All the conspiracy theorists in the Gabby Pettito case are driving me mad

So social media can be a blessing AND a curse, and I think in the Gabby Pettito case it’s mainly turned out to be a curse. People who don’t know anything keep speculating, pulling all sorts of ideas out of their rear ends. There’s a reason I don’t normally hang around web-sleuthing and true-crime forums and Facebook groups and so on because this happens a lot in those places and I find it infuriating.

Back in the days when such talk was confined to one’s immediate social circle in the physical world (the breakfast table, coworkers, your friend group), it was pretty much harmless. But online, it is not necessarily harmless and I think the speculation in Gabby and Brian’s case is a pretty good example of the harm it can cause.

For example, during the time Brian was missing, Internet mobs were harassing men whose only crime was that they bore some vague physical resemblance to him. Armchair detectives were claiming that Brian’s parents must have him hidden in a bunker under their backyard and when his mom appeared to be gardening she was actually passing food and stuff down to his bunker. People were protesting outside Brian’s parents’ house and some rando sued his parents for $40 for absolutely no reason I can determine.

This all kind of reminds me of when the Internet (for some reason) decided the furniture company Wayfair was trafficking children through their website, listing kids for sale in disguise as overpriced cabinets. Internet mobs were actually HARASSING MINOR CHILDREN who had returned home after being missing for a period, to the point where one poor girl went on Facebook Live to say she was alive and well and with her family and had not been trafficked and was begging people to stop this nonsense as it was ruining her life. I was horrified and tremendously angry about this and still am frankly.

And now that Brian has been found, the Internet mobs who had seemed so dedicated to solving the case themselves now suddenly don’t want it to be solved and try to keep coming up with reasons why the remains that were identified as him could not be him.

It’s like these people think that this is a fascinating Netflix series, and now it’s over and they don’t want it to be over and are desperately trying to come up with excuses to carry on with another season of the Gabby and Brian Mystery Show…at the expense of the very real people involved in it. I am really hoping that Gabby and Brian’s respective families and friends are staying offline at the moment and don’t read any of the garbage that’s being spouted. Stuff about fake teeth, fake remains, substituted dental records, all sorts of conspiracies are being made up out of thin air.

But this isn’t Netflix. This is real life. And this is a very sad but very familiar story of a domestic abuser who killed his partner and then, probably, himself. It’s a story that happens every day all around the world and frankly I don’t understand why Gabby and Brian’s particular tragic saga has captivated so many people.

Honestly, I think the reason behind a lot of conspiracy theories is that people want to feel like they’re smarter than everybody else, even the experts. Like there’s some big secret thing going on that only they know about, so they get sucked into believing the most ridiculous things.

I certainly don’t mind if a person has legitimate good-faith questions that can be answered. Like, when I don’t know something, I look it up or I ask someone who knows.

Some people have asked why dental records were used in the identification and not DNA. Answer: dental records are much faster and cheaper than using DNA, and so that’s what’s usually done unless either the records or the decedent’s teeth are unavailable. Others have asked why only partial remains were located. Answer: probably his body had been lying in that nature preserve for weeks, maybe over a month, and animals would nibble on bits and take away pieces to eat.

But those people who ask the questions, then flatly dismiss your answers and laugh in your face and go chasing after some completely implausible story they made up themselves, I cannot stand that. Either you want to learn, or you don’t, you know?

If you DO want to learn, I have some recommendations of books on the topics of forensic science and domestic violence that you guys might find interesting. I have read all of these books myself and found them both interesting and educational.

On forensic science, I recommend (in no particular order):

  1. Sue Black’s Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind and All That Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes
  2. Richard Shepherd’s Unnatural Causes: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain’s Top Forensic Pathologist
  3. Malcolm Dodd and Beverley Knight’s Justice for the Dead: Forensic Pathology in the Hot Zone
  4. Stefan Timmermans’s Postmortem: How Medical Examiners Explain Suspicious Deaths
  5. Colin Evans’s Blood On the Table: The Greatest Cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
  6. Ryan Blumenthal’s Autopsy: Life in the Trenches with a Forensic Pathologist in Africa
  7. Zakaria Erzinclioglu’s Maggots, Murder, and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist
  8. Cynric Temple-Camp’s The Cause of Death: True Stories of Death and Murder from a New Zealand Pathologist

On domestic violence I recommend:

  1. Rachel Louise Snyder’s No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us
  2. George Lardner’s The Stalking of Kristin: A Father Investigates the Murder of His Daughter

(Incidentally, if you read a lot like me and you have a smart phone I highly recommend Scribd. It’s a reading app kind of like Amazon’s Kindle, and provides you with unlimited access to Scribd’s large, regularly updated library of books for just $10 a month. It has a wide selection of books, including academic type books that cost a lot of money to buy, and including some of the books I listed above. You can read as many as you like for just the flat $10 fee. For me, it’s more than paid for itself.)

8 thoughts on “All the conspiracy theorists in the Gabby Pettito case are driving me mad

  1. Mary Ann October 22, 2021 / 5:32 pm

    Thank you Meaghan, for your candid and honest frustration of the social media frenzy over this case. I have been a very serious student of true crime long before it became stylish with the millennials and social media outlets. I read up on the facts as much as I could and tried to keep an open mind so as to not taint the facts. But like you, the drama and conspiracies surrounding this case were incredible!! People I thought would know better (but had never wanted to discuss Murder cases with me before) thought they had all the facts and just KNEW what happened. I’m glad I held my own and basically just said, this is classic textbook DV. He killed her, maybe spontaneously, and now he’s going to kill himself. This happens Every. Single. Day. No conspiracy, no playing out a book he read, no special Ops. Just textbook DV. Sad.

    My phone has been notably much, much quieter today, hmmmmmm.

  2. Leaman October 22, 2021 / 5:36 pm

    Very good post. I agree 100%. These people do think it’s a movie, and forget that these were real people and there are real families left behind. It’s disgusting.

  3. Sheryl cobb October 22, 2021 / 9:00 pm

    Thank you Meaghan – I also agree 💯 %

  4. Shari L Salem-Kizziar October 22, 2021 / 11:29 pm

    Well said. Thank you.

  5. tyavzik October 23, 2021 / 1:00 pm

    Finally!!! Finally, a normal, sane adult’s point of view and analysis. Social media was overwhelmed with this case, but mainstream media was no better. There were hour-long shows every hour on every channel, breaking news, etc. Like she was the only person murdered in the US since the beginning of the year.
    You said you don’t understand why Gabby and Brian show was so captivating. I think the answer is simple: Gabby was young, thin, blonde, and photogenic. Brian was young, masculine, and sexy. So, yes, it was like a movie.

    • Mary Ann October 23, 2021 / 5:19 pm

      I agree, and I felt like everyone was looking for ways to binge watch the latest like it was some king of Netflix docudrama. My heart goes out to all the other missing and murdered people whose stories went untold…

    • Meaghan October 24, 2021 / 7:18 am

      I think a large part of the interest was due to the fact that it was an ongoing story, they were actively searching for first Gabby then Brian, something new to report each day. Usually when a person disappears they don’t do day-by-day coverage of the search for them, not for this long. The person is just gone.

      Like, there’s a Facebook page I follow called something like “Reports on the Status of the Roman Empire” and each post is just some variation of “Yup, it’s still gone.” A running gag basically. A news organization can’t just endlessly repeat “so and so is still gone” each day, there must be something new, and with this story it seemed like every day there WAS something new to report. They’re searching here! They’re searching there! Web sleuths think this! Gabby’s social media mentioned this once, is it a Clue? Etc.

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