The travel influencer’s case captured attention all over the world.
The death of social media influencer Gabby Petito shook the nation and the world, but her legacy lives on. The Gabby Petito Foundation has partnered with National Domestic Violence Hotline to help other victims toxic and abusive relationships.
Made possible by a $100,000 donation from the foundation created by her family, the funds will go towards reducing wait times and expanding the hotline’s “Hope Can’t Wait” initiative. Due to a surge of callers, the time it takes to get through has jumped from 7 minutes to more than 17 minutes.
“I think Gabby’s story touched a lot of people and she’s saving lives. I get people messaging me all the time that they were inspired by her to get out of a relationship,” her mother, Nicole Schmidt, told The Associated Press.
After sparking a massive search, Petito’s life came to a gruesome end last September when her body was found near a campground in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. Investigators believe her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, killed her last August while the couple was on a cross-country trip in a van. But just weeks before her death, the couple was stopped by officers in Moab, Utah, after an alleged physical altercation, and now her family is suing the department for how they handled the incident.
We have the details below.
What happened to Gabby Petito?
Petito was traveling in a van with Laundrie leading up to her death and the close living quarters appeared to put a strain on the relationship.
Bodycam footage revealed what Gabby told police about a domestic dispute with Laundrie while crossing Utah in August. A witness described the couple before police arrived on August 12 as “sort of squabbling over a phone” and hitting each other “kind of like two kids fighting.”
Local police officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins became involved with the couple following a 911 call from a witness, audio of which has been provided by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. “We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller said. “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”
The bodycam footage includes more details of the conversation between Petito and the officers who then stopped their van. The 52-minute video shows Petito stressing that she had hit Laundrie first, and pleaded with the officer not to separate her from Laundrie. Ultimately, neither wanted to press charges and agreed to separate for the night.
While Pratt and Robbins have defended their handling of the incident, an independent investigation later revealed that they failed to accurately classify the encounter as a domestic violence incident and had instead reported it as a mental/emotional health “break.” They also failed to report her injuries, such as cuts on Petito’s arm and cheek.
Her family has since filed a $50 million wrongful death suit against the Moab Police Department, three of its officers, and 10 other unnamed defendants. In the court filing, lawyers representing Petito’s parents argue that the officers weren’t properly trained to recognize signs of intimate partner violence, and “failed in their duty to protect Gabby.” According to new evidence, an unreleased photo shows blood smeared across their daughter’s face. The filing also accuses the officers of failing to pick up on more subtle cues of abuse, such as her defense of Laundrie and trying to shoulder the blame for their fight.
Meanwhile, the city of Moab denied responsibility, saying its officers “acted with kindness, respect, and empathy” toward Petito. But this is the family’s only pending lawsuit: They’ve also filed a case against Laundrie’s parents, accusing them of hindering the search for their daughter.
What happened to Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie?
Authorities confirmed that the human remains found in a park near Carlton reserve belong to Laundrie. “A comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie,” the agency said.
In their final update on their investigation, the FBI found that Laundrie had claimed responsibility in a notebook that turned up near his body along with a backpack and a revolver. “The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito,” FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider wrote in a statement.
Laundrie was named a person of interest in the case after he returned to his parents’ in Florida in the couple’s shared van alone. He subsequently faced an arrest warrant for allegedly using “one or more unauthorized access devices,” including a Capitol One Bank debit card and personal identification numbers for two accounts. A month after his remains were found, family attorney Steven Bertolino issued a statement saying that he died by suicide, via a gunshot wound to the head.
“Chris and Roberta are still mourning the loss of their son and are hopeful that these findings bring closure to both families,” he said.
Who was Gabby Petito?
The travel influencer had been working as a Florida pharmacy technician to save money for the months-long trip. She met Laundrie at Bayport-Blue Point High School in Long Island, New York, and she is the oldest of six children. After her body was found, Petito’s family shared heartbreaking tributes, with her brother posting that his “heart is shattered.”
When was she last heard from?
Petito hadn’t been seen or heard from since Aug. 25, when she last Facetimed her mother. But a new search warrant revealed that Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, described receiving an “odd” text from her daughter’s phone on Aug. 27 that left her fearing for the worst. The FBI has since confirmed that Laundrie had tried to “deceive” law enforcement into thinking that she was still alive by continuing a text chain from her phone. Setting off her road trip with Laundrie on July 2, the couple had been visiting national parks, and documenting their travels across social media using the hashtag #vanlife.