Gabby Petito’s family is grieving the loss of the 22-year-old, speaking out for the first time since her remains were positively identified on September 21 by the Teton County Coroner who ruled Petito’s manner of death was a homicide after an initial determination.
“I just hope people are inspired by her,” Gabby’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, said during a press conference on Tuesday, September 28. “It’s hard to put into words. It’s amazing that she’s touched so many lives and it’s only been in two weeks. I’m so proud of her.”
Nicole was overcome with emotions while recalling a sign she felt was from her deceased daughter, a car she recently saw with a Wyoming sticker with the letters “GBZ,” which was similar to Gabby’s nickname, “Gabs.”
“She’s with us,” Nicole said as she broke down in tears.
During the press conference, questions were asked about the case and search efforts for Gabby’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, amid his disappearance.
“Justice for Gabby is that we see justice for her homicide … we know they will bring justice,” their lawyer Richard Benson Stafford said while sharing an update, revealing Gabby’s loved ones are content with the progress they have made so far even though Brian, 23, has not been named a suspect.
“The parents are 100 percent happy with the FBI, they’ve been with us at every single step of the way and they know that they will bring justice for Gabby,” their lawyer continued, revealing they have received countless supportive emails, calls and messages.
The Petito family was not able to discuss the relationship between Brian, Gabby and themselves, but they did have a powerful statement to share. “We’re just hoping that through our tragedy of losing Gabby, that in the future, some good can come out of it that we can help people in similar situations,” Gabby’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, said.
In honor of Gabby’s memory, her loved ones revealed they got new tattoos of her designs, one of which read: “Let it be.” Gabby’s father, Joseph “Joe” Petito, said they can’t let their daughter’s name be “taken in vain,” so instead, they want to focus on the “positive stuff” while asking people everywhere to keep a lookout for clues on social media.
“This heightened awareness should be continued for everyone [who is missing],” Joe stated.
As for what is next, Jim said they won’t stop remembering Gabby and keeping her legacy alive. “We’re a big family. We have each other. We’re just going to keep pushing forward and loving every day. That’s what Gabby would do,” he shared.
The heart-wrenching press conference aired shortly after their lawyer had previously said in a statement obtained by In Touch that they “would be making a statement when Gabby is home.”
Gabby’s remains were found on September 19 near where she last camped outside of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park with her fiancé in late August.
After the grim discovery, Mr. Petito shared a devastating Twitter post. It showed his smiling daughter posed against a wall with a set of angel’s wings painted behind her. In the caption, He wrote, “#GABBYPETITO she touched the world,” with a broken-hearted emoji.
Gabby and Brian left Long Island in early July for a van trip through the American West. During a stop in Moab, Utah, on August 12, a 911 call was placed by a witness who claimed to have seen Brian slapping Gabby outside of a local food co-op. Police pulled over their white Ford Transit van about a mile north of town outside of the entrance to Arches National Park.
Gabby was seen looking emotional from an officer’s vest camera while she was separated from Brian and the two were questioned.
Eventually, the pair headed north to Wyoming and camped at the Spread Creek dispersed camping area just outside of Grand Teton National Park. Officials believe they stayed there from August 27 through 30 and have asked for any witnesses who may have seen the couple or their van to come forward.
Gabby last contacted her family via a text on August 30, though her mother was concerned about the contents. It read, “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.” Stan is the name of her grandfather, but her mother said she never called him by that moniker. Her phone was later powered off that same day.
Brian left Wyoming on September 1 and drove to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida. He did not report Gabby missing until September 11. Brian has since been named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance, even though he has vanished.
When North Port Police made the announcement on September 14, Brian went missing from his parents’ home after refusing to speak to authorities about Gabby’s whereabouts. He remains at large with authorities searching for Brian across several states.
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