Family members and police are searching for a New York woman who was travelling across the United States with her partner before being reported missing. Her partner returned home without her and no one has heard from her in weeks.
Gabby Petito, 22, of Blue Point, Long Island, was last seen on 24 August when she checked out of a Salt Lake City hotel with her partner of two and half years, Brian Laundrie. She was reported missing by her family on the evening of 11 September, said police.
Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie had been documenting their travel experiences as ‘van-lifers’ across the US on a YouTube channel called ‘Nomadic Statik’. She would regularly FaceTime her mother, but her mother grew worried when she hadn’t heard from her for days and notified the authorities.
Here is everything we know about the case:
In a press release, Suffolk County Police Department explained that Gabby’s family were last in contact with her at the end of August. According to her mum, Gabby would FaceTime around three times a week. Her mum received text messages on 26 and 27 August from her daughter's phone but said she could not be sure they were from her daughter. “I don’t know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn’t verbally speak to her,” she said in an interview with CBS News.
Prior to the last communication, Ms Petito is believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Ms Petito’s mother Nicole Schmidt told Fox News the pair were heading for Yellowstone National Park next, but Ms Petito did not arrive. “The first couple of days when I wasn’t getting responses, I believed she was in a place with no service. It was like day eight and nine that I really became concerned,” Ms Schmidt said. Gabrielle Petito was reported missing to the Suffolk County Police Department by her family on 11 September around 6.55pm.
Mr Laundrie has since returned to his Florida home without Gabby. Police have since recovered the couple’s 2012 Ford Transit van.
Police in Florida, where the couple had lived previously, said the circumstances of her disappearance “appeared odd”.
“The North Port Police Department is actively assisting in this case in conjunction with the Suffolk County Police Department where she was reported missing,” said the department in a statement. “The Suffolk County Police Department is investigating the disappearance of a Blue Point woman who went missing while travelling.”
Ms Petito’s family are leading the search for her. Gabby’s mum, Nichole Schmidt, did a news conference on 13 September. “As a mom, I had concerns about a daughter going on a road trip in general,” Ms Schmidt said. “But I felt safe ... they had a plan, an itinerary, and we were excited for them.”
Addressing Gabby directly, her father Joseph Petito said: “Gabby, we just want you to come home,” he urged. “Call us. Let us know you’re OK. Come home, please.”
Her father told Newsday that the family was suffering greatly since her disappearance: “It’s like drowning with your hands tied behind you. You can’t describe it. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t control anything,” he said.
“Pride isn’t an issue right now. My only daughter is missing,” he said. “I’m going to do, the family, Gabby’s mom, we’re going to do anything we can to find her.”
Ms Schmidt’s husband and son have posed two missing person posters on their Instagram accounts as well as a picture of Ms Petito, to help in the search for her. Both said they were unable to “comment any further because there is an active investigation”.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with their search, and pay for investigators and travel costs. It has so far received contributions of more than $23.000.
Social media posts
The couple had saved their money and quit their jobs to travel across the US. Their Instagram accounts documented parts of their trip, with the first post on 2 July. They posted about Kansas’ Monument Rocks, Colorado Springs, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Zion National Park and Bryce National Park in Utah and Canyonlands National Park.
“Downsizing our life to fit into this itty bitty van was the best decision we’ve ever made,” Mr Laundrie wrote on Instagram that month. “Sacrificing space to wake up in nature every day has been no sacrifice at all.”
Ms Petito is described as a white female, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and a triangle tattoo on her left arm, two finger tattoos, and one on her forearm that reads “let it be.” She also has a belly button piercing.
Detectives are asking those with information on Petito’s disappearance can contact Crime Stoppers anonomoysly on 1-800-220-TIPS.