Missing woman's family says her boyfriend refuses to say what happened as police investigation deepens - East Idaho News

Missing woman’s family says her boyfriend refuses to say what happened as police investigation deepens

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Gabby Petito documented her cross-country trip with boyfriend Brian Laundrie in a YouTube video | Courtesy Gabby Petito’s Instagram and YouTube

MOOSE, Wyoming — Family members of a missing woman are going through “the worst moments of their lives” and say her boyfriend refuses to say what happened to Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito.

The 22-year-old New York woman was last known to be at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Her disappearance is now in the national spotlight after multiple law enforcement agencies have become involved in the search for Petito. She had been living with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, at his parents’ home in North Port, Florida. Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, lives in New York, and Gabby’s father, Joseph Petito, lives in Florida.

RELATED | Urgent search for missing woman who was in Grand Teton National Park

Petito and Laundrie have been together for two years. They set out on a road trip at the beginning of July in a 2012 Ford transit white van to visit different places such as national parks.

Petito frequently documented the trip on Instagram. She wrote on July 10, “After going on our first road trip across the country in my tiny car, we felt like there was just so much we missed. Turning this Ford transit essentially into a camper was such an adventure in itself, but I couldn’t love the way it turned out more!”

The couple posted an 8-minute YouTube video of their trip in their van showing them camping, eating and exploring. The video was posted three weeks ago and is called, “VAN LIFE, Beginning our Van Life Journey.” One of the places they visited was Utah.

Rick Stafford, a friend of Gabby’s mother, told EastIdahoNews.com that Gabby stayed a few days in Salt Lake City then went to Grand Teton National Park.

“She was in Utah on August 24 and we know she was in the Tetons on August 25. They (Schmidt and Petito) had multiple texts on the 25th and then the 27th, and then Nicole received one text on the 30th from Gabby’s phone,” said Stafford.

KSL TV reported Petito’s parents said the couple documented every step of the way but Petito’s social media posts began to slow down along with communication.

“The last text I got from her was on Aug. 30. I don’t know if that was her texting me or not,” Schmidt told the TV station.

Then Petito stopped responding all together. Schmidt said she initially figured the couple had lost internet reception, but late last week, she knew something was off.

Now multiple agencies are involved with the search for Petito. She was last known to be in the Grand Teton National Park on Aug. 25 and was heading toward Yellowstone National Park.

“Our main goal right now is to reverse engineer where all of these folks have been in the last three weeks and try to piece together a timeline of activities and whereabouts so that will hopefully lead us to either A: conclusion of what we all want, which is her safe, or B: something more unfortunate or more serious that a whole other investigation will have to start wherever a potential crime took place,” said Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the North Port Police Department in Florida.

Taylor said that they have attempted to contact Laundrie, and his family provided police with a number for his attorney.

Taylor told EastIdahoNews.com that the white van Laundrie and Petito were traveling in was found Saturday at Laundrie’s family’s house in North Port, Florida. Laundrie is back in Florida but without Petito.

“The fact that someone is in constant communication with their family and all of a sudden isn’t for a number of weeks is odd. The fact that he’s (Laundrie) back here with their vehicle and she is not, is odd,” Taylor said. “The fact that he is not jumping out of the trees to tell us exact information to help us locate her is odd. I think anybody who would look at it would come away with the same conclusion. We don’t know if we have a crime yet — we have a missing person.”

A spokesman for Petito’s family sent EastIdahoNews.com the following statement Monday afternoon:

The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives. Their beautiful 22-year-old daughter is missing, and the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help. Brian Laundrie was traveling with Gabby in the Grand Teton – Yellowstone area. They were traveling together in Gabby’s 2012 Ford Transit van. That is where we believe Gabby was last seen.

Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers.

The Schmidt and Petito family beg the Laundrie family to not “remain in the background” but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located?

The Schmidt and Petito family implore Brian to come forward and at least tell us if we are looking in the right area.

Laundrie’s lawyer, Steven Bertolino in New York, released the following statement on behalf of the Laundrie family:

“The is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”

EastIdahoNews.com contacted Laundrie on Instagram and has received no response.

The Suffolk County Police Department in New York is also investigating the disappearance. They describe Petito as approximately 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blond hair and blue eyes with several tattoos, including one on her finger, and one on her forearm that reads, “Let it be.”

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Petito’s disappearance to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous. In addition, The FBI Tampa Field Office is assisting with this investigation. You can also call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit your tip to tips.fbi.gov.

A National Park Service spokesperson told EastIdahoNews.com, “We are coordinating with multiple law enforcement agencies as part of the investigation into Gabrielle Petito’s whereabouts. As the investigation is ongoing, we do not have any further information to provide at this time.”