‘She’s with us’: Family talks about Gabby Petito and their goal to help others missing

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:

Gabby Petito’s family memorialized the 22-year-old by getting tattoos she had designed.

Nicole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, has “Let it Be” and “Believe” on her arm. Joe Petito has the trail of leaves circling his fingers.

The family got tattooed on Monday before speaking to the media for the first time since Petito was found at Grand Teton National Park.

“We don’t stop remembering Gabby and keeping her name out there and fighting for people like her,” said Jim Schmidt. “How do you go back to normal? Whatever normal might be here on out.”

We are just going to keep pushing forward and living every day. That’s what Gabby did and that’s what we need to do.”

Petito’s parents spoke to media during a news conference on Tuesday, just two days after holding her memorial, and announced the formation of the Gabby Petito Foundation.

The 22-year-old’s remains were found on Sept. 19 in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming after her family reported her missing on Sept. 11.

They said they want the foundation to help other families find their missing loved ones.

“Everyone deserves the same type of awareness,” Joe Petito said. “We are just hoping through our tragedy of losing Gabby, in the future, we can help another family going through this.”

Jim Schmidt said the goal was to bring Petito home. The FBI has not released her remains to the family, but he said the family chose to hold her memorial in order to mourn her death.

They plan to hold a private funeral when her body is returned to New York.

As for her belongings, they are still in Florida at the Laundrie home.

“We want to make sure no matter what, we do not impede the investigation in any way,” Jim Schmidt said. “It was a tough decision to make but we felt it was important. When they’re ready to release her, we will bring her home.”

Nicole Schmidt said she sees signs that Petito is still present in their lives.

“We actually got behind a car yesterday and there was a Wyoming sticker and the license plate had G-B-Z … Gabz,” Schmidt said. “She’s with us.”

The family declined to answer questions related to Brian Laundrie and his family, but thanked the public and social media for their resolve in finding their daughter.

The family’s attorney Richard Stafford said they are hoping they will have justice for Petito’s homicide.

“The Laundries did not help us find Gabby. They’re sure as not going to help us find Brian,” Stafford said. “So Brian, we’re asking for you to turn yourself into the FBI or the nearest law enforcement agency.”

To watch the news conference click here or stream it below.

The couple was on a cross-country road trip in a converted sleeper van that began during the summer.

Laundrie returned to his North Port home in the van on Sept. 1 but without Petito.

Petito was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11. She was found a week later on Sept. 19 and declared a victim of homicide.

Officials have not released a cause of death. The investigation is now lead by the FBI Denver office.

On Thursday, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Laundrie for unauthorized use of a bank card and for behavior following Petito’s death.

Neighbors and onlookers have been outside the Laundrie family home in North Port protesting. Wanted posters of Laundrie have been placed near the home.

On Monday, the family issued a statement through their lawyer Steven Bertolino denying they know where their son is located.

“Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him. The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong.”

On Tuesday, Bertolino confirmed that prior to Laundrie’s disappearance he and his family went camping at Fort De Soto Campground in Pinellas County from Sept. 6 to Sept. 7. he said the reservation was until Sept. 8, but they left a day early.

Bertolino added that Laundrie returned to his home with his parents.

A week later, on Sept. 14, Laundrie left his home and hasn’t been seen since. He was reported missing three days later on Sept. 17.

Over the weekend, a smaller search focused in areas of more likelihood was conducted to find Laundrie to no avail. On Monday, crews focused on a small body of water.

The North Port Police Department said they were scaling back the search while the FBI is focusing on areas based on intelligence. Authorities hope, with the lack of rain, that the water will recede.

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