Story at a glance
- Gabby Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 after failing to return from a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.
- Laundrie returned alone to the Florida home the two shared with his parents on Sept. 1 with Petito’s van.
- Authorities on Wednesday announced Laundrie is considered a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance.
Authorities in Florida made a public plea for information in the search for Gabby Petito alongside members of her family at a press conference on Thursday.
"What I need from everybody here is help," her father, Joe Petito, said. "I'm asking for help from everyone at home. I'm asking for help from the parents of Brian, and I'm asking for the help of the family members and friends of the Laundrie family."
"Our focus is to finding Gabby, and we are pleading with people out there to give us information," North Port Police Department Chief Todd Garrison said. "Point us in the direction that we need to be, and help us find Gabby. Gabby and her family deserve that."
The 22-year-old Petito set out on a cross-country road trip from New York, where her parents live, on July 2 with Laundrie. The couple had been documenting much of the road trip on YouTube and social media, and Petito stayed in touch with her family throughout.
However, she hasn’t been seen since Aug. 24, and her family hasn’t heard from her since that day when she Facetimed her mother, Nicole Schmidt. Petito is believed to have been in the area of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming at that time.
Authorities confirmed on Wednesday that Laundrie returned alone to the North Port home he had been sharing with Petito and his parents on Sept. 1 with Petito’s 2012 Ford Transit van. The van has since been impounded by authorities and processed for evidence, with the FBI assisting with the investigation.
Her family reported her missing Sept. 11 after failing to hear from Petito. Schmidt claims she also attempted to contact Laundrie, as well as his mother, when she could not reach Petito, but she received no response.
Laundrie was named a person of interest on Wednesday. However, on Thursday, Garrison said no criminality is suspected at this time and it remains a missing person’s case.
North Port Public Information Officer Josh Taylor confirmed to The Hill that Laundrie still has yet to speak with them in regards to Petito.
Petito’s step-father, James Schmidt, and other family members were heading to Wyoming to conduct a search where they believe Petito was last seen. However, no on-the-ground searches are being conducted in Florida, The Hill confirmed.
"We have resources and law enforcement partners that are out in the field following up tips and leads but as far as a grid search right now, we're still trying to narrow down geographic areas," Garrison said.
Anyone with information in regards to Petito or her possible whereabouts are encouraged to contact the tip line at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).
"We understand you are going through a difficult time and your instinct is strong to protect your son," Petito’s family said in a letter to the Laundrie family read by their lawyer. "We ask you to put yourselves in our shoes. We haven't been able to sleep or eat and our lives are falling apart. We believe you know the location of where Brian left Gabby. We beg you to tell us."
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