#childsafety | Gabby Petito led 2021 missing persons cases: flashback


Sarm Heslop disappeared from the U.S. Virgin Islands overnight, and police never searched the luxury yacht where she lived with her boyfriend, Ryan Bane.

Alexis Sharkey was a Texas social media influencer with tens of thousands of followers whose naked body turned up on the side of a roadway just after Thanksgiving of 2020 – then her estranged husband allegedly killed himself with U.S. Marshals outside his Florida hideout in October of 2021.

And Brian Laundrie, the only person of interest in the Gabby Petito case, walked away under the nose of a Florida police department that claimed it knew exactly where he was.

These are some of the most watched missing persons cases of 2021:

At the end of August, 22-year-old travel-blogger Gabby Petito vanished from a cross-country road trip. (Instagram)

GABBY PETITO

In the most widely followed missing person case in recent memory, the travel-blogging aspiring YouTuber star Gabby Petito fell off the radar in late August. Days later, her ex-fiance, Brian Laundrie, showed up at his parents’ house on the other side of the country, driving her van.

Through rigorous public records requests and with tips from social media users and everyday citizens around the country, a picture emerged that law enforcement had been reluctant to share.

JELANI DAY MYSTERY

Fox News Digital was first to report a domestic violence call involving Laundrie and Petito in Moab, Utah, which took place on Aug. 12. Police split them up but issued no charges. She was last seen in public on Aug. 27.

An FBI-led search team found her remains north of Jackson, Wyoming, on Sept. 19 – at a campground she’d stayed at with Laundrie and where another travel-blogging couple had seen the van after reviewing their dashcam video. The Teton County medical examiner later ruled she was likely strangled to death around that time.

Chris and Roberta Laundrie at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida after finding some son's belongings. Inset: Brian Laundrie in Moab police bodycam video Aug. 12. 

Chris and Roberta Laundrie at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida after finding some son’s belongings. Inset: Brian Laundrie in Moab police bodycam video Aug. 12. 
(Moab PD/Fox News Digital)

Laundrie arrived at his parents’ house in Petito’s white Ford Transit van on Sept. 1. Then he went camping with his parents, his sister and her kids. Police knocked on his door 10 days later. The Laundries refused to talk, and he slipped away on Sept. 13, never to be seen alive again. Meanwhile, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison apparently thought he knew where Laundrie was until Sept. 17, when he claims the department learned that he was gone, along with one of their guns  – a detail that was withheld from the public.

A nationwide manhunt for Laundrie came to an end on Oct. 20, when investigators found his remains in a swampy park near his parents’ house in North Port, Florida. Fox News Digital captured dramatic images that morning when Laundrie’s own parents stumbled across some of his personal belongings. The find came in an area they had been telling police to search for weeks, according to their attorney, Steve Bertolino.

Authorities later said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound – but both the FBI and local police have declined to acknowledge whether they recovered a firearm.

This undated photo shows Maya and Larry Millete. 

This undated photo shows Maya and Larry Millete. 
(Maricris Drouaillet)

MAYA MILLETE

Maya Millete, a 40-year-old mother of three from California, went missing on Jan. 7 after seeking advice from a divorce attorney.

A SWAT team arrested her husband, Larry Millete, on Oct. 19 in their Chula Vista home charges of murder and illegal weapons possession.

JENNIFER DULOS INVESTIGATION

He had been withdrawing large amounts of cash from the bank before his arrest, making it look like he was going to flee, according to Billy Little, an attorney who has been working with Maya Millete’s family.

“I hope the guy burns in hell,” Little told Fox News Digital.

Prior to the arrest, local police had teamed up with the FBI, NCIS and San Diego County prosecutors on 67 search warrants and 87 witness interviews.

Larry Millete pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and illegal possession of an assault weapon on Oct. 21.  (KSWB)

Larry Millete pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and illegal possession of an assault weapon on Oct. 21.  (KSWB)

Fox News also exclusively reported in April that Larry Millete allegedly had plans for a $20,000 murder-for-hire scheme targeting a man he believed was having an affair with Maya Millete. 

CA’SHAWN ASHLEY SIMS CASE

Her husband reportedly reached out to “spellcasters” to try and control her behavior, according to San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.

“He was asking for Maya to become incapacitated, for Maya to be in an accident, to have broken bones so that she could stay at home, thus displaying his homicidal ideations to harm Maya,” she said in an October news conference. 

Then he allegedly took things into his own hands, according to Stephan’s version of events.

He sent a threatening text on Jan. 7, the day she went missing. That evening, a neighbor’s surveillance camera recorded nine loud bangs but authorities could not immediately confirm that they were gunshots. Then the next morning he moved his Lexus into the garage, where no cameras could see.

He allegedly drove off and stayed out for nearly 12 hours – leaving his phone at home. He also skipped work, which his boss told investigators “was so unlike him.”

Millette’s body has not been found to date.

Summer Wells was last seen at her home in Rogersville, Tenn., on June 15. 

Summer Wells was last seen at her home in Rogersville, Tenn., on June 15. 
(Tennessee Bureau of Investigation )

SUMMER WELLS

Summer Wells, 5, vanished from her Tennessee home on June 15, according to authorities, after her mother said she left her with her brothers for about 2 minutes.

Summer’s parents, Donald Wells and Candus Bly, have said they believe their daughter was abducted. A search in the area surrounding their home turned up nothing.

TEXAS BEAUTY QUEEN MYSTERY

Her three brothers have been removed from their parents’ home and placed in custody of the state’s Department of Child Protective Services.

“Everybody is still a suspect, person of interest, however you want to put it,” Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said afterward. “And we’re still very intensely looking into it.”

Investigators have been searching for a 1998 to 2000 model year maroon or red Toyota Tacoma with a full-sized ladder rack and white buckets in the bed that may have been near the Wells’ home at Beech Creek Road and Benn Hill Road on June 14, 15 or 16. The driver has been described as a possible witness.

An Amber Alert remains in effect for Summer.

TEXAS TOT VANISHES FROM PLAYGROUND

She is about 3 feet tall and weighs around 40 pounds. At the time she went missing, she was wearing gray pants, a pink shirt and may have been barefoot. 

Alexis Lee Sharkey was 26 when she was found dead in Houston. (Stacey Clark Robinault)

Alexis Lee Sharkey was 26 when she was found dead in Houston. (Stacey Clark Robinault)

ALEXIS SHARKEY

Alexis Sharkey, a 26-year-old Texas social media influencer, went missing shortly after Thanksgiving in 2020. 

Nearly a year layer, with authorities closing in on her estranged husband, Tom Sharkey, as a suspect, he shot himself at a relative’s home in Fort Myers, Florida. U.S. Marshals were outside.

There was “no confrontation,” police said. He allegedly learned that there were authorities outside, ran upstairs and shot himself.

Houston homicide detective Michael Burrow said investigators had obtained evidence that led them to believe Thomas Sharkey killed his wife on the night of Nov. 27, amid marital tension and after a history of domestic abuse. Investigators found her naked body in the bushes along a Houston roadway the next morning. Further investigation determined she had been strangled, officials said at the time. 

Thomas Sharkey, husband of Alexis Sharkey, took his own life when authorities attempted to confront him in October over the death of his wife, authorities said.  (Alexis Sharkey Facebook)

Thomas Sharkey, husband of Alexis Sharkey, took his own life when authorities attempted to confront him in October over the death of his wife, authorities said.  (Alexis Sharkey Facebook)

In an October news briefing, Burrow said Thomas Sharkey had lied to investigators and attempted to point police toward other potential suspects.

“The investigation determined that Thomas Sharkey, her husband, is the only person who had the means, motive, and opportunity to have committed the murder,” he said.

The family members who were hosting Thomas Sharkey in Florida were unaware that he was wanted in connection with his wife’s slaying, according to authorities.

Sarm Heslop has been missing since March 8. Boyfriend Ryan Bane told police she vanished from his 47-foot catamaran.

Sarm Heslop has been missing since March 8. Boyfriend Ryan Bane told police she vanished from his 47-foot catamaran.
(Find Sarm)

SARM HESLOP

Sarm Heslop sailed across the Atlantic from her native United Kingdom before meeting American yachtsman Ryan Bane. They began dating, and she served as first mate and cook aboard his 47-foot catamaran, which he chartered and where they lived together.

But she was last seen alive leaving a bar on the edge of Frank Bay in St. John. Bane called 911 around 2:30 a.m. on March 8, and police advised him to call the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance if she’d fallen overboard.

He did not do so for several hours. Police later said they have not confirmed whether Heslop ever made it back to the boat that night.

Coast Guard members cited the Michigan native for allegedly blocking full access to his vessel and other violations as part of a routine check after Heslop was reported missing. However Bane’s attorney, David Cattie, has disputed the citations and maintained that his client allowed “an on-site inspection of the vessel and an on-sight interview without limitation.”

Heslop’s friends and family have repeatedly issued reminders that U.S. Virgin Islands police never performed a “full forensic search” of the vessel, which has had its name changed and is now up for sale.

A police spokesman said earlier this year that detectives sought a search warrant and were denied – an excuse that other veteran investigators have widely criticized.

“They have enough probable cause, I think,” Jerry Forrester, a former FBI agent and private investigator who has worked extensively in the Caribbean, told Fox News three weeks after the woman’s disappearance. “She’s missing, and she was on that boat… They’re just not doing their job.”

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Justice has not responded to Fox News requests for an explanation of the denied warrant requests.

Heslop’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department or Crime Stoppers USVI at (800) 222-TIPS.

Heslop is 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a slim build, brown hair and a bright-colored tattoo on her left shoulder that includes a seahorse, a butterfly, a bird and a pink flower.

(Texas Department of Public Safety)

SOPHIE LONG

Police said they found missing Texas 10-year-old Sophie Long with her noncustodial father in an undisclosed foreign country on Dec. 11, five months after he allegedly abducted her and went off the radar.

At the time, police warned he might be headed to several states as well as Mexico or Argentina.

Her father, Michael Long, faces a felony charge of interference with child custody, according to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. In 2020, he went viral with a YouTube video and GoFundMe campaign alleging that Sophie’s mother, Kelly Long, had been abusing her.

ELIJAH LEWIS CASE

The campaign included a harrowing, 20-minute YouTube video titled #standwithsophie that showed the girl in apparent distress and saying she did not want to visit with her mother, whom Michael Long accused of abusing the child.

Michael Long faces a felony charge of interference with child custody, according to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. 

Michael Long faces a felony charge of interference with child custody, according to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. 
(Texas Department of Public Safety)

The mother denied those allegations, and last year a court-appointed amicus attorney assigned to represent their children’s best interests described the video as “self-produced” and “heavily edited.” The attorney recommended that Kelly Long be granted sole legal custody.

The legal review also raised “deep concerns” over “the children’s immediate emotional health and safety while in their father’s care” and accused him of monetizing the custody battle for his own profit at his kids’ expense.

Barry and Suzanne Morphew

Barry and Suzanne Morphew
(AP)

SUZANNE MORPHEW

Suzanne Morphew, a 49-year-old mother of two, went missing on Mother’s Day 2020 – after investigators say she had been planning to leave her husband, Barry Morphew, 53.

A week later, Barry Morphew put up a Facebook video pleading for his wife’s safe return. On May 5, 2021, police charged him with murder.

MIYA MARCANO MYSTERY

He is expected to face trial in May 2022.

He is facing charges of first-degree murder, tampering with a human body, tampering with evidence, trying to influence eight public servants, and possession of a short rifle, which is banned in Colorado. Morphew was also charged with allegedly casting a fraudulent vote on his wife’s behalf for then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Suzanne Morphew’s remains still haven’t been found.

But Chaffee County District Attorney Linda Stanley said investigators have gathered enough other evidence to make their case.

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Fox News’ Paul Best, Stephanie Pagones, Peter Aitken and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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