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'We Deserve More:' Gabby Petito's Stepfather Pleads With Her Boyfriend To Reveal What He Knows About Disappearance
Police have named Gabby Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, as a person of interest in the case after he returned to Florida in the van the couple was driving on a cross-country trip on Sept. 1 without her.
While standing on the same Wyoming mountain range where his stepdaughter was last seen weeks ago, Gabby Petito’s stepfather pleaded for her boyfriend to cooperate with police in the investigation into her disappearance.
Police have named Petito’s boyfriend, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, as a person of interest in the case after he returned to Florida in the van the couple was driving on a cross-country trip on Sept. 1 without her. He has since refused to cooperate in the search to find the missing 22-year-old.
“He was with her, so he has to know something,” her stepfather, Jim Schmidt, a former fire chief in Blue Point, Long Island, told The Daily Mail after traveling to Wyoming to assist in the search.
Despite the growing media frenzy surrounding the case, Laundrie and his family have stayed out of the spotlight, releasing a statement through their attorney Steven P. Bertolino saying they are “remaining in the background” as the search for the missing woman continues.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family,” read the statement, obtained by Oxygen.com. “On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Schmidt pushed back on the family’s stance on the issue and urged Laundrie to come forward with information about where Petito was last seen to aid those searching for her.
“Our family’s aware of the statements made by his attorney,” he told The Daily Mail from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. “It’s unacceptable. It is unacceptable to us. We deserve more. Gabby deserves more information out there. She deserves to be found and brought home safe. And we need you to step up and do the right thing.”
Grand Teton County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Clayton Platt told local KUTV 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.
Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, told Fox News that she last spoke with her daughter on August 25, when the couple was staying in Grand Teton National Park — her last known location before she disappeared.
Police have said Laundrie returned to Florida alone with the van they were driving on Sept. 1.
Jim Schmidt told The Daily Mail that he believes Laundrie’s refusal to be more forthcoming with authorities is delaying the search and urged him and his family to share what they know.
“I understand a parent's wishes are to always protect their children, no matter what,” he said. “I understand that. But it's also about teaching your children the right thing and doing the right thing, no matter what the circumstances are. Whatever may have transpired or didn't transpire, they need to come forward and start speaking to law enforcement agencies and be forthcoming with information.”
Schmidt’s sentiments were echoed by North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor, who said in a press conference Wednesday, that investigators went to speak with the family Saturday night at their home in Florida, but were referred to their lawyer.
“We don’t know what Brian knows, I mean that’s the bottom line and we’re hopeful to talk to him,” Taylor said. “He needs to talk to us. We need to know exactly where he was, where she was, their last locations.”
Taylor said Laundrie has been identified as a person of interest in the case because he “was the last known person, that we have information that was around her,” he said.
“We’re hoping that people just do the right thing,” he added.
Petito's family doesn’t plan to interfere in the investigation but Jim Schmidt said he decided to fly to Wyoming so that he was more accessible to investigators.
“Since we got here, we've been basically working almost around the clock trying to gather information and let it be known that we're out here and that we're looking for her,” he told the news outlet. “I spoke to one law enforcement official. We're really just here to support them in their investigation. We don't want to interfere and hinder anything that they have, but we just want to show that we're here for them and available for them at a moment's notice for any questions or anything they may need.”
Before disappearing, Petito had chronicled the couple’s cross-country adventure on YouTube, posting an 8-minute long video of the couple kissing, holding hands and doing cartwheels on the beach on Aug. 19.
“A glimpse into our van adventures!” she wrote.
The video was posted just days after Moab Police stopped the pair on Aug. 12 outside the Arches National Park in Utah after a concerned bystander had observed the pair “arguing over a phone” and called 911, according to a police report obtained by Oxygen.com.
Police said neither person had been seriously injured during the argument, which they deemed to be more of a “mental/emotional health ‘break’” than a domestic violence incident. Police helped Laundrie get a hotel room for the night and urged the couple to spend the night apart so they could “reset their mental states.”
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.”
Investigators are directing anyone with information in the case to call: 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).
"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.