What the Tech? Do “Digital Detectives” Have a Role in Solving Gabby Petito’s Homicide?
Can TikTok help solve the Gabby Petito homicide? Hundreds of TikTok users are scouring the young woman’s YouTube and Instagram accounts searching for clues as to what happened leading up to the moment she was murdered.
Many of the posts and videos are simply speculation and theories as to what might have happened but at least two critical clues that led officers to Petito’s van and a sighting of her former fiance, Brian Laundrie came from social media.
While investigators have used social media as crime-fighting tools for years, private investigator Edward Ajaeb believes this role of social media, in this case, is different than what police have used before.
“Now we have a public forum, a public platform where any member of the public can really join in an investigation or be able to observe things. That may be something with their eyes that somebody else didn’t see,” he said.
The hashtags #gabbypetito and #findgabby have millions of followers. Petito and Laundrie’s YouTube channel “Nomadic Statik” now has over 2 million subscribers though there’s only one video posted about a month ago.
Laundrie says the biggest break so far in the case came from a travel blogger who reviewed a video from a trip at the Spread Creek Campground in Wyoming.
“They drove by Gabby Petito’s van so that made it into a YouTube video that was a crucial piece of information,” Ajaeb said. “I think tragically Miss Petito’s body was found close to where that video was taken.”
Ajaeb said while all of the speculation and theories that make it onto the TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram platforms can be overwhelming, it provides investigators a perspective they may not have.
“Definitely and this is why the public plays a big role in investigations because they see things. They live experiences that other people, including investigators, may not have on a day-to-day basis. So that information can be very helpful and that perspective can be very valuable,” Ajaeb said. “Even subconscious clues that are captured by social media that actually become a very important component of an investigation.”