In July, Gabby Petito packed away her last suitcase into her 2012 Ford Transit van and told her mom goodbye. It’s the last time they’d see each other face-to-face. Six months later, the memory of that last meeting looms large for her mom, Nicole Schmidt.
Gabby Petito’s parents and step-parents say they’re still trying to make sense of a world without her. They opened up about their struggles in the new Peacock documentary The Murder of Gabby Petito: Truth, Lies, and Social Media.
“There are so many good memories over the years, but the one thing that I hold dear to me is the hug that we had before she left for the trip in the driveway,” Schmidt says in a newly released clip.
The FBI found Gabby Petito’s body buried in a shallow grave in a Wyoming national park in September. Police don’t know why someone strangled the 22-year-old to death. The person of interest in the case, her fiance Brian Laundrie, stonewalled investigators after he came home alone from the cross-country trip earlier that month. Days after the story made national headlines, Laundrie went to a nature preserve near his parents’ home in Florida and killed himself. Police never named him or anyone a suspect in the case.
Petito’s case captured the nation’s attention like few have in recent memory. Entire communities on social media sprang up to get #JusticeForGabby. Schmidt said Gabby always had that effect on people.
“People would meet her and just fall in love with her,” Schmidt says in the documentary. “She just had this presence. I don’t know what it was. It was just magical.”
Peacock will release The Murder of Gabby Petito: Truth, Lies, and Social Media on Friday, Dec. 17.
Gabby Petito’s Parents Tells Others to Hold Family Close
Thanksgiving was the first major holiday since Gabby Petito’s death. Her parents said it was a painful time but it was a moment to reflect on their memories with her.
“Gabby will forever remind me to be grateful for every moment, every breath, and every memory,” Schmidt tweeted. “I will cherish what I’ve had, and have in the present, always. Live with love, laughter, and gratitude.”
Joe Petito shared a similar sentiment. He hopes that other families will take this time to be there for each other.
“Thanksgiving, a day for being thankful, thoughtful, and giving,” he wrote. “Hug your family and friends. Be thankful for the time you get to spend with them all. We miss you #Gabbypetito. You should be with us, but now all we have are the pictures.”
Her parents have also used their new platform to help other families find missing loved ones. Joe Petito often tweets out information about missing teens and adults to get more eyes on the case. He also created the Gabby Petito Foundation, which will help families of the missing and raise money for organizations that assist in domestic violence cases.