Gabby Petito dreamed of traveling across the United States. Her parents said she and her fiance, Brian Laundrie, saved to buy a van to make the trip and live in. They left in July and would film their trek for a YouTube van life series. Her parents were nervous, but they trusted their daughter and they liked Laundrie.
Still, her mom had a piece of advice for Gabby Petito before she left.
“I told her to be careful, be safe,” she told 60 Minutes Australia. “To be aware of your surroundings. Don’t trust anybody.”
“It felt safe because she was with Brian and I felt like she would be OK,” Petito’s mom, Nichole Schmidt, said. “I thought he would take care of her.”
Police haven’t named Brian Laundrie a suspect in Petito’s death, but his behavior following Gabby’s death was suspicious. He returned home without his fiancee on Sept. 1, days after Gabby stopped making her regular calls and FaceTimes home. He wouldn’t respond to her parents when they were frantically trying to reach their daughter. Police allege he used Gabby’s debit card to get home. And weeks after returning home and stonewalling investigators, Brian Laundrie vanished. No one has seen him since Sept. 14 when he packed a bag and left his parents’ Florida home.
Nichole Schmidt said his actions point toward his guilt.
“I don’t want to say he is insane or anything, he went home, he’s hiding, he used her credit card,” she told 60 Minutes. I mean, that’s not someone who has gone crazy. He knows what he is doing.”
Parents of Gabby Petito Are Looking to the Future
Investigators don’t know why Gabby Petito died, but they do know how. An autopsy showed that someone strangled her in late August or early September. FBI agents found her remains on Sept. 19.
Her family brought her home to New York three weeks later.
Her parents said she would have done great things if she had lived. So, they are doing them for her. They started the Gabby Petito Foundation to help victims of domestic violence and aid in finding missing people. The group held its first fundraiser recently.
“You never, ever think it is going to be yours,” Schmidt said. “It is surreal.”
Gabby’s dad, Joe Petito, said the weeks of waiting to find out what happened to Gabby Petito were torturous. He doesn’t want any other parent to feel that pain. Joe Petito told 60 Minutes that he tries not to think about that. He prefers to focus on their last conversation.
“The last thing I said to her, my very last sentence was ‘I love you,'” he said. “And her last sentence to me was ‘I love you too.'”