Stepfather of young woman heads to Wyoming to join search
The family of the 22-year-old, who lived in Florida, reported her missing after she failed to return from a cross-country road trip with her partner, Brian Laundrie.
While Mr Laundrie has returned to the couple’s home in North Port, Florida, along with the van they traveled in, Ms Petito has not been heard from since late August.
“We’ve got to find Gabby. We’ve got to bring her home,” her father, Joe Pepito, told Fox News.
Asked how he felt, he said: “It’s a feeling you can’t describe. That’s the thing. You can empathise, I am sure you can sympathise, I am sure you can understand how it feels, but you can’t describe how it feels unless you’re in it, unless you’re the parent.
“You just can’t describe how that feeling is because you’ve never felt it before. I pray no one ever feels it again.”
Various police forces have become involved in the search for the missing young woman, who along with Mr Laundrie, established a YouTube channel, Nomadic Statik to record their trip.
Gary Rider, who said he was a long-time family friend, set up a GoFundMe page to help in the search.
He told The Independent that he and Ms Petito’s stepfather, James Schmidt, were heading to Wyoming to look for clues.
He said they were planning to go to the Grand Teton National Park, which is believed to have been the young woman’s last known location.
“We plan on meeting with Investigators and back-tracking known locations and hoping to help verify some information we have received through tips and the investigation,” he said.
“Gabby’s mother is in New York, her father lives in Florida – both areas where this case has an interest. So we are each working those different areas.”
He said any money left over at the end of the search would be returned to people.
“Our motivation is that we pray we can find and bring Gabby home,” he said.
Ms Petito’s mother and step-father have also made appeals for her to get in touch with them.
“At least three times a week we would FaceTime, call, text, frequently,” Ms Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said at a press conference on Monday, held in the offices of their lawyer. “She kept me updated on this whole trip.”
Mr Schmidt said: “Abby we just want you to come home. Call us, let us know you’re ok….Come home, please.”
Police have stressed they do not have any evidence a crime has been committed, though officers said they thought the circumstances of her disappearance were “odd”. They said Mr Laundrie had declined to speak with them and had asked they contact a lawyer the family has hired.
Ms Laundrie on Tuesday issued a statement through his lawyer.
“I understand that a search has been organised for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming,” he said.
“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.”