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The father of murdered travel blogger Gabriel “Gabby” Petito told attendees of her Long Island memorial that he would like them to be “inspired” by her life.
Approximately one thousand people attended a Sunday memorial for the slain 22-year-old at Moloney’s Funeral Home in Holbrook in person, while thousands more watched online, New York’s WCBS-TV reports.
“I want you to be inspired by Gabby, that’s what we are looking for,” Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, told the mourners. “If there is a relationship you are in that may not be the best thing for you, leave it, now.”
Gabby has become a household name across the world after a search to find her began in early September. Her boyfriend Brian Laundrie had left the couple’s cross-country trip and returned to his parents' home in Florida without Gabby, and driving her van. Gabby’s family reported her missing 10 days later. The search to find her came to a tragic end when her remains were discovered in Wyoming on Sept. 19. An autopsy conducted two days later confirmed she was murdered. Laundrie, named a person of interest in her disappearance, has been missing since Sept. 15. A federal arrest warrant was issued for his arrest last week for the unauthorized use of a debit card following Gabby’s death.
On Sunday, Joseph remembered his daughter as a free spirit who touched the world.
“So when you leave here today, be inspired by what she brought to the table," he said, "because the entire planet knows this woman's name now. And she's inspired a lot of women and a lot of men to do what's best for them first. Put yourself first and do it now while you have the time. I couldn't be more proud as a father."
Gabby's stepfather, Jim Schmidt, spoke about a tattoo that Gabby had on her arm that said "Let It Be" — the title to a Beatles song she liked.
Schmidt recited the song’s verse: "When the broken-hearted people living in the world agree there will be an answer, let it be."
"It's okay to mourn for Gabby, and it's okay to feel sorrow and pain. But we want to celebrate her and how she lived her life," Schmidt said. "We need to hold on to all of those wonderful memories we shared with her, because that will be the answer. Let it be."
Weeks before Gabby vanished, she and Laundrie were pulled over by police after a witness claimed he saw Laundrie slapping and chasing Petito in Moab, Utah. In bodycam footage of the subsequent police stop, the couple makes no mention of Laundrie becoming violent towards Petito. In the police footage, Laundrie is seen laughing as officers told him he was considered the victim in the incident. The officers decided not to make any arrests and instead separated the couple, taking Laundrie to a hotel to spend the night and leaving Petito with the van. Both agreed to not contact each other until the next morning. Moab Police Chief Bret Edge told Oxygen.com that no charges were brought, citing a lack of evidence.
“She was a beautiful soul; she was full of life, always smiling,” Desiree Keeffe, a friend of Gabby's mother Nicole Schmidt said on Sunday, the Associated Press reports. “She gave you love. She was just a beautiful soul. She touched everybody like she did now.”
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