LISTEN: Gabby Petito Case Kept Top of Mind by Social Media

OCALA -- A Florida based crime expert says the sweeping involvement of social media was one factor that kept the Gabby Petito case at the forefront of public attention. It inspired hashtags that displayed an emotional connection to the 22-year-old such as "#americasdaughter." It also brought out many "digitral detectives" who combed through video footage to help answer the question, "Where is Gabby?"

Dr. Sarah Stein is a cold case expert. She co-founded the Center for the Resolution of Unsolved Crime, which works with law enforcement agencies to clear cold cases. She is also a PhD in criminal justice and has a Masters in forensic science. "Finding the body in that quick amount of time, certainly had to deal with (this) level of public engagement, and the public really needs to stay involved to bring this case to a resolution."

Stein says it's remarkable that within days of the missing person's report being filed, people were gathered outside the Laundrie house demanding answers. But she warns that the level of involvement is leading people to make assumptions before all the facts are in. "We do not know Brian Laundrie's level of involvement with Gabby's disappearance and presumed death," Stein said.

While some criticized the North Port police for not keeping Laundrie under surveillance as a person of interest, Stein says that in this era of strained police forces trying to keep up with hiring and expenses, it's not practical to expect them to keep every person of interest under watch. Stein says Police Chief Todd Garrison has been "transparent" in his handling of the case.

Hear more from Sarah Stein in this interview:

Photo: Getty Images

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