By: Andrea Cipriano, MAFP
When Gabby Petito first went missing in August 2021, young journalist Brian Entin had no idea that it would not only turn into one of the biggest crime stories followed by the world — but that he’d have a front-row seat to the highs and lows of the investigation.
Entin spoke to 2,000 CrimeCon attendees about what it’s like behind the scenes of crime reporting.
Even though Brian Entin became infatuated with the news at a young age, he says he never envisioned that his love for chasing down new information would lead him to job reporting on crime.
While he says this, the 2,000 CrimeCon attendees at his convention lecture laughed, considering Brian had just shared that his dad was a criminal lawyer, and his mom was a clerk judge.
It seems like Entin was born to be a crime reporter.
CrimeCon is an immersive three-day experience for true crime fans, creators and
leading industry professionals. With a heavy focus on education, CrimeCon features speakers, panels, breakout sessions, and hands-on experiences to allow interested people to step behind the yellow crime scene tape — even if it’s just for a long weekend in Orlando.
At his breakout session, Entin took attendees behind the scenes of his life chasing down leads and revealed never-before-shared stories from covering high-profile true crime cases.
Getting The Call
In the summer of 2021, Entin was a budding reporter with NewsNation, the fastest-growing national cable news network that emphasizes unbiased perspectives across the country.
One of Entin’s first major assignments was to cover the story of a missing girl and her fiancé. At the time, all that was known was their names — Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie — and that they were a young couple with a social media presence driving across the country.
Since Entin lives in Florida, their team agreed that it made sense to cover the story over by the Laundrie’s family home. While on the way there, Entin told the CrimeCon audience that he started doing some preliminary research on the story, and he truly believed that this would only be a 2 to 3-day trip where Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie would resurface in a few days, and everything would be a big misunderstanding.
“Early on there wasn’t any national media,” Entin recalled, telling the CrimeCon audience that their team was the first to get to the Laundrie’s house.
Right away, Entin said something was… off.
Entin shared, “I got this spidey sense — I got a feeling something isn’t right here.”
When Entin approached Brian Laundrie’s parents, Roberta and Christopher, he was shocked that they didn’t want to speak to anyone from the media, and that the pair appeared to be hiding when they’d scurry out of their house to go to their car.
Around the same time, Entin got in touch with Gabby Petito’s family in Long Island, New York. They were more than willing to speak to the media, and even told Entin that they thought the Laundries were acting strange by ignoring their calls and texts. Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, Gabby’s parents, were heartbroken and confused over the breakdown in communication.
The families were friends. They had gone on holidays together. Gabby and Brian were together for two years. Nothing was adding up.
“There’s something more going on here,” Entin remembers thinking. “That’s when I started becoming obsessed with a case.”
Up Against the Property Line
Stationed outside the Laundrie family home in Florida for NewsNation, Entin provided around-the-clock coverage of the investigation into Petito’s disappearance and death.
Since there were no public sidewalks in the neighborhood, and the police chased reporters and their vans off the roads, Entin and his team were the only reporters on the block — thanks to a special connection they made with the Laundrie’s neighbors.
The couple living next door, tired of the Laundrie’s standoffish nature, befriended the NewsNation team. The neighbors wanted Brian to get the best access he could in case Gabby or Brian showed up, and they too felt like something was off with how the Laundries were acting.
So, they made an arrangement where NewsNation gave the couple some money in exchange for legally allowing them to rent out a part of their yard to film the Laundrie’s house right up against the property line.
It was the best vantage point any journalist could ask for.
In the weeks following, Entin and his reporting team would camp out at all hours of the day as close to the Laundrie’s house as possible. “We didn’t want to leave because we never knew what would happen,” Entin shared.
But, when the Laundrie’s would keep leaving the home, the team wondered where they were going. One time, Entin described what it was like to follow the Laundrie family to garner any information. The trip ended up being a quick errand run to Walmart, and Entin told the CrimeCon audience that it was a difficult moment for him, having to balance being a responsible journalist and not going overboard.
“At the same time, no one was answering our questions and we wanted to know what was going on,” Entin shared, reflecting on the intensity of covering Gabby and Brian’s case with little information.
Then, almost like a dam breaking open, information came flooding.
The Utah Body Cam Footage
In a development that shocked the nation, full body cam footage from the Moab City Police Department in Utah was released showing an incident between Gabby and Brian days before she vanished.
The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch.
Gabby appears distressed and emotional, telling officers that she and Laundrie had a fight that morning when he locked her out of the van in a poor attempt to calm her down from an anxiety attack. Brian can be seen talking to officers about the same incident, sharing how Gabby had to climb in through the driver’s side door because it was the only one that wasn’t locked.
Both Gabby and Brian can be seen with scratches and light bruises on themselves in the video.
Entin recalled watching the bodycam footage for the first time saying, “In that moment the whole story changed — it all became clear.”
This was no longer a story about a missing couple, this was a domestic violence story.
Entin continued, talking about his journalistic perspective, saying with the CrimeCon audience, “With every emotional story you cover, you try to keep the emotion out of it but sometimes it seeps through. When I saw it for the first time, I couldn’t help just be really upset.”
Then, one day after the video was released, Entin had to report on a bombshell development — Brian Laundrie was missing too.
The investigation took a turn… trying to locate Gabby Petito, and hunting for Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in his fiancé’s disappearance.
Trust and Grief
As a young reporter, Entin shared how he knew he had to walk a fine line between digging into the case and maintaining the trust of all parties — including law enforcement.
“You want the case to be solved — some people will just report anything — but you don’t want to interfere,” he explained. Entin made the choice not to reveal certain confidential information while the case was ongoing, like when the FBI installed secret cameras in nearby trees.
Ultimately, Entin was the first reporter to break the news that Brian Laundreie’s remains were found on October 20, 2021.
After the heat of the investigation started to cool down, Entin and his NewsNation crew spent time retracing Gabby’s last steps, ending their journey over the river in Grand Teton National Forest where a beautiful rock cross has been crafted to memorialize the location.
Reflecting on Gabby’s death, he said, “It was really a moving moment to be out there.”
The final chapter in the Brian Laundrie investigation is still being written with the developments of a civil trial scheduled for 2024. Gabby’s grieving parents are suing Brian Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta, alleging they were aware of Gabby’s death but chose to remain silent about the case.
The Petito case launched Entin’s name as a journalist into the national spotlight. Now, after being inspired by Gabby’s case, NewsNation hosts a weekly “Missing” series where they highlight cases that need attention.
Entin shared with the CrimeCon audience that out of this tragedy, he has formed relationships with the Petito and Schmidt family, and is a fierce advocate for justice.
“It was weird meeting Gabby’s parents in person for the first time [at CrimeCon] because I felt connected to their story, but their story changed my life a lot too,” he said.
For a young journalist just making his name, his ethical and empathetic coverage of Gabby Petito’s story has been career-defining.
You had questions. He had answers!
Before heading off to CrimeCon, we asked our 🔎 The Citizen Detective readers if they had any questions for Brian as a dedicated investigative journalist. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions! Here are some of your burning questions!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Brian, thank you so much for sitting down with me today! First, I want to start out by saying that a lot of people wrote to us wanting to suggest cases for you and your NewsNation team to cover. Is there a suggestion email that you can offer that’s not your DMs or a tip line?
So on the News Nation website, we have a Missing page. We do a series every week on missing people and you can submit cases there and it goes to the executive producer of that series and a couple of other people. We try to cover them all. For murder cases, honestly, people can DM me. I read most of my DMS and I have my email on my Twitter. My work email is bent[email protected]. So I don’t mind people emailing me!
Perfect thank you! I know a lot of people will appreciate that. “Spicy Burrito” asks, “Who are your NewsNation besties? Do you guys hang out outside of work?”
I have a lot! My photographer, Luis, he’s like one of my best friends. My producers Lauren and Paige — I’m really close to all of them. Other people from TV, I’m close with — Markie Martin, who’s our morning anchor. We’re really good friends, he’s my bestie! Jennifer Coffindaffer, who’s one of our contributors, I’m really close with her. Honestly, everybody’s super cool.
Love that! Lindsey from Washington DC wants to know, “Do you have any funny news stories from when you were just starting your career?”
Oh my gosh, so many. Yeah. I was a mess. I started in like the smallest market pretty much possible, and, you know, you make a lot of mistakes. I was anchoring the news every night at 10 o’clock, but I didn’t have much experience so I mispronounced so many names! I also had to do my own makeup, and I didn’t know how to so I would like cake it on. I kind of look like a vampire haha! So I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, as everybody does, but that’s all about growth!
Yes, I couldn’t agree more. You’ve really settled into your role! Kay from Chicago asks, “You travel so much, when do you get time to yourself at home?”
Usually on the weekends, I try to get home! I’ll go home on a Friday and try to leave on a Monday so I get the full weekend at home. So on the weekends, I try to run in the morning, which is a little alone time. I have dogs at home — I love my dogs — so I try to make sure that I get home time with them.
What are the dog names?
Shelby and Scout! I had three, I had Shelby, Scout, and Daisy — Daisy just passed away. She had cancer. But yeah, I’m a big dog person!
I’ve seen you post pictures of them on Twitter, they’re adorable! Kimberly from Florida is curious and wants to know, “In a boiled-down sense, what’s your process like when you research a story?”
When we get a tip, I usually start by calling whoever sent us the tip and finding out what they know. I like to talk to the victims or their families if they are open to talking. I feel like it’s important to have them involved in the process from the beginning if they’re comfortable. Then I’ll call the police and try to get the police reports, put in a records request or something to get all the documents. Sometimes when people email us, they want us to cover a cold case or a missing case and they’ll have a lot of the stuff already compiled — which makes it a lot easier. They’ve already put in all the requests so we can get on TV a lot faster rather than waiting for all that stuff — especially on crunch time with TV deadlines.
That’s great to know! Julia from Delphi, Indiana, asks, “Are you going to continue to cover the case developments about the 2017 murder of Abby and Libby?”
We’ll for sure cover it. Marni Hughes, who I’m also really good friends with — she’s one of our anchors at NewsNation — the Delphi story has kind of been, like, her baby! We cover it pretty much every week in some way.
That’s good, I know a lot of people want justice for the girls. Linda Lee from Idaho asks, “What’s the energy like when you’re in a courtroom before and after an accused suspect walks in? What about Bryan Kohberger?”
It’s super weird in Moscow because it’s a really small courtroom. It’s a really small town and a really small courthouse. You don’t realize it because the case is so popular and everybody’s talking about it, but then you go to the hearings and it’s all so compact. Plus, where the defendant’s family sits is right where the families of the victims sit — which is all very close to where Kohberger sits. It’s just this really weird energy because they’re so close to the guy accused of killing their loved one…it’s kind of hard to explain.
There was this one hearing where Kaylee Goncalves, who’s one of the victims, her sister had had a baby recently and brought the baby to the hearing. It was just so heartbreaking to see Brian Kohberger — and then Kaylee’s sister with the baby Kaylee never got to meet. Plus, to see Brian Kohhberger wear a suit… that’s also just interesting because usually, they’ll come in wearing the orange prison suit. It feels a little creepier with him in normal clothes, you know? The jail is right under the courtroom too, so before the hearings you know he’s right under your feet. I think there’s only like 12 cells or something down there. It’s really small.
Wow, that’s powerful imagery, thank you for sharing! Ed and Karen Pasela from Ohio shared that their daughter was believed to have been murdered in 2012, but they say to you, “We’re having difficulty getting news coverage. How do we help journalists see the ‘newsworthiness’ of a cold case?”
Yeah, that’s a really good question. If you can find a journalist to talk to face to face, that really helps. There are so many cold cases when you just read an email, it’s hard to sift through it all, you know? So if there’s a way to have a face-to-face connection with a journalist, which I know is hard, but if you live in a small town, a city council meeting is a good way to find a reporter. Personalizing the stories too is key. Everybody cares about the people who died — seeing their picture, knowing a little bit about them, what their hobbies were, what their kids were like — if there’s a way to personalize a case when you’re asking for help. That helps.
Absolutely. We’ve seen success with that at Uncovered as well. Our last question! Denise from New Jersey wants to know, “Are you going to host your own nightly or investigative show on NewsNation soon? I love your reporting!”
That’s so nice! It’s tricky because I really like the boots-on-the-ground reporting. Going out to the stories, I like being the reporter cause it’s just always been in my blood. I like to be in the middle of the action and doing the interviews. When you’re a host, it’s more work in the studio. In some ways, you can have more of an impact on the ground. But, when you have your own show, you can really dictate what you do every night and really get into stories so I would like to do it at some point!