TAMPA, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Gabby Petito’s family spoke out publicly Tuesday for the first time since the 22-year-old YouTuber’s body was discovered in a Wyoming national park as the manhunt for her boyfriend stretches on.
“She is with us,” her stepfather Jim Schmidt said during a news conference also attended by her mother, father and stepmother. “The signs are there, you just have to look for them.”
The four family members displayed matching tattoos they had gotten the night before, stating “Let It Be,” as designed by Petito, “in the way she had it written on her arm.”
“I hope people are inspired by her,” Petito’s mother Nicole Schmidt said. “It means a lot to me that she has touched so many lives already.”
Petito family attorney Richard Stafford conveyed a thank you from the family for what he describes as an outpouring of love, affection and sympathy from not just their family and friends, “but from the law enforcement community, the press and people around the world.”
“Gabby Petito loved life,” Stafford said. “She was the bright light in everyone’s life that knew her. Gabby’s family does not want that light to dim.”
“The worst fears for any parent played out before our eyes,” Stafford said. “Justice for Gabby is that we see justice for her homicide.”
According to his parents, Brian Laundrie was last seen two weeks ago entering the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Florida but was not reported missing until a few days later. Investigators had focused intently on the area after Laundrie’s parents told police he may have gone there. The search for Laundrie is still underway, with the FBI taking the lead.
“The Laundries did not help us find Gabby. They are sure not going to help us find Brian. For Brian — we are asking you to turn yourself in,” Stafford said.
Monday, Dog the Bounty Hunter told NewsNation he learned the Laundrie parents left for a camping trip Sept. 6, more than a week before Brian Laundrie was last heard from.
NewsNation confirmed Pinellas County records show Roberta Laundrie checked into a Fort Desoto campsite that day.
Workers told NewsNation they were not allowed to comment.
Petito vanished while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie in a converted camper van. The trip was well-documented on social media until it abruptly ceased, allegedly somewhere in Wyoming. The couple documented most of their trip, which started in July, on a YouTube Vlog called “VAN LIFE”. The last posts to both their Instagram accounts were from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days. Her body was discovered days later at Grand Teton National Park.
Protesters gathered Monday outside the North Port, Florida home where Petito lived with Laundrie and his parents. Those in the group yelled, “Where is he?” and, “Tell us what happened to Gabby!” specifically addressing Laundrie’s parents.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him. The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong.”STEVEN BERTOLINO
Teton County Coroner Brent Blue classified Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but did not disclose how she was killed pending further autopsy results. Laundrie, 23, has not been charged in relation to her death but has been considered a person of interest in her disappearance.
The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie last week. Laundrie is wanted for “use of unauthorized access device” related to his activities following Petito’s death. The FBI says Laundrie used a debit card and a PIN to access two bank accounts Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.
“I want you to take a look at these pictures and I want you to be inspired by them. If there’s a trip you want to take, take it. Now. Do it now while you’ve got the time. If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now,” Petito’s father, Joseph Petito said. “Gabby is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. I’m asking you guys to be inspired by the way she treated people, all people.”
NewsNation affiliates WFLA, KTXL and the Associated Press contributed to this report.