GABBY PETITO INVESTIGATION

Search efforts for Gabby Petito focused near Grand Teton National Park

Sep 16, 2021, 9:56 AM | Updated: 10:18 am

JACKSON, Wyo. — As the search for missing 22-year-old Gabrielle Petito continues, family members are focusing on the area of Jackson, Wyoming.

Family members said they’re confident Petito was last seen with her boyfriend at Grand Teton National Park around Aug. 25, which is why her stepfather and a family friend arrived in Wyoming Tuesday evening.

“This is every parent’s nightmare,” said James Schmidt, Petito’s stepfather.

In what is now a needle in a haystack search, Petito’s family is splitting up to be in New York, Florida and Wyoming.

“Us as a whole, there is just something in our gut that said we needed somebody here,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt and a family friend spent Wednesday posting flyers, coordinating with other family members in New York and Florida advocating on Petito’s behalf.

“I’m hoping wherever she is that she’s OK and she’s safe. We’ll go wherever it takes to find her,” Schmidt said.

Florida police said it would be a lot easier if the 22-year-old’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in the case, would just talk.

“They put out a statement yesterday saying they will standing the background, that is not good enough,” said Joshua Taylor, public information officer for the North Port Police Department, who officially took over the investigation from police in New York.

“You say she’s the love of your life and all the videos — everything we saw — it showed that and you’re going to remain in the background? You (Laundrie) should be in the forefront, you should be helping. You should be cooperating with the law enforcement agencies and giving them all the information they need so we can find Gabby and bring her home,” Schmidt said.

On Wednesday, North Port police confirmed Laundrie returned to Florida on Sept. 1. However, Petito’s family members said he never reached out to them to inform them of his unexpected return. The couple had plans to travel until October and end their trip in Oregon.

“There was no response (from Laundrie). My wife reached out to contact him, tried to contact Gabby. There was no response from Gabby. She tried to reach out to (Laundrie’s) family and no response from the family,” Schmidt said.

Instead, North Port police said Laundrie has remained silent and retained an attorney. However, Petito’s family said that won’t stop them from finding her.

“It’s about protecting your kid but it’s also about doing the right thing, and the right thing is getting information to us so we can get Gabby home,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said they’re letting law enforcement handle search efforts and don’t currently have any plans for large or volunteer search parties.

He also said the couple has known each other since high school and has been dating for two years. They’re technically engaged, but the engagement was postponed.

Family members said they don’t know of a history of violence between the couple.

The FBI also opened up a tipline for the case on Wednesday at 1-800-CALL-FBI and tips.gov.fbi.

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Search efforts for Gabby Petito focused near Grand Teton National Park