The mother of Gabby Petito said she liked Brian Laundrie when they met, and she thought her daughter would be safe on the couple’s cross-country trip. Now, she believes the 23-year-old Laundrie is a “coward” who should spend the rest of his life in prison for killing Petito.
In a devastating interview with 60 Minutes Australia, Nichole Schmidt looked back on the final days of her daughter’s life and how things could have been different.
Schmidt recalls meeting Brian Laundrie before he and Gabby Petito left on a four-month-long trip to visit national parks across the country. She thought Laundrie was a “quiet” and “nice guy.” He read books to her younger children.
Schmidt said she was excited that Petito, 22, was going on such a big trip at such a young age.
“I loved getting the updates and was in awe with what she was doing,” Schmidt said. “It was just amazing.”
Then her daughter’s phone calls and social media posts stopped in late August. And Brian Laundrie returned home without Gabby Petito. He wouldn’t return Schmidt’s calls or messages and didn’t help police after they reported her missing on Sept. 11.
FBI agents found the body of Gabby Petito buried in a shallow grave in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming a week after they reported her missing, The Sun reported. Police haven’t named Brian Laundrie a suspect in the case. Laundrie went missing on Sept. 14, which sparked a massive, month-long manhunt.
Schmidt believes Laundrie killed her daughter, and she wants justice.
“I want to get him in a cell for the rest of his life,” she said.
Schmidt Reacts to Police Body Cam of Video of Gabby Petito
Shortly before she died, Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie got into a fight on the side of a road in Utah on Aug. 12. A witness called police and said he saw a man believed to be Laundrie hitting Petito. Police arrived and interviewed them both. The body camera footage is one of the last known recordings of Petito.
The 22-year-old New York native is crying and upset in the video. She admits that Laundrie hit her and roughly grabbed her face after she hit him. Police split them up for the night but did not file any charges in the case. People questioned the police’s decision since the video was released.
“It’s just hard to watch,” Schmidt said of the body camera footage. “I saw a young girl who needed someone to just hug her and keep her safe. I just felt so bad for her. (And) I wished she would have reached out to me.”
Petito likely died in late August or early September, a few weeks after Petito spoke with Utah police, investigators said. A Wyoming coroner concluded someone strangled her to death.
“I hope she did not suffer and she was not in any pain,” Schmidt said. “That she was in a place she wanted to be, looking at the beautiful mountains.”