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(NEW YORK ) -- Officials have confirmed the body found over the weekend near Grand Teton National Park belongs to Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who went missing while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, the Teton County coroner said in a statement.

The initial determination is that she died by homicide, but the cause of death is pending final autopsy results, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said.

Authorities had said a body "consistent with the description of" Petito was discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sunday. At the time, a full forensic identification hadn't been completed and a cause of death was undetermined.

Petito's parents reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not speaking with her for two weeks. Her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, was named a person of interest by police last week.

Petito, originally from New York, had left from Florida with Laundrie in a van in July for their trip, which they documented on social media.

On Aug. 12, police in Moab, Utah, responded to an "incident" involving the couple, but "insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges," Moab Police Department Chief Bret Edge said in a statement last week.

Petito was last seen leaving a hotel in Utah with Laundrie on Aug. 24. The next day, she spoke to her mother, Nichole Schmidt, informing her that their next stops would be Grand Teton and Yellowstone, Schmidt told ABC News, and that was the last time Schmidt talked to her.

On Friday, it was announced that Laundrie's whereabouts were unknown. His family told police they had last seen him last Tuesday. They said he had a backpack and told them he was going to the Carlton Reserve north of Laundrie's home in North Port, Florida, where he had gone for hikes before.

A search for Laundrie in Florida was paused Monday, with police saying they "currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there." He has yet to be found.

FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a statement that Laundrie has been named a person of interest.

"The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito's death is held accountable for their actions," he said in a statement.

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(NEW YORK) -- After Jacqui Webb was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, she spent three weeks being treated for her injuries at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

One of the nurses who treated Webb there was Nichole Casper, a registered nurse who at the time was working in the hospital's trauma unit.

"It was a very anxiety-inducing situation, obviously," Casper told "Good Morning America" of the days and weeks following the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured more than 200. "Then you meet all these people [being treated at the hospital], and even though they were so traumatized, they were so amazing."

"Jacqui was always very gracious and very appreciative of all the care," Casper said of Webb, with whom she lost touch once Webb was discharged from Tufts.

Both Webb, now 33, and her fiance, Paul Norden, were injured near the finish line of the marathon, which they'd attended as spectators to cheer on a friend running the race.

Norden lost his right leg in the bombing and, like Webb, suffered second- and third-degree burns and shrapnel injuries.

The couple, of Stoneham, Massachusetts, had long-term plans to have children together, but put those dreams on hold after the bombing, according to Webb.

"For the first year, pretty much all we did was recover," she said. "And over the years we’ve both had additional surgeries for different marathon-related injuries, so that delayed it more."

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(WASHINGTON) -- FBI Director Christopher Wray told a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday morning that the bureau has been forced to surge resources toward its domestic terrorism investigations in the past 18 months -- increasing personnel by 260% to help handle a caseload that has more than doubled from roughly 1,000 ongoing investigations to 2,700.

"Terrorism moves at the speed of social media," Wray told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. "You have the ability of lone actors, disgruntled in one part of the country to spin up similar like-minded individuals in other parts of the country and urge them into action."

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who appeared alongside Wray, agreed with him that social media is a "terrain that can so easily propagate misinformation, false information and allow communications to occur among loosely affiliated individuals."

Wray offered more detail during questioning with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

"The first bucket, the homegrown violent extremists, has been humming along fairly consistently at about 1,000 investigations -- sometimes a little more sometimes a little less -- over the last few years," Wray explained. "The domestic violent extremists bucket, had been going up quite significantly over the last few years, which is why we're now at 2,700 domestic terrorism investigations when if you went back two and a half years ago we're probably more about 1,000 So it's been a really significant jump there."

Wray added that officials are "concerned that with developments in Afghanistan, among other things... I think we anticipate, unfortunately, growth in both categories as we look ahead, over the next couple years."

Those numbers appear to be impacted significantly by the FBI's hundreds of ongoing investigations into the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"Overall, the FBI assesses that the January 6th siege of the Capitol Complex demonstrates a willingness by some to use violence against the government in furtherance of their political and social goals," Wray said in written testimony provided to the Senate Homeland Security Committee. "This ideologically motivated violence — domestic terrorism — underscores the symbolic nature of the National Capital Region and the willingness of some Domestic Violent Extremists to travel to events in this area and violently engage law enforcement and their perceived adversaries."

Wray said that even with the surge of resources to tackle domestic terrorism cases, the FBI has not been forced to divert attention away from investigations into threats posed by foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and ISIS, and added the bureau is "certainly watching the evolving situation in Afghanistan."

In the past several years, Wray said the FBI has thwarted potential terrorist attacks in at least seven cities, including Las Vegas, Tampa, New York, Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami and Pittsburgh.

Wray also flagged what he described as "a sharp and deeply disturbing uptick in violence against the law enforcement community." He said thatin just the past eight months, 52 law enforcement officers have been killed feloniously in the line of duty, already lapsing the total number killed in all of 2020.

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(NEW YORK) -- A 16-year-old boy charged in connection with the 2019 stabbing death of Barnard College student Tessa Majors pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Luchiano Lewis, who was charged as an adult, was 14 when he and two other teenagers were accused in the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Majors during a mugging gone wrong on Dec. 11, 2019, in Manhattan's Morningside Park, near Barnard College.

Majors, a freshman at the school, was stabbed several times before she staggered up a flight of stairs and uttered, "Help me, I'm being robbed," authorities said.

Lewis also pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery Tuesday.

Lewis appeared in court in a dark suit and tie and raced through an allocution in which he said he saw feathers emerge from Majors' winter coat but did not realize she had been stabbed, let alone killed, until the next morning when he recognized her on the news as the young woman he and the others tried to rob.

The family of Majors sat in the front row and listened to Lewis explain how the trio of middle school friends plotted to rob people in the park. He pinned the idea on 16-year-old Rashaun Weaver, who has pleaded not guilty. A 13-year-old juvenile has pleaded guilty and is serving his sentence.

"He wanted the three of us to do robberies in Morningside Park," Lewis said of Weaver. "I assumed Rashaun had a knife on him, but using a knife was not part of our plan."

Lewis will be sentenced Oct. 14, at which point Majors' family plans to make a statement in court, prosecutors said.

"Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?" asked Judge Robert Mandelbaum.

"Yes," Lewis replied.

Police and prosecutors have said Weaver wielded the knife and Lewis guessed he "threw it in the sewer" after the murder.

"This was not a premeditated murder as we heard inside," Jeffrey Lichtman, the noted criminal defense attorney who is representing Weaver, said outside court. "These were 14- and a 13-year-old boys and we should remember that."

Following the second guilty plea in the case, the family of Majors thanked the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the New York City Police Department "for their tireless and thorough efforts."

"We remain resolute in our belief that all parties who bear responsibility for Tess's senseless death will be held accountable, and we are deeply grateful to the many people who continue to pursue that goal," the family said in a statement to ABC News.

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers paid tribute Tuesday to the more than 676,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19, visiting a memorial on the National Mall that displays hundreds of thousands of small, white flags, one for each life lost.

"As we look at this work of art and see it fluttering in the breeze," Pelosi said, "it really is an interpretation of the lives of these people waving to us to remember."

The installation, called "In America: Remember," is the second iteration of the art project. In fall 2020, Pelosi visited the first exhibit, which at that time consisted of more than 200,000 lives lost to the pandemic.

Since then, the death toll has more than tripled, and so has the number of flags. The death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed the estimated number of Americans who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic, topping 675,000 deaths on Monday.

The lawmakers walked silently among the rows of flags, trails that stretch more than 3.8 miles.

At times, Pelosi bent down to read the messages families and friends had written on the white rectangles.

"We look at these flags and we think of the family someone missing from the table at dinner, missing from the conversation," she said, recalling one flag that stuck her which was dedicated to a grandfather that said, "We miss you."

Pelosi, who is Catholic, said that she hopes faith and prayer can help not only grief, but also to bring an end to the pandemic.

"I know that many of these people are people of faith and they believe that their message is being received and that by receiving that message -- that not only our prayers but the prayers of the departed -- will also bring solution to all of this," she said.

She said the flags installation reminded her of the AIDS Quilt, which was displayed on the National Mall in 1987, and how such tributes can be so important.

"Nothing could be as eloquent as a manifestation of sadness that art," Pelosi said. "We all see it as we do, but all of us grieve together, are inspired together and renew our pledge to remember ... and in remembering to make sure that the number doesn't grow."

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(NEW YORK) -- The extensive reach of social media has become a focal point in the disappearance of travel blogger Gabby Petito.

Petito had been traveling cross-country with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, in a white van and had frequently documented their adventures on YouTube and Instagram.

Since she was reported missing nine days ago, Petito's case has captured the nation's attention -- particularly young people online who are sharing their reactions and actively trying to solve the case themselves.

ABC News' Trevor Ault, who is reporting on the case from Florida, spoke with ABC News podcast "Start Here" about the influence of social media and the blurry line between solving a tragic situation and getting entertainment from it.

"It's like you're taking part in the true crime podcast before there's a true crime podcast," Ault told "Start Here" on Monday. "[Infatuation with a case] isn't a new experience in America, but it is definitely a new look at how it is evolving … and how it impacts law enforcement too."

TikTok user Miranda Bajer claimed that she and her boyfriend gave Laundrie a ride on Aug. 29 in Grand Teton National Park a couple days after Petito was last seen.

"In the past, if a person thought that they had a tip and they wanted to share it, they could share it to law enforcement and it would be that until law enforcement investigated it," Ault said. "Now a person can post about it or whatever their theories are and it can catch on."

Baker's video has since gained 8 million views on TikTok.

Police in Florida confirmed to ABC News on Sunday that they have spoken to Baker, but federal authorities have not yet confirmed her statement.

While on one hand, the extra tips and leads are helpful, law enforcement said that they have run into trouble corroborating facts and disproving false narratives about the case before they are published widely online.

"In every instance, law enforcement has expressed gratitude to the people who are opening up about what they're seeing or what they think they might know or have experienced," said Ault. "[But] It can clog the machine."

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(OAKLAND, CALIF.) -- The city of Oakland, California, recorded its 100th homicide of the year on Monday, marking the second consecutive year of triple-digit homicides.

It's a somber milestone for the city, which recorded 10 homicides in just the past week, police said. In 2020, there were 109 homicides, police data shows.

At a press conference on Monday, a 100-second moment of silence was held to honor the victims, and Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong pleaded with the public to "put down guns."

"So much violence. So many guns. So many senseless lives lost. If this is not a calling to everybody in this community that there is a crisis, I don't know what is," Armstrong said. "I say this every time we have a press conference. I'm tired of appearing before you. We've got to do the work. I'll be out in the community meeting with people, but I need people to step up and grab your loved ones and tell them, 'Put the guns down.'"

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(NEW YORK) -- President Joe Biden found videos of tactics used by Border Patrol agents on horseback against Haitian migrants at the Texas border "horrific and horrible," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

"I don't know anyone who could watch that video and not have that emotion," Psaki said on "CBS Mornings."

The videos from outlets including Reuters and Al Jazeera appear to show a mounted Border Patrol agent snap his horse's reins in the direction of a migrant who then stumbles back into the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas.

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(NEW YORK) -- The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.

More than 676,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.7 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The average number of daily deaths in the U.S. has risen about 20% in the last week, according to data from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. is continuing to sink on the list of global vaccination rates, currently ranking No. 45, according to data compiled by the Financial Times. Just 64% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Sep 21, 3:35 pm
Texas, Georgia, Alabama account for about one-third of last week's deaths

The U.S. daily death average has now climbed over 1,400 despite skewed reporting from the weekend, according to federal data.

About one-third of the nearly 9,500 virus-related deaths in the last week came from just three states: Texas, Georgia and Alabama.

About 90,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to more than 100,000 patients about three weeks ago, according to federal data. But in the past month, at least 10 states -- Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia -- have reported record hospitalizations.

West Virginia is leading the nation in cases, followed by Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky, North Dakota, Tennessee and Ohio, according to federal data.

Sep 21, 1:46 pm
Over half of Louisiana's new cases are among people under 40

In Louisiana, 1,268 COVID-19 cases have been reported since Monday, and over half of those are people under 40.

Those ages 5 to 17 make up 21% of the cases, state health officials said. Louisiana residents ages 18 to 29 make up 16% and people between the ages of 30 to 39 account for 16%.

Louisiana has lost 13,558 residents to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, state health officials said.

The state currently has 1,239 COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

Sep 21, 12:31 pm
Pelosi visits art installation commemorating Americans lost to COVID

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday visited the public art installation on the National Mall that commemorates the American lives lost to COVID-19.

More than 660,000 white flags were planted in the biggest participatory art installation on the National Mall since the AIDS Quilt. The installation is open to the public from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3.

Sep 21, 11:23 am
Feds sending resources to North Carolina, Alaska, West Virginia, Tennessee

FEMA is preparing to send 50 ambulances and 100 personnel to North Carolina to help with shortages statewide, according to a federal planning document obtained by ABC News.

Alaska and West Virginia have each asked the Department of Health and Human Services to provide 50 ventilators, the document said, while the Defense Department is sending a 23-person military medical team to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Sep 21, 10:35 am
Biden addresses UN, touts global vaccine donations

President Joe Biden kicked off his first speech at the United Nations General Assembly since taking office by focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, the global death toll and the need to "act together."

"Will we work together to save lives, defeat COVID-19 everywhere and take the necessary steps to prepare ourselves for the next pandemic, if there will be another one? Or will we fail to harness the tools at our disposal as the dangerous variants take hold?" Biden said Tuesday.

"To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will. We need to act now to get shots in arms as fast as possible. Expand access to oxygen, tests, treatments, to save lives around the world," he said. "And for the future, we need to create a new mechanism to finance global health security."

The president touted global vaccine donations, saying the U.S. has sent more than 160 million doses to 100 other countries.

Biden said he would announce "additional commitments" at Wednesday's virtual COVID-19 summit.

Sep 21, 9:16 am
Washington state requests federal staff for overwhelmed hospitals

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to the White House Monday requesting staffing resources to help the state's overwhelmed hospitals.

"Once the Delta variant hit Washington state, COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocketed. From mid-July to late August, we saw hospitalizations double about every two weeks," Inslee wrote. "The hospitals have surged to increase staffed beds and stretch staff and have canceled most non-urgent procedures, but are still over capacity across the state."

"While there are hopeful signs that the current wave of infection is peaking, and some states are beginning to see declines, we have not yet seen that effect here," the governor said.

Washington state had already asked for 1,200 federal government staffers and is now "requesting the deployment of Department of Defense medical personnel to assist with the current hospital crisis," Inslee said.

Sep 21, 8:31 am
2nd dose of J&J vaccine results in stronger protection, company says

A second dose of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine given two months after the first leads to stronger protection, the company said Tuesday.

Compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine always had slightly lower efficacy. Peak efficacy from the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was 95% and 94%, respectively, against symptomatic illness. But two Johnson & Johnson shots, given two months apart, resulted in a similarly high effectiveness level: 94% protection against any symptomatic infection in the U.S. and 100% against severe disease.

J&J chief scientific officer Dr. Paul Stoffels said the single-shot vaccine still provides "strong and long-lasting protection" while also being "easy to use, distribute and administer."

"At the same time," Stoffels said, "we now have generated evidence that a booster shot further increases protection against COVID-19 and is expected to extend the duration of protection significantly."

Sep 20, 5:39 pm
US records 1.1 million pediatric COVID-19 cases over past 5 weeks

The U.S. reported more than 225,000 child COVID-19 cases, marking the fourth consecutive week with over 200,000 new pediatric cases reported, according to a newly released weekly report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

In the last five weeks alone, the country has reported more than 1.1 million pediatric cases, according to the organizations.

"The weekly figure is now about 26 times higher than it was in June, when just 8,400 pediatric cases were reported over the span of a week," the organizations wrote in their report.

The South accounted for about half --110,000-- of last week's pediatric cases, according to the report.

The organizations added that more than 2,200 children are hospitalized with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection.

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(NORTH PORT, Fla.) -- A massive search is continuing in southern Florida for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who went missing on a cross-country trip and who authorities say is "consistent with the description" of a body discovered on Sunday in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

The search for the 23-year-old Laundrie is centered around North Port, Florida, where investigators said Laundrie returned to his home on Sept. 1 without Petito but driving her 2012 Ford Transit.

Laundrie has been named by police as a "person of interest" in Petito's disappearance. Laundrie has refused to speak to the police and has not been seen since Tuesday, Sept. 14, according to law enforcement officials.

The search for Laundrie is the latest twist in the case that has grabbed national attention as he and Petito had been traveling across the country since June, documenting the trip on social media.

Petito's parents, who live in Long Island, New York, reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her for two weeks.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Sep 21, 2:31 pm
Police release video of search for Laundrie in swamp preserve

Police released a YouTube video Tuesday afternoon showing the extensive search going on in the sprawling Carlton Reserve near North Port.

The video showed officers from multiple law enforcement agencies using search dogs, drones and all-terrain vehicles to comb the 25,000-acre preserve.

"The terrain is very difficult. Essentially, 75% of it is under water and other areas that are dry we're trying to clear," a North Port police officer said in the video. "We're expecting to get wet by the end of the day and check the entire area for Brian Laundrie."

Sep 21, 10:24 am
Search resumes for Laundrie in 'gator and snake infested' swamp preserve

Police returned on Tuesday morning to the vast Carlton Reserve near North Port, Florida, to resume their search for Brian Laundrie a day after they said they had "exhausted all avenues in searching the grounds."

A North Port Police Department spokesman released a statement saying police, FBI, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other law enforcement agencies resumed the search for Laundrie on the Venice, Florida, side of the roughly 25,000-acre preserve.

Laundrie's parents told police their son said he was going to the preserve on Sept. 14 and that was the last time they heard from him.

Police spent most of Saturday and Sunday searching the preserve, entering from the North Port side. Josh Taylor, the North Port police spokesperson, said on Monday that the initial search of the preserve turned up no clues of Laundrie's whereabouts there and that bloodhounds and K-9 units did not pick up Laundrie's scent.

"Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently waste deep in water in many areas. This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake-infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails," Taylor said in the statement released on Tuesday.

Sep 21, 9:56 am
Laundrie family lawyer calls off press conference

A press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon by the Laundrie family and their attorney has been called off.

Steven Bertolino, the family's lawyer, told ABC News that he canceled the press conference after speaking with the FBI. He did not elaborate on what prompted the cancellation.

The press conference was scheduled to be held at 1 p.m. ET at a hotel in Long Island, New York, near Petito's hometown of Blue Point.

Sep 20, 6:34 pm
FBI ends search at Laundrie residence

The FBI Tampa office tweeted Monday evening that they ended their search of the Laundrie residence North Port, Florida.

"No further details since this is an ongoing investigation," the office tweeted.

Sep 20, 5:29 pm
Search warrant last week uncovered hard drive, revealed Petito's last text

Details of a search warrant executed last week by Florida investigators looking into Gabby Petito's disappearance were revealed Monday.

This warrant, filed by the North Port Police Department this past Wednesday, wasn't associated with the FBI activity at the Laundrie family’s North Port home Monday.

Police say that after they searched the 2012 Ford Transit van, crime scene technicians found an external hard drive that they believed "may contain viable digital forensic data that could assist in the location" of Petito, court documents said.

A detective said Petito’s mother received an "odd text" from the 22-year-old, on Aug. 27, -- making it likely the last communication from Petito, according to court documents.

The text asked Petito's mom, "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” referring to Petito’s grandfather, who she “never” refers to as Stan, according to her mother.

Sep 20, 4:14 pm
911 caller claimed he saw Brian Laundrie 'slapping' Gabby Petito

The Grand County, Utah, Sheriff's Office released on Monday a 911 recording from August in which a caller claimed he witnessed Brian Laundrie allegedly "slapping" Gabby Petito and chasing her up and down a sidewalk hitting her.

In the recording of the 911 call from Aug. 12, the caller, whose name was not released, claimed he saw an apparent domestic dispute unfold on Main Street in Moab between a young couple driving a white van with Florida license plates.

"We drove by, and the gentleman was slapping the girl," the caller told a 911 dispatcher. "And then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and drove off."

Moab Police Department Chief Bret Edge said last week that his officers responded to the incident, located the van and pulled the couple over. Moab police released body camera footage of the traffic stop and wrote in a report that the couple, identified as Laundrie and Petito, admitted to arguing and that Petito had slapped Laundrie.

The couple also stated to police that Laundrie did not hit Petito, according to the report.

After speaking to Petito and Laundrie separately, the police allowed the couple to go on their way. Edge said "insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges."

Sep 20, 1:44 pm
Car Brian Laundrie last used was parked in parents' driveway: Authorities

A Ford Mustang convertible authorities believe Brian Laundrie used to purportedly drive himself to the Carlton Reserve near North Port, Florida, was parked in the driveway of his family's home when FBI agents served a search warrant there on Monday.

Laundrie's parents told authorities he went to the nearly 25,000-acre preserve on Tuesday, which is the last time they claim they saw him, according to the family's attorney.

Steven Bertolino, the Laundrie family attorney, told ABC News that the family picked up the car on Thursday morning from the reserve after going out on Wednesday to look for Laundrie.

Laundrie left his family's home on Tuesday morning with a backpack, Bertolino said. He said that when family members went to the reserve to look for him, they spotted a note left on the car from the North Port Police Department saying it needed to be removed.

Bertolino said the family left the car overnight “so he [Laundrie] could drive back." When Laundrie didn’t come home Thursday morning, the family went back to retrieve the car, the attorney said.

The family called the police on Friday to file a missing person report, authorities said.

 

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(NEW YORK) -- As millions of kids head back to school this fall, "World News Tonight" has followed three incredible teachers caring for students in and outside the classroom.

In Washington D.C., Imani Baucom teaches at the Bilingual Public Charter School. She said her students' safety comes first.

"The kids are really happy to be back… Walking to class. Masks on," said Baucom. "We just remember to put the kids first, to put our health first, and to just take it one day at a time."

With some students and teachers returning to in-person learning amid the pandemic, some adjustments are having to be made.

World News Tonight previously reported that Jennifer Martin, who lives outside of Austin, Texas, turned her garage into a library. With the help of "World News Tonight" viewers, she has now collected more than 4,000 books and 350 students have visited her library.

"Thanks to supporters from all over the country," Martin said. "It's important to continue this effort because once you grow a reader. A reader needs books to read."

Across the country, in Livermore, California, Heidi Robinson has been going the extra mile -- quite literally.

Robinson, who teaches at Marylin Avenue Elementary School, had delivered lesson plans door-to-door during the pandemic and sent her students many virtual hugs along the way.

Nearly a year and a half later, Robinson reports that the class is back together again.

"We are back in school full time! Wearing masks so we're all very safe," said Robinson.

Robinson said virtual hugs have been replaced with elbow bumps and she hopes that progress will only continue.

"We are so incredibly happy to be back in school," she said. "With challenges behind us and lots of hope ahead of us."

 

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(TEXAS) -- Texas legislators are heading into their third special session Monday with several controversial topics on the agenda, including transgender student participation in sports and gender-affirming health care for trans youth.

Lawmakers will consider banning transgender students from playing on interscholastic teams that align with their gender identity. Children in grades K through 12 would only be allowed to play sports that correspond with their sex assigned at birth or sex designated on their original birth certificate.

Texas lawmakers alone have introduced more than 40 anti-trans bills this year.

At least 30 states across the country have introduced similar bills on trans student-athletes. So far, eight states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Dakota and West Virginia -- have passed the bills into laws or signed them as executive orders.

The laws are being challenged in Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Some groups in support of the bills, like the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America, claim that trans girls have an unfair advantage.

"The issue is about the basic fairness and opportunities that women have fought for centuries to obtain," the group said in a statement to ABC News. "The disparity comes when forcing women to compete against a biological male that has innate biological differences, giving them physical advantages that simply cannot be erased."

There is no evidence that trans athletes disproportionately dominate sports when playing on teams that correspond with their gender identity. There is also no evidence that they have an advantage.

Other anti-trans bills on the special session docket include bans on gender-affirming therapy, counseling, surgery or health care. In some cases, allowing a child or teen under the age of 18 gender-affirming health care may be considered child abuse, if HB22 is signed into law.

LGBTQ+ advocates say these bills only serve to tarnish the mental health and safety of trans students.

"Like any other student, trans young people just want to stay healthy, go to school and spend time with their friends and loved ones," Andy Marra, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, told ABC News. "For transgender students living in states where their very lives are under attack, it can be near impossible to focus on much else but surviving."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that discrimination can lead to poor mental health, suicide, substance abuse, violence and other health risks for trans youth.

Young transgender students are also three times more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers, the CDC reported.

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(NEW YORK) -- A massive search is continuing in southern Florida for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who went missing on a cross-country trip and who authorities say is "consistent with the description" of a body discovered on Sunday in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

The search for the 23-year-old Laundrie is centered around North Port, Florida, where investigators said Laundrie returned to his home on Sept. 1 without Petito but driving her 2012 Ford Transit.

Laundrie has been named by police as a "person of interest" in Petito's disappearance. Laundrie has refused to speak to the police and has not been seen since Tuesday, Sept. 14, according to law enforcement officials.

The search for Laundrie is the latest twist in the case that has grabbed national attention as he and Petito had been traveling across the country since June, documenting the trip on social media.

Petito's parents, who live in Long Island, New York, reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her for two weeks.

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Sep 20, 5:29 pm
Search warrant last week uncovered hard drive, revealed Petito's last text

Details of a search warrant executed last week by Florida investigators looking into into Gabby Petito's disappearance were revealed Monday.

This warrant, filed by the North Port Police Department this past Wednesday, wasn't associated with the FBI activity at the Laundrie family’s North Port home Monday.

Police say that after they searched the 2012 Ford Transit van, crime scene technicians found an external hard drive that they believed "may contain viable digital forensic data that could assist in the location" of Petito, court documents said.

A detective said Petito’s mother received an "odd text" from the 22-year-old, on Aug. 27, -- making it likely the last communication from Petito, according to court documents.

The text asked Petito's mom, "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” referring to Petito’s grandfather, who she “never” refers to as Stan, according to her mother.

Sep 20, 4:14 pm
911 caller claimed he saw Brian Laundrie 'slapping' Gabby Petito

The Grand County, Utah, Sheriff's Office released on Monday a 911 recording from August in which a caller claimed he witnessed Brian Laundrie allegedly "slapping" Gabby Petito and chasing her up and down a sidewalk hitting her.

In the recording of the 911 call from Aug. 12, the caller, whose name was not released, claimed he saw an apparent domestic dispute unfold on Main Street in Moab between a young couple driving a white van with Florida license plates.

"We drove by, and the gentleman was slapping the girl," the caller told a 911 dispatcher. "And then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and drove off."

Moab Police Department Chief Bret Edge said last week that his officers responded to the incident, located the van and pulled the couple over. Moab police released body camera footage of the traffic stop and wrote in a report that the couple, identified as Laundrie and Petito, admitted to arguing and that Petito had slapped Laundrie.

The couple also stated to police that Laundrie did not hit Petito, according to the report.

After speaking to Petito and Laundrie separately, the police allowed the couple to go on their way. Edge said "insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges."

Sep 20, 1:44 pm
Car Brian Laundrie last used was parked in parents' driveway: Authorities

A Ford Mustang convertible authorities believe Brian Laundrie used to purportedly drive himself to the Carlton Reserve near North Port, Florida, was parked in the driveway of his family's home when FBI agents served a search warrant there on Monday.

Laundrie's parents told authorities he went to the nearly 25,000-acre preserve on Tuesday, which is the last time they claim they saw him, according to the family's attorney.

Sep 20, 10:33 am
Search of vast Florida swamp preserve 'exhausted': Police

The North Port, Florida, Police Department said on Monday that a search for Laundrie in the vast Carlton Reserve near North Port has been "exhausted."

Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the North Port Police Department, told ABC News that the two-day search of the nearly 25,000-acre swampland preserve turned up no sign of Laundrie.

Taylor said search dogs did not pick up the sent of Laundrie while searching the preserve, which authorities described as alligator infested.

"At this time, we currently believe we have exhausted all avenues in searching of the grounds there," Taylor said in a statement. "Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Brian Laundrie."

 

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(NEW YORK) -- More than a century ago, the globe was left devastated by a pandemic that has been described by experts as "the deadliest in human history."

The 1918 influenza pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, equivalent in proportion to 200 million in today's global population. An estimated 675,000 of those deaths occurred in the United States.

Now, 18 months into the coronavirus pandemic, the virus has claimed more American lives than its counterpart a hundred years ago.

At this point, at least 675,446 Americans have been confirmed to have died since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, with thousands of Americans lives still being lost each day.

Surpassing the 1918 death toll is a dismal milestone, but experts suggest there are key differences between both pandemics that must be taken into account, given modern day access to better medical treatments and vaccinations.

"These are two different viruses, two different times in history, at two different times of medical history, with what you have available to combat or treat it," Howard Markel, professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, told ABC News.

The influenza outbreak of 1918 began in the spring, with the novel H1N1 virus passing from birds to humans, and lasted for approximately two years. Approximately one-third of the world's population at that time, or 500 million people, was ultimately estimated to have been infected, according to the CDC.

According to experts, it is important to recall, when comparing data from the two pandemics, that the numbers of deaths stemming from the 1918 pandemic are just estimates. In fact, according to Dr. Graham Mooney, assistant professor of the history of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, it is likely that these figures were significantly underestimated, because of non-registration, missing records, misdiagnosis or underreporting.

Likewise, experts believe that the current COVID-19 death count could already be greatly undercounted, due to inconsistent reporting by states and localities, and the exclusion of excess deaths.

In comparing the pandemics, Markel said, it is important to remember that we now have many more people living in the U.S. than in 1918, when the population stood at approximately 105 million, according to census data, compared to 328 million people in 2019.

The U.S. currently has a coronavirus case fatality rate of 1.6%, compared to the 2.5% fatality rate for influenza in 1918, noted Mooney. Normally, the flu's fatality rate is less than 0.1%. And thus, the rate of death in the United States, due to COVID-19, remains significantly below the one attributed to the 1918 pandemic.

Ultimately, when compared on a per-capita basis, the pandemic of 1918 was far deadlier than this one, according to Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University.

"The difference is that 1 in 500 Americans have died now, and about 1 in 152 died in 1918, although our number keeps going up," Nichols told ABC News.

Vaccinations and traditional intervention methods key to protection

Although the two pandemics were at first comparable, the introduction of the coronavirus vaccine made the differences between the two "stark," said Nichols.

"People were desperate for treatment measures in 1918. People were desperate for a vaccine," Nichols said. "We have effective vaccines now, and so what strikes me in the comparison, if you think about this milestone, this tragedy of deaths, is that same number but we have a really effective treatment, the thing that they most wanted in 1918 and '19, we've got. And for a lot of different reasons, we botched the response."

Similar to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, no vaccines or treatments were available to protect people against the 1918 influenza. Thus, protection through non-pharmaceutical interventions was critical, Mooney said.

"The same kinds of measures -- the so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions that were put on in 1918 -- were the same that we saw last year: lockdowns, social distancing, hygiene masks, limits on gathering places," Nichols said.

In fact, social distancing was also one of the great historical lessons learned from 1918, according to Markel, demonstrating that if done early, and for a long time, such measures can work.

Millions of different communities and demographics affected

One fundamental contrast between the two pandemics, according to Markel, is that different age groups were most significantly impacted. A disproportionate number of those who succumbed to the disease in 1918 were in the 18- to 45-year-old age group. Young children and the elderly were also significantly impacted.

However, in the coronavirus pandemic, the age group that has been the most affected is over the age of 65, who make up 78.7% of virus-related deaths.

Historical evidence suggests that racial and ethnic disparities, which have affected communities of color throughout the coronavirus pandemic, were also present during the 1918 pandemic.

Black Americans had higher case fatality rates from influenza in 1918-19 than whites, according to a 2019 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Similarly, Black Americans account for nearly 14% of COVID-19 related deaths, despite the fact that Black Americans only account for 12.5% of the population.

Becoming endemic

Domestically and globally, experts said, it will be crucial for vaccine uptake to increase, in order to blunt the impact of the coronavirus death toll.

"I'm a little pessimistic going into winter, given the fact that there's such a large unvaccinated population that it is a lot like 1918," Nichols said, adding that it will ultimately be "some combination of getting more of the population immune, with vaccines and with infections."

Ultimately, although "it's not the worst of all time, it's pretty darn close," Markel said of the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's the worst of our lifetimes, and it's changed our lives in so many ways."

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(HAWAII) --- It's been more than a week since the disappearance of 6-year-old Isabella Kalua in Waimanalo, Hawaii. The search for Isabella continues, as Honolulu police and volunteers spread across the city to find the missing child.

Isabella was last seen asleep in her room at her Puha Street address on Sunday, Sept. 12 around 9 p.m., local time, according to the Honolulu Police Department.

Her adoptive family has not participated in search crews, but their attorney told KITV that they have spoken and are cooperating with police. Since they have received death threats regarding the child's disappearance they have not gone out to search, the attorney said.

KITV reports that HPD has acquired several items that may be linked to Isabella, including a photo album and toys found in a garbage bag, but they have yet to confirm its connection to the case.

Police are also working with the FBI to investigate her disappearance.

"We have conducted numerous interviews; however, there are still individuals, to include acquaintances and family members, who have yet to come forward to be interviewed," HPD said in a statement to KITV.

Honolulu Police say it won't rule out foul play.

"I don't want to think the worst-case scenario," Alena Kaeo, Kalua's biological aunt told ABC-affiliate KITV. "But it is always is a possibility. Again, I'm trying to keep my faith as strong as possible and I pray -- I pray hard that she is safe. I don't want to think the worst but it is a possibility."

Isabella is described by authorities as being a brown-eyed, brown-haired, white, and mixed-race girl. Police said Isabella was likely wearing a black hoodie, black leggings, colorful socks, and Nike slides when she went missing.

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