TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — One year ago, Nichole Schmidt received a text message that appeared to be from her daughter, Gabby Petito.
However, something seemed odd about the text, since it said, “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.”
According to Schmidt, Stan was Gabby Petito’s grandfather, but the 22-year-old never referred to him by his first name.
This would be one of the first signs that something was wrong in what would turn out to be a tragic story for the Petito family.
On Sept. 21, 2021, authorities in Wyoming confirmed that a body found near Grand Teton National Park was Gabby Petito, with a medical examiner determining that she had been strangled to death.
At the time, her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, was believed to have been responsible for her death after he returned to his parents’ home in North Port from their road trip alone. He also disappeared while authorities were searching for Gabby Petito.
Laundrie’s remains and a notebook confession would also be found dead in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park after he died by a self-inflicted gunshot, according to the FBI.
Now, one year after their daughter’s death, Gabby Petito’s parents say the pain of their loss remains strong.
“Exactly 1 year ago today you were taken from us,” wrote Joseph Petito, Gabby Petito’s father. “We miss you everyday. We cry everyday. You have inspired so many to live, travel, and leave their unhealthy relationships. We love you Gabby.”
“One year ago, your life was cut short. You are my inspiration every single day, I #missyou more than words could ever express,” Schmidt wrote.
Since her death, the Petito family has used their daughter’s memory to help find missing people and fight against domestic violence, creating the Gabby Petito Foundation in her honor.
Part of their domestic violence awareness campaign was their “Light Up the Night” event the night of Aug. 27 — the day when Gabby was killed, according to the family. The family asks those who participate to light a candle or lantern or set up a string of lights to honor those who died at the hands of domestic violence.
“Together let’s continue to spread awareness and stop the cycle,” Tara Petito said. “Please keep sharing so the world will light the night in honor of all domestic violence victims.”