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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WLFA) – For Lisa and Steven Carlisle, the death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has hit close to home.
The North Port parents have a daughter Gabby’s age away at college. They say they felt heartbroken and helpless when the young Sarasota County woman went missing during her cross-country trip.
As daunting daily searches to find the 22-year-old began, the couple began to pray as they believe Gabby could have easily been their daughter.
“She’s from North Port. She seems like our daughter from North Port. She belongs here,” Steven Carlisle said with tears in his eyes.
Late Tuesday, the couple was devastated when they heard that the Wyoming coroner ruled Gabby’s death was, in fact, a homicide.
Their hearts went out to her parents immediately, telling us that no mother or father should ever have to go through this kind of heartache, that it goes against nature for a child to pass before a parent.
It’s unfathomable, they explained. The hurt, the suffering, the pain, the anguish – all the emotions that Gabby’s parents are enduring right now, unimaginable that their daughter’s body was found in a Wyoming campsite – alone and isolated.
“It’s just very hard. I can only imagine what her parents are going through,” said Lisa.
From one parent to another, the couple wants Gabby’s mom and dad to know, parents all over North Port and all over the nation are thinking of them.
As a mother and father, Lisa and Steven say they knew, in their hearts, they needed to be at Gabby’s memorial in North Port Tuesday night to show their support and their love.
They say only a parent could understand the kind of grief this family must be feeling right now.
“We had to do this. We knew we needed to be here. We’ve been following the story since the very beginning. We’ve been praying that it wasn’t her. Then, we got the news it was her today and it saddened our hearts,” Carlisle said.
The North Port couple says Gabby’s pictures captured their hearts as she was a bright light, full of life, entering the prime of her life.
A young woman who could have been anyone’s daughter. A young soul who ended up being America’s daughter in the end.
“This should touch everybody. This girl with the beautiful smile,” said Steven Carlisle, his eyes full of grief. “She looked like she had life in her hands, and it was taken away from her.”