds Against A Chinese Fleet Invading Taiwan


The threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan remains one of the most pressing issues for U.S. foreign policy. Permanently deploying forces to deter or counter such an invasion would be an expensive proposition tying up a large proportion of the Pentagon’s assets. Researchers from thinktank RAND Corporation believe a new approach based on low-cost drones could do the job simply, easily and without any new technology.

The idea comes from Dr. Thomas Hamilton a Senior Physical Scientist at RAND, and David Ochmanek, a Senior International/Defense Researcher. Their paper, commissioned by the U.S.A.F.’s Warfighting Integration Capability team, is unassumingly titled Operating Low-Cost, Reusable Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Contested Environments. Look closer and you find a blueprint for a new type of warfare.

The starting point is the need for targeting. An invasion fleet can be spotted easily enough from space, but getting precise enough information to guide missiles is another matter.

“We’ve been working on the Taiwan problem for almost twenty years with insufficient appreciation for targeting,” Ochmanek told Forbes. “There are several hundred ships you care about, but there are many hundreds of other vessels in the area – escorts, decoys, fishing boats and other confusers.”

Hamilton and Ochmanek believe that close-in reconnaissance to distinguish and pinpoint the valuable targets could best be carried out by a large number of drones, whose overlapping fields of view would cover the entire area of operations. About 500 would be enough for a ‘mesh’ able to see and precisely locate every ship from multiple angles.

“The object of a targeting mesh it to be able guide a missile on to a specific ship – and if it’s a big ship, guide it to hit the engine room.” Says Hamilton.

The researchers looked at the current low-cost attritable aircraft technology (L-CAAT), typified by the XQ-58 Valkyrie developed for the U.S. Air Force. This 6,000-pound drone is bigger than needed to carry the necessary sensors, so they looked at a scaled-down 600-pound version they dubbed the Kitten.

“We buy aircraft by the pound, and a 600-pound aircraft costs about a tenth as much as a 6,000-pound one,” says Ochmanek. “And for this mission you want it to be inexpensive.”

The Kitten will have a small jet engine, a wingspan of about eighteen feet, and will cruise at around 560 mph for six hours. The researchers estimate, based on discussion with suppliers, that each Kitten will cost around $300,000.

The Kittens will have comparatively simple sensors based on commercial technology. Rather than trying to observe from long range, they would get as close as they need to.

“The concept is that when you see something and you’re not sure of what it is, you mass and send several Kittens in for a closer look,” says Ochmanek.

Communication within the mesh, and with remote human operators using several hops, is provided by millimeter-wave (MMW) radio, a technology already widely used for 5G communications.

“We noticed the cellphone industry had developed the technology,” says Ochmanek. “They have already invested billions of dollars, and we leverage off this.”

MMW radio gives high bandwidth but short range. It allows adjacent drones to communicate with each other, relaying signals to and from the human operators. The short range is not an issue because members of the mesh are packed close together. And because MMW signals do not travel far, it makes long-range jamming impossible, as the jamming signal is blocked by a few miles of air.

“For us, the short range is not a bug but a feature,” says Ochmanek.

The real threat to the mesh will not be jamming but Chinese surface-to-air missiles. The invasion fleet will unleash a massive barrage of guided missiles at anything which looks like an enemy aircraft. For example, each Type 055 destroyer has 128 launch tubes, many of which will be loaded with surface-to-air weapons, and there will be many such escorts.

Rather than protecting the drones with jammers, stealth or other defensive aids, the plan is simply to saturate the defenses with drones, eventually exhausting the enemy’s supply of missiles. Like the supposedly unkillable Immortals of ancient Persia, the targeting mesh maintains its strength by continual replenishment, with each casualty being immediately replaced with a fresh drone.

“We made some conservative assumptions, and, giving the enemy credit for a frictionless air defense, we believe they may be able to fire on the order of several thousand missiles,” says Hamilton. “So we might have to put up several thousand Kittens in a short space of time to maintain the targeting mesh.”

So instead of five hundred drones, the scheme actually requires thousands — but affordable drone design makes the scheme feasible. At $300k a time, the drones will be cheaper than the missiles fired at them; the U.S. Navy’s own Standard-6 anti-aircraft missiles cost over $4m a shot.

Faced with an enemy which simply absorbs all its missiles, the Chinese may prefer to conserve their ammunition for more important targets like manned aircraft and incoming cruise missiles. Whether they would have the nerves to simply ignore multiple drones closing with their vessels at over 500 mph is another matter. In any case the mesh is an effective missile sponge, diverting anti-aircraft fire away from piloted aircraft.

As the mesh is so difficult to kill in the air, the Chinese might want to take out the drone launch sites. But, based on experience from previous exercises, the researchers have taken an approach which avoids using conventional airfields.

“In all of our wargaming, the allied team confronts problems sustaining sortie rates from fixed airbases,” says Hamilton.

Mobile units, each of which consists of little more than trucks and trailers, would launch the drones. Similar mobile launchers have been used for unmanned aircraft operations since the 1960s, and have proven practical and rugged. Such units are hard to find and identify from the air, and the dispersed approach poses the Chinese the same challenge that proved so difficult for Scud-hunters in the 1991 Iraq war.

Even if the launchers could be found, they would be unlikely to attract the same sort of counter-force strikes as airfields.

“There just a few people and trucks there, nothing worth the cost of a TBM [Tactical Ballistic Missile],” says Ochmanek.

The RAND team calculate that one squadron of 500 personnel could launch 1,200 Kittens in a 24-hour period. Five such squadrons would be enough to cover the entire Taiwan invasion area with a dense targeting mesh.

So how much difference could the mesh of unarmed drones make to an invasion?

An astonishing difference, thanks to the under-appreciated benefits of precise targeting data.

The researchers estimate that there will be around 1,550 ships in an invasion force in the Taiwan Strait: 50 high-value ships, amphibious vessels carrying at least 50 tanks or equivalent each, 250 repurposed commercial vessels carrying ten tanks each, 250 more commercial vessels with 4 tanks, and 1,000 other ships that play no direct role in the invasion and which are considered decoys. The exact numbers are not as important as the ratio of valuable targets to low-value and decoys targets which would waste allied missiles.

Without effective targeting, the study shows it would take some 10,000 AGM-84 Harpoon missiles to knock out 72% of such a fleet’s tank-carrying capacity. With the targeting mesh though, just 1,000 weapons can destroy ‘upwards of 80%’ of the invading tanks before they can land and bring the invasion to a grinding halt.

These numbers are highly significant. Massing 10,000 Harpoons would be virtually impossible, but 1,000 is more than feasible. The most effective delivery platform would be Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines: the latest extended version can carry 65 missiles each. The Navy plans to have 31 Virginia Class subs with the extended missile fit. In other words, in principle the Navy could do the job with a fraction of its submarine fleet. (Targeting data might also be passed to allied submarines such as those being acquired by Australia or operated the UK also in the new AUKUS alliance).

Finding a ship target at long range can be a challenge for a submarine, especially if it is sailing with a mass of other vessels. This is exactly the problem that the targeting mesh solves so neatly, ensuring that every shot counts while the submarines remain a same distance from ant-submarine forces.

Submarines could be supplemented with other launch platforms such as ships or even long-range aircraft. A B-52 bomber can carry 8 to 12 Harpoons. In principle a hundred B-52 sorties could deliver all the firepower necessary to take out the invasion force, again while staying back from defenses – with a little help from the targeting mesh.

Hamilton and Ochmanek’s paper was well-received, and was followed by another, more detailed study which has not been made public.

“We’ve taken technical analysis on paper as far as we can,” says Ochmanek. “It looks feasible but until you use it in air vehicles, it’s a bit hypothetical.”

The next stage would be experimentation and demonstrations with air vehicles, testing out whether the sensors, communications and launch proposals would work out as planned. The researchers were not able to discuss planned funding or development of such work.

For some, the ever-replenished drone targeting mesh will looks like a crazy idea. But others will find it appealing on many levels. For one thing, it is a true force multiplier, magnifying the power of existing assets rather than replacing them. It is a low-risk option, as it does not rely on new technology. The researchers note that emerging capabilities like drone-based AI would benefit the mesh, but are a bonus rather than a requirement.

Mainly though, the targeting mesh comes with a strikingly low cost: the complete supply of drones, launchers and the personnel to handle them would be could be put in place for a fraction of the multibillion dollar price tag for a single new destroyer or submarine.

The targeting mesh is not quite a drone swarm, as the drones are not autonomously co—operating as a group. But it gives an idea of just how powerful large numbers of inexpensive drones can be when used with some imagination. And the very existence of a targeting mesh might be enough to persuade Chinese planners that an invasion of Taiwan is impossible, making it an effective and affordable non-nuclear deterrent.



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Key travel tip on which two rows to always book on Ryanair if you want extra legroom


Holidaymakers looking for that extra bit of legroom are in luck as Ryanair have revealed which seats you should always choose for that bit of extra space.

Many find the plane to be a cramped space, especially if you are stuck in the air for a number of hours – but that doesn’t have to be a problem anymore.

The airline says in their advice that for that extra bit of leg room people should always book rows 16 and 17.

Ryanair explain on their website: “If you’re blessed with long legs, or you just want as much space as possible to sprawl out during a flight, treat yourself to one of the roomier seats in rows 16 and 17. Not only can you look forward to extra legroom, but as soon as you reserve a seat, you’re free to check-in up to 60 days before take-off.”



Travel
Ryanair is offering flights to dozens of European destinations from July 19th.

And that’s not the only advice they’ve given, if you want to eat or drink quickly, row 33 or rows 1 and 2 will give you a head start on the rest of the plane.

You can see all the airline’s advice right here.





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How Much To Tip Movers – Forbes Advisor


Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

When you hire movers, you’ll be given a price estimate that includes things like man hours, gas and transportation charges and material pricing. Whether you are choosing from the best moving companies or hoping to snag a cheap moving service, it’s important to know what to tip.

What likely won’t be included in the estimate? A tip. If gratuity hasn’t been added to the bill from your moving company, you may be unclear about how much to tip movers and whether or not it’s required. We’ll clear that up for you here.

Are You Required to Tip Movers?

In short, no. There is no industry standard for tipping. “Tipping is not required, but greatly appreciated by the movers,” says Hilary Reynolds with All My Sons Moving and Storage. But of course, the fact that it’s not required doesn’t mean you should brush it off without a second thought.

The average hourly salary for movers is only about $16. That’s not a lot considering all of the hard work that they do. “Movers are required to have strength, endurance and skills for the difficult pieces and planning involved,” says Thomas Trainor, founder of Relocation Concierge, a company that provides moving assessments and professional concierge services for relocations.

How Much Should You Tip Movers?

Each move is different, and as such, there are many factors at play when deciding how much to tip movers. If you’re moving across the street using a 2-person crew that takes only a few hours, your tip amount should be less than someone moving a five-bedroom house across the country.

However, Trainor suggests following a $6 to $12 per hour per mover rule of thumb, including the driver. Below, we’ve created a table to show what this might look like for your move, in case you’re wondering how much to tip movers.

Tip Amount for Each Mover

When to Tip and When Not To

No one wants to break the bank tipping movers (moving is expensive enough already), especially when they feel a good job wasn’t done or their movers weren’t overly agreeable. After all, tipping is a way to show your gratitude for a job well done. Here are a few situations where you might want to tip a little extra, or perhaps deduct a bit of money from your planned tip amount.

When to tip more:

  • When your movers have to handle oversized or particularly fragile items
  • When your movers are personable and kind
  • When your movers work quickly
  • When movers go above and beyond to help you set up and assemble certain items

When to tip less:

  • When your movers show up late or bring the wrong sized vehicle
  • When your movers seem to work deliberately slow, like overwrapping materials or moving inefficiently
  • When you have to do the brunt of the work yourself
  • When your movers mistreat or break your items

How to Tip Movers

So you know you’d like to tip your moving crew. How do you go about doing so? You have a few choices here, and it’s really up to you how you’d like to handle it. You could tip each mover, or you could simply hand your tip to the lead mover. (This is likely the person whom you’ve communicated with the most)

Trainor recommends tipping each mover individually at the end of each day to avoid the possibility of a dishonest lead mover. And for a multi-day move, Trainor says, “tipping only at the end could be complicated to split fairly” since you may have a slightly different moving crew each day. If you tip only at the end, a mover who isn’t working on the last day might be left out of the tip.

No matter how you decide to split it up, it’s crucial to have cash on hand when it comes to tipping. Unless your moving company includes gratuity on the bill they hand you, there’s no way to split up a tip that’s put on a credit card.

Should You Provide Food to Movers?

Moving often takes several hours, and there’s a good chance you will need to eat at some point during the process. But what about your movers? When thinking about how much to tip movers to show appreciation, another way to make them very happy is by feeding them.

While most moving crews will bring enough food and water to provide for themselves, providing food for them can only make things go that much more smoothly. “Movers appreciate it when a customer takes the time to offer them refreshments or snacks,” says Reynolds.

Pizza and subs are easy options, since it’s relatively inexpensive and most people enjoy it. As an alternative, you can simply offer your crew a few local options, or even provide a small cash stipend so they can find their own food.

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