Gabby Petito’s family thanks public for support, calls for heightened awareness of other missing persons

Sarasota County

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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — In their first public address since their daughter’s body was found in Wyoming earlier this month, the family of Gabby Petito thanked everyone for their support and announced a foundation to help honor and remember the 22-year-old.

Petito’s parents – Joe and Tara Petito, and Nichole and Jim Schmidt – joined attorney Richard Stafford Tuesday afternoon for a news conference in New York.

Each of her parents delivered brief statements – their first public comments since the 22-year-old was found dead near Grand Teton National Park earlier this month.

Family shares their thanks

Jim Schmidt, Gabby’s stepfather, thanked law enforcement agencies out west and back home for their work finding Gabby.

“We’re so grateful for everybody out there,” he said. “They were second to none, they were unbelievable and we’re forever grateful for that.”

Her mother Nichole Schmidt took time to recognize the detective she worked with to begin the investigation into her daughter’s disappearance, as well as the organizations that helped get Gabby’s photo out into the public. Gabby’s father Joe added the family’s thanks to news organization and social media users that helped spread the word.

“That was very helpful in bringing our daughter home,” he said.

Honoring their daughter’s legacy

During the news conference, the family also provided more details on the Gabby Petito foundation they launched in their daughter’s honor.

“We’re hoping through our tragedy of losing Gabby, that in the future, some good can come out of it, that we can help other people that may be in a similar situation,” Jim Schmidt said. “We’re just hopeful we’re able to help people in the future.”

Joe Petito said the family right now is focused on positivity moving forward.

“We can’t let her name be taken in vain,” he said. “We need positive stuff.”

He also said he hopes the focus on his daughter’s case sheds more light on other missing persons cases.

“Social media has been amazing and very influential. And, to be honest, it should continue for other people too,” Petito said. “This same type of heightened awareness should be continued for everyone. Everyone.”

“It’s not just Gabby that deserves that,” he added.

‘She’s with us’

The parents also noted during their press conference they’ve noticed signs they believe are from Gabby.

Nichole Schmidt said they were driving on Monday and ended up behind a car with a Wyoming sticker and the letters GBZ. Wyoming is where Gabby’s body was found, and her parents took the letters on the car as a sign for “Gabs.”

“She’s with us,” Nichole Schmidt said. “She’s with us.”

“The signs are there, you just have to look for them,” Jim Schmidt added.

Comment on Brian Laundrie

The family and their attorney did answer a few questions about the person of interest in Gabby’s disappearance, her fiancé Brian Laundrie. Laundrie’s family reported him missing earlier this month amid the ongoing investigation into Gabby’s disappearance.

“The Laundries did not help us find Gabby,” Stafford said. “They’re sure not going to help us find Brian.”

Stafford noted that the FBI has asked the family to refrain from talking about any relationship between Gabby and Brian or their families.

“Our focus is still on mourning Gabby and honoring Gabby,” Jim Schmidt said. “The FBI is doing everything they can and we have full faith in them.”

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