The parents of Gabby Petito shared heartbreaking posts on social media Sunday to mark the two-year anniversary of her disappearance and murder.
Petito, 22, had been travelling on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, when she vanished in August 2021.
Laundrie returned home to Florida without her and police began investigating him as a person of interest. The next month, Petito’s body was found on the edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. It was determined she had been strangled a few weeks earlier.
Two years later, her loved ones marked her tragic passing on Sunday with a request for the public to “shine a light” to “honor all those who have been murdered at the hands of their intimate partner.”
Joseph Petito penned a tribute to his only daughter with a photo of her posing in front of a waterfall.
“Tonight will make 2 years my only daughter #GabbyPetito was taken,” he wrote.
“If her story touched you, I ask you to share a #MissingPerson flyer. Help get someone home safe to their loved ones that are missing them.”
Petito’s mother Nichole Schmidt also shared a tribute for their daughter, asking the public to shine a light in the darkness for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
“Today marks two years since our beautiful Gabby was murdered,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Please shine a light in the darkness for all those who have been taken by the ones they loved, and for survivors of domestic violence!”
The couple were travelling by van across the US in the summer of 2021, visiting scenic places in Colorado and Utah before heading north. They documented their trip in detail, in real time, on social media. But their travels were not as happy as they appeared online.
Police in Moab, Utah, pulled over the van after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb at the entrance to Arches National Park in August 2021. Petito told police she and Laundrie had been fighting. Officers separated the couple for the night and didn’t pursue charges.
A month after Petito’s body was found, Laundrie was found dead in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida.
It was later revealed that he had taken his own life and investigators had recovered a letter near his remains that confessed to Petito’s murder.
The two-year anniversary of Petito’s tragic murder comes as the two families are embroiled in several lawsuits against each other.
The Petitos sued Brian Laundrie’s parents, accusing them of knowing that their son had murdered Gabby and then helped him with the coverup for nearly a month before her body was found, causing mental anguish, pain and suffering.
Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt claim Christopher and Roberta Laundrie knew Gabby was dead when she vanished in August 2021 while on a road trip with their son Brian, but chose not to take any action other than saying they hoped she would be found.
Family members from both sides are expected to be deposed in the coming months as part of the series of depositions leading up to a trial in May 2024 in Sarasota County court.
The Petitos have also filed a suit against the Moab City Police Department, claiming that the police department and its officers, “deprived Gabby of her safety and ultimately her life.”
It stems from the domestic dispute between the couple on 12 August 2021 in Moab, Utah in which an eyewitness allegedly saw Laundrie “slapping his girlfriend.”
Police bodycam video shows Petito sobbing during the incident while photos show blood on her face.
When police interviewed them, Petito was deemed the “primary aggressor” after she admitted to hitting Laundrie.
No one was arrested, but were instead separated for the night. Just days later, Laundrie killed Petito after they continued with their travels.
Mitchell A. Stephens, an attorney for the Moab police officers, slammed the $50million lawsuit as a “publicity stunt.”
Mr Stephens told the US Sun that “the Moab City Police Department did not cause Brian Laundrie to murder Gabrielle Petito.
“When called, Moab’s officers responded with kindness and respect.”
“They also separated Ms. Petito and Mr. Laundrie for the night. The next morning, Ms. Petito and Mr. Laundrie chose to continue their ongoing road trip, traveling hundreds of miles together over the following weeks.”
“Even if the plaintiffs believe that Moab City is liable, it strains credibility to suggest the City is 15-20 times more responsible for Ms. Petito’s death than Brian Laundrie, her murderer.”
Peitito’s parents, her father Joseph Petito, mother, Nichole Schmidt, and step-parents, Tara Petito, and Jim Schmidt, announced last week that they will speak at CrimeCon in Orlando, Florida.
The Gabby Petito Foundation will be honored as Crimefighter of the Year, and they will speak on “the issues around domestic violence and missing persons,” according to a Facebook post.
“We are proud to be a guest at this year’s event so we can continue to honor Gabby’s legacy,” they said in the post.