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'I Just Want To Find Her': Gabby Petito's Family Says Her Boyfriend 'Refuses To Help'
Gabrielle Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie were on a cross-country trip when she went missing, leaving her family desperate for answers.
The parents of a missing New York woman, who disappeared while documenting a cross country trip with her boyfriend on YouTube, said the man “refuses to help” in the case after returning to Florida without her.
Gabby Petito, 22, was reported missing Saturday by her family in Long Island, New York after they grew concerned when they were unable to reach her for days, according to a statement from the Suffolk County Police Department obtained by Oxygen.com.
Petito disappeared while on a cross-country adventure with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, who later returned to his North Port, Florida home her.
“The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives,” family attorney Richard Stafford said in a statement to NBC News. “Their beautiful twenty-two year old daughter is missing and the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help.”
North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor told Oxygen.com previously that police “would like to talk” to Laundrie, but have been referred by his parents to the family’s attorney.
“The fact he was the last person seen with her makes him someone we could be interested in talking to,” Taylor said.
Laundrie hasn't been named a suspect in the case and Taylor said there's no evidence at this stage that a crime had occurred.
Authorities believe Petito was staying in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when she last contacted her family, but it’s unclear where or when she vanished.
"Brian Laundrie was traveling with Gabby in the Grand Teton – Yellowstone area. They were traveling together in Gabby’s 2012 Ford Transit van. That is where we believe Gabby was last seen," Stafford said.
Her mother, Nichole Schmidt, said in a news conference on Monday that she last talked to her daughter through FaceTime about three weeks ago and said she received a final text from her on Aug. 30—although she didn’t speak with her directly that day.
“At least three times a week we would FaceTime, call, text, frequently,” she said. “She kept me updated on this whole trip.”
When Schmidt initially wasn’t able to get a hold of her daughter—who embarked on the cross-country trip from New York in July—she initially believed she may be in an area without cell phone service, but as the days without contact grew, she knew something wasn’t right.
“I just believe she’s in danger because she’s not in touch with us and she could be alone somewhere, she could be stranded somewhere in the wilderness, and need help,” she said. “I believe a mother’s instinct is the most powerful.”
Schmidt called the desperate search for her daughter “scary” and “nerve-wracking.”
“We don’t sleep. We’re just actively looking for her,” she said.
While the search remains ongoing for the missing woman, the van the couple had been traveling in while documenting their cross-country trip on YouTube has been recovered in Florida, according to a statement from North Port Police Monday.
The agency is now “actively assisting” the Suffolk County Police Department with the investigation in light of the development.
“We currently have no definitive information that a crime took place here in North Port,” police said. “With that said, the circumstances are odd. The vehicle she was traveling in was located here in North Port. So, we are actively gathering local details and any evidence to assist in finding needed answers.”
Laundrie’s family released a statement through their attorney, Steven P. Bertolino, which was provided to Oxygen.com calling the disappearance an “extremely difficult time” for both families.
“It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. 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. “On advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Bertolino declined to comment to Oxygen.com about where Laundrie last saw his missing girlfriend.
In response to the statement, Petito's family has urged Laundrie "to not 'remain in the background'" and take a more active role to find the woman he once "referred to as the love of his life," according to Stafford.
"Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her," he said. "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."
About two weeks before her last reported sighting, police in Utah had responded to “an incident” involving the couple, but the details around the alleged incident remain unclear.
"Our officers did respond to an incident involving Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito on 12 August 2021 however, neither Brian or Gabrielle were the reporting party," Moab Chief of Police Bret Edge said in a statement to Oxygen.com. "Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges."
Schmidt told The Daily Mail the couple had once been engaged, but decided to call off the engagement and go back to dating after they realized they were too young to get married.
“I think they kind of put that on hold just because they felt it was a little fast,” she said.
According to Schmidt, the couple first met in high school in Long Island but later reconnected and began dating.
Schmidt said she now wonders whether the “relationship wasn’t what I thought.”
“I know that's the reason this story is so sought after is because it's odd,” she told the news outlet. “The police have said it's very odd. We don't know what's going on, and where is my daughter. I just want to find her.”
"The Murder of Gabby Petito: Truth, Lies and Social Media" will air on Oxygen on Monday, January 24 at 9/8c. It's also available to stream on Peacock now.
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