Elizabeth Smart Reacts to Gabby Petito’s Death After Coroner Deems It Homicide by Strangulation: It’s ‘Heartbreaking’
Elizabeth Smart, a former kidnapping victim and child safety activist, reacted to news of Gabby Petito’s tragic death in a gripping new interview on Red Table Talk.
Smart, 33, who was abducted from her Salt Lake City home at the age of 14 and later rescued from her captors, said she felt devastated to learn about what happened to 22-year-old blogger Petito.
“In Gabby’s case in particular, I mean, I was alive, and I came home, and hers tragically has not ended that way,” Smart said during a sit-down interview with Jada Pinkett Smith and Jada’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris (a.k.a. Gammy), which aired on Wednesday, October 13. “Knowing what it’s like being on the other side and potentially what may have happened and what may have led up to her final moments and understanding probably a lot of what she was feeling, it’s heartbreaking,” added Smart.
Petito died by strangulation “three to four weeks” before her body was found in Grand Teton National Park, a Wyoming coroner announced on Tuesday, October 12. Meanwhile, Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, remains missing following his return to Florida alone in their 2012 Ford transit van after a cross-country trek.
Laundrie, 23, was named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance on September 15, shortly after he was last seen going on a hike following a camping trip with his parents.
“The Laundries were basing the date Brian left on their recollection of certain events,” their family attorney, Steven Bertolino, previously told In Touch in a statement. “Upon further communication with the FBI and confirmation of the Mustang being at the Laundrie residence on Wednesday, September 15, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13.”
Smart said Petito’s story resonated with her after going through a terrifying experience of her own. The My Story author was kidnapped at knifepoint in her bedroom in 2002 at the age of 14, enduring sexual abuse and more horrors at the hands of her captors, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.
Nine months later, a then-15-year-old Smart was found in Sandy, Utah, on March 12, 2003. Her captor Mitchell is now serving a life sentence in prison, but Barzee was released from behind bars in September 2018 after securing a plea deal for time served.
In the wake of her miraculous rescue, Smart has gone on to become a mother to three children: Chloe, 6, James, 4, and 2-year-old Olivia shared with her husband, Matthew Gilmour.
“My parents always said the worst part of having me gone was not knowing [if I was alive or dead],” Smart shared during her emotional interview, noting it’s important to draw awareness to all of the people who have gone missing, including those from marginalized communities.
“When I was being taken up into the mountains that first night that I was kidnapped, I asked him if he was gonna rape and kill me and if he was going to do that, could he please do it fairly close to my house because it was important to me that my parents find my body and know that I hadn’t run away,” Smart added. “And so, I mean, when I think of Gabby Petito, when I think of all of these other victims, I feel like they still deserve just every bit as much to be found so that their stories have an ending as well.”
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