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What to Know
- A missing Long Island woman’s family is pleading for help finding her; she was traveling through Wyoming with her fiance on a “van life journey” and documenting her activities on Instagram and YouTube
- Gabrielle Petito’s family believed she was in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when she last contacted them; they haven’t heard from her since the last week of August but reported her missing on Sept. 11
- The van has been recovered but police have not provided further details on where it was located, the condition of the van or what may have been found inside it
The family of a Long Island woman who went missing while traveling through Wyoming on a “van life journey” is accusing the fiancé she was with of “refusing” to help in the effort to find her.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the family of Gabby Petito said that fiancé Brian Laundrie is choosing to “remain in the background” rather than provide answers as to her whereabouts or why he left her alone.
“The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives. Their beautiful 22-year-old daughter is missing and the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help,” the family said in a statement. “Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers.
“The Schmidt and Petito family beg the Laundrie family to not ‘remain in the background’ but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located? The Schmidt and Petito family implore Brian to come forward and at least tell us if we are looking in the right area.”
That statement came just after an attorney representing the Laundrie family called this an “extremely difficult time” for all involved.
Laundrie and his family won’t have further comment at this point, the statement said, while also noting “it is our understanding” that a search has been organized for 22-year-old Gabrielle (Gabby, as those close to her say) of Blue Point in or near Grand Teton National Park, where she was last thought to have been.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is
successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family,” the statement said.
Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 by her family, but police say the family hadn’t heard from her since the last week of August. She had been traveling with her fiancé in a white 2012 Ford Transit when she stopped communicating.
Petito told her family that she and her fiancé were heading to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when she last contacted them.
The van has been recovered but police have not provided further details on where it was located, the condition of the van or what may have been found inside it. According to Petito’s relatives, the fiancé drove the van back to his home in Florida — alone.
The young woman last posted photos on her Instagram profile on Aug. 25 — which was also the last day she spoke to her mother — and several social media users have commented on her pictures, praying for her safe return. Comments on her fiancé’s profile have turned accusatory but police have not identified him or anyone else as a person of interest, and have not linked him to the disappearance.
The family previously posted a message on a Facebook group created to help search for Petito that read, “WE ARE ONLY LOOKING FOR GABBY AT THIS TIME.” They also said the two had been dating for at least two years. They first met in high school but later rekindled their relationship.
They said they liked the fiancé and approved of the trip the two were taking at the time Petito vanished. Petito left for the journey on July 2 from her mother’s home. Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, told multiple news outlets she had last received texts from her daughter’s phone on August 27 and 30 but she never spoke directly with her.
“I just believe she’s in danger because she’s not in touch with us. She could be stranded somewhere in the wilderness ,”said Schmidt. “The first couple of days I wasn’t getting responses. Day eight, day nine I got really concerned and figured she couldn’t be off the grid for that long.”
The couple appeared to have recently started a channel together on YouTube where they documented their “van life,” a popular lifestyle and genre on the platform. Their first video was posted on Aug. 19. It featured 8-minute long footage of their travels in their white van.
“Gabby’s 22 years old, she a beautiful soul inside and out. She’s artistic, creative, loving caring and free-spirited,” said her step father, James Schmidt, on Monday. “We love her, we miss her and we want her to come home.”
Petito’s father, Joe Petito, told Newsday his daughter’s disappearance feels like “drowning with your hands tied behind you.”
He added: “You can’t describe it. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t control anything.”
Gabrielle Petito is described as a white female, about 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads “let it be.”
Suffolk detectives are asking anyone with information on Petito’s disappearance to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.