Gabby Petito’s father, Joe Petito, has asked for the same attention given to Gabby’s case to be paid to other missing persons. “I wanna ask everyone to help all the people who are missing and need help,” he said Tuesday, as Petito’s family announced a foundation in her honor to help other missing persons. “It’s on all of you, everyone that’s in this room to do that,” he added, addressing reporters directly. “It’s not just Gabby that deserves that.”
Petito disappeared on a cross-country “van life” road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. Her family reported her missing on September 11th and the Denver FBI found Petio’s remains September 19th in the vicinity of the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in Grand Teton National Park. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
Laundrie had refused to speak with police after returning home to Florida September 1st without Petito. His parents told authorities on September 17th that he’d disappeared. The FBI is continuing their search for Laundrie, who is considered a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance and is wanted on a warrant for debit card fraud committed after Petito’s death. A lawyer for Petito’s family called on Laundrie to surrender to authorities. “The Laundries did not help us find Gabby they’re sure not gonna help us find Brian,” attorney Richard Stafford said. “For Brian, we’re asking you to turn yourself in to the FBI or the nearest law enforcement agency.”
Petito’s disappearance generated a huge amount of interest in headlines as well as in true crime communities on social media, especially TikTok, where videos with the hashtags #findgabby and #gabbypetito generated tens of millions of views. TV personality Duane Chapman, better known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, has also joined the search for Laundrie in the past few days.
Joe Petito thanked social media for helping find his daughter, and called on people to pay more attention to other people who need help. “Social media has been amazing and very influential,” he said, “And to be honest it should continue for other people, too. This same type of heightened awareness should be continued for everyone.”
His comments come after the news and social media frenzy about Petito’s disappearance prompted calls for more attention to be given to all missing persons, especially missing black and indigenous people, and other people of color. Since then, authorities announced the identification of the body of Jelani Day, a black graduate student who had been missing since August. His mother had spoken out about the public’s and the media’s intense interest in Petito’s case. “I want my child back, too, and I want them to look for my child like they’re looking for her,” she said on the streaming news network Newsy days before Petito’s body was discovered in Wyoming.
Petito’s parents and step-parents also revealed they’d gotten several tattoos, designed by Gabby, on Monday. They each have “Let it be” and an ocean wave on one forearm. Petito’s father, Joe, has a leafy vine around one finger. Petito’s mom, Nicole Schmidt, and step-mom, Tara Petito, also got a flower illustration by Gabby and the word “believe” on their other arm. “She is with us,” Petito’s step-father, Jim Schmidt, said. “The signs are there; you just have to look for them.”