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Gabby Petito’s family believes her boyfriend’s parents know where the missing 22-year-old is and pleaded with them to “put yourselves in our shoes” in an emotional letter.
“We are writing this letter to ask you to help find our beautiful daughter,” her parents wrote in a joint letter obtained by New York station WABC-TV. “We understand you are going through a difficult time (and) your instinct to protect your son is strong. We ask you to put yourselves in our shoes.”
The letter, which was read during a press conference by the family’s attorney, Richard Stafford, went on to say the family “haven’t been able to sleep or eat and our lives are falling apart” in the wake of their daughter’s disappearance.
Petito was officially reported missing by her mother on Sept. 11, but North Port Police have said her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, had returned to Florida without his girlfriend 10 days earlier. Laundrie has been named as a person of interest in the disappearance but has so far refused to sit down with investigators, authorities have said.
“Two people went on the trip. One person returned,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison told reporters Thursday, according to ABC News. “And that person that returned isn’t providing us any information.”
Petito’s parents believe Laundrie’s parents also know more than they are telling.
“We believe you know the location where Brian left Gabby,” they wrote. “We beg you to tell us. As a parent, how could you let us go through this pain and not help us. As a parent, how could you put Gabby’s younger brothers and sisters through this.”
The letter, which is signed by her mother Nichole Schmidt, stepfather Jim Schmidt, father Joe Petito and stepmother Tara Petito, appeals to Laundrie’s parents' own personal connection to their daughter.
“Gabby lived with you for over a year. She was going to be your daughter in law. How can you keep her location hidden?” they wrote. “You were both at Jim and Nichole’s house. You were both so happy that Brian and Gabby got engaged and were planning to spend their lives together. Please, if you or your family has any decency left, please tell us where Gabby is located. Tell us if we are even looking in the right place.”
Gabby last spoke to her mother Nichole on Aug. 25 when the couple was staying in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming as they made their way to Yellowstone.
Jim Schmidt flew to Grand Teton National Park from his home in New York earlier this week, to add support to the search effort to find Gabby.
“We feel we just need someone here to make contact with law enforcement and just be there if they need any assistance with the investigation,” he told local station KUTV.
Grand Teton County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Clayton Platt told the news outlet that authorities are pursuing investigative leads in the area along with the FBI, National Park Service and police in Jackson, Wyoming, but Petito’s last known whereabouts remain a mystery.
As the public scrutiny around the Laundrie family continues to grow, their attorney Steven P. Bertolino has said the family does not plan to speak to authorities.
“Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence,” Bertolino said in a statement obtained by ABC News. “In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this, and the warning that ‘any statement will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter.”
Bertolino said Brian’s classification as a “person of interest” in the case by police did not change the family’s stance on remaining quiet.
“This formality has not really changed the circumstances of Mr. Laundrie being the focus and attention of law enforcement and Mr. Laundrie will continue to remain silent on the advice of counsel,” he said.
Before her disappearance, Laundrie and Petito had been traveling across the country in a white 2012 van they had converted into a makeshift home. They documented their journey on YouTube, including in an eight-minute video that showed the couple doing cartwheels on the beach, kissing and traveling to scenic locales.
The idyllic images captured in the video are a stark contrast from the anguish her family is now facing as the search for the 22-year-old continues.
Petito has been described by police as a white female, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several distinctive tattoos including one on her forearm that reads, “Let it be.”
Anyone with information about the case, is urged to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).
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