Mom of missing Florida girl, 22, pleads for help to find her daughter


The parents of a Florida woman who has been missing since her fiancé returned from a cross-country trip without her are trying to stay optimistic as they broke their silence Monday, with the mom saying ‘I believe she’s gonna come home.’

Nicole Schmidt, of Long Island, New York, gave a teary-eyed interview to reporters on Monday afternoon as she held a picture of her daughter Gabby Petito, and said, ‘We are looking for her. We are not focusing on anything else, but finding her . . . I believe she’s gonna come home.’

Petito’s stepfather, James, added, ‘If anyone else has any information, if anyone has seen her, we ask that they call the tip lines and just please, just give any information you have,’ as he joined his anguished wife at the press conference in Bohemia, Suffolk County. 

‘We just want her home safe with us.’ 

Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, has remained mum on her whereabouts, reportedly hiring an attorney and refusing to speak publicly about what happened. Asked about Laundrie at the press conference, however, both parents said, ‘We can’t comment on that.’

Nicole Schmidt, of Long Island, New York, gave a teary-eyed interview to reporters in Bohemia on Monday afternoon about her daughter Gabby Petitio, who has been missing since August 24

Nicole Schmidt, of Long Island, New York, gave a teary-eyed interview to reporters in Bohemia on Monday afternoon about her daughter Gabby Petitio, who has been missing since August 24

Schmidt says that she believes her daughter will return home

Schmidt says that she believes her daughter will return home 

Schmidt said the last time she spoke over the phone with her daughter was on August 25 – and cast suspicion on the texts received from her adventure-seeking girl over the next five days. 

She said she texted Petito on August 27 and 30, but now says she isn’t sure if her daughter was on the other end of the exchange because it wasn’t verbal and she didn’t share any photos of herself, Schmidt told Fox News.    

She said, ‘It was just a text. I did not verbally speak to her,’ she said. ‘I can’t say much, but she’s no longer with the van. I don’t want to say anything more than that but for people looking for her, I want them to look for her now, not look for that van anymore.’ 

Asked about her doubts over the texts at the press conference, Schmidt again said, ‘I can’t comment on that.’ She also declined to share the content of those texts.   

Schmidt said Petito would contact her at least three times a week. ‘We would FaceTime, call, text, frequently. She kept me updated on this whole trip . . . The first couple of days [she went missing], I believe she was in a place with no service. It was day 8 and 9 that I really became concerned and figured she couldn’t be off the grid for that long.’  

She added, ‘I don’t know if I believe she’s in danger for a particular reason, I just believe she’s in danger because she’s not in touch with us and she could be alone somewhere, she could be stranded somewhere in the wilderness. And she needs help. And I know we’re not out there, but I hope everyone’s looking for her. I hope that the hikers and the rangers and the campers and everybody has her face and they’re looking for her actively.’ 

Petito’s father Joe, who lives in Vero Beach, Florida, is also pleading for help bringing his daughter home and addressed the public on Monday when speaking with the New York Post. He said to ‘focus on finding her. I can’t implore that enough. All of the crap afterward will sort itself out. Please find her. I beg you.’

He added that on Aug. 21, she let him know on FaceTime that they had lost power during a stop in Salt Lake City.

‘Everything was good. She had lost power to wherever she was at. She couldn’t get on the WiFi for whatever reason,’ Petito said.

Throughout the past week, neither parent had her from her and, he said, ‘we got pretty alarmed and tried to do the missing-person report.’

He urged people across the country to be on the lookout for anything that seems “fishy.”

“The hard part is that it’s the van life. They can go anywhere they wanted, unfortunately, in this situation. It’s the entire damn country,” he said.

Gabby Petito of Blue Point, 22, and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, set out on their road trip in early July, first driving from Laundrie's home state of Florida to Petito's in New York. Then, the pair set out West toward Salt Lake City. She was reported missing by her family on Saturday, and last posted on her Instagram account in Ogden, Utah, two weeks ago (photo pictured)

Gabby Petito of Blue Point, 22, and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, set out on their road trip in early July, first driving from Laundrie’s home state of Florida to Petito’s in New York. Then, the pair set out West toward Salt Lake City. She was reported missing by her family on Saturday, and last posted on her Instagram account in Ogden, Utah, two weeks ago (photo pictured)

The above map illustrates the places Petito and Laundrie visited since the start of the trip leaving New York on July 2 to when she last spoke to her family on August 25 from Grand Teton National Park

The above map illustrates the places Petito and Laundrie visited since the start of the trip leaving New York on July 2 to when she last spoke to her family on August 25 from Grand Teton National Park

Fiancé Brian Laundrie (pictured left) has since returned home to Florida with the pair's camper van, according to missing Gabby Petito's father Joseph Petito, and is not cooperating with police in their investigation

Fiancé Brian Laundrie (pictured left) has since returned home to Florida with the pair’s camper van, according to missing Gabby Petito’s father Joseph Petito, and is not cooperating with police in their investigation

Petito, 22, who grew up in Blue Point, N.Y., was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Laundrie in Salt Lake City, Utah. The following day she made her final call to her family, telling them that she and Laundrie had traveled to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  

Her last Instagram, posted on August 25, shows her visiting the Monarch Wall in Ogden, Utah with the caption ‘Happy Halloween’. The pair were heading from Ogden to Yellowstone National Park, just north of Grand Teton. 

The couple embarked on their trip on July 2 from Blue Point, where they traveled for Petito’s brother’s graduation on June 17. Laundrie returned to their home in North Port, Florida, where the couple moved two years ago, driving the couple’s 2012 Ford Transit van, which police confirmed recovering. 

However, it is not clear when he arrived, what he did when he got there or who he told, if anyone, about Petito’s disappearance. She was reported missing by her mother to New York authorities on Saturday night. 

‘[It’s like] drowning with your hands tied behind you,’ Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, told Newsday of his daughter’s disappearance. ‘You can’t describe it. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t control anything.’

The Suffolk County Police Department opened an investigation after her Schmidt filed a missing persons report just before 7pm on Saturday, the agency wrote in a press release.  

The Suffolk County Police Department opened an investigation after her mom Nichole Schmidt reported her missing just before 7pm on Saturday, the agency wrote in a press release

The Suffolk County Police Department opened an investigation after her mom Nichole Schmidt reported her missing just before 7pm on Saturday, the agency wrote in a press release

'I can't say much, but she's no longer with the van,' Schmidt told Fox News of her daughter. 'I don't want to say anything more than that but for people looking for her, I want them to look for her now, not look for that van anymore'

‘I can’t say much, but she’s no longer with the van,’ Schmidt told Fox News of her daughter. ‘I don’t want to say anything more than that but for people looking for her, I want them to look for her now, not look for that van anymore’

Petito was seen in a YouTube video having a snack in the van as they made way on their cross-country journey

Petito was seen in a YouTube video having a snack in the van as they made way on their cross-country journey 

The couple started their trip on July 2 after Petito attended her brother's graduation in New York on June 17. They planned to reach Portland, Oregon, and visit a family friend for Halloween

The couple started their trip on July 2 after Petito attended her brother’s graduation in New York on June 17. They planned to reach Portland, Oregon, and visit a family friend for Halloween

Neither Petito’s family nor her boyfriend Laundrie could be reached for comment. 

Petito was described as 5-feet5, around 110 pounds, with several tattoos, including one on her forearm reading ‘let it be’. 

She and Laundrie moved to North Port, Florida, two years ago from Blue Point, where she grew up and attended Bayport-Blue Point High School. 

Her dad moved to Vero Beach, Florida, in June to be closer to his daughter. He described her as ‘very, very free spirited’.

‘Clothes didn’t impress her. Cars didn’t impress her. Experiences – that’s what impressed her.’  

The couple started their trip on July 2 after Petito attended her brother’s graduation in New York on June 17. They planned to reach Portland, Oregon, and visit a family friend for Halloween.   

The pair had documented their conversion of a 2012 Ford van into a camper and their life traveling in it on YouTube and Instagram, and were developing a social media presence under the name ‘Nomadic Statik.’

Per their Instagram accounts, the pair began their trip on July 2 and traveled to Kansas’ Monument Rocks, Colorado Springs, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Zion National Park and Bryce National Park in Utah and Canyonlands National Park since July 2.

‘Downsizing out life to fit into this itty bitty van was the best decision we’ve ever made,’ Laundrie wrote on Instagram in early July. 

‘Sacrificing space to wake up in nature everyday has been no sacrifice at all.’ 

Vanished without a trace: Timeline of Gabby Petito’s trip and disappearance

July 2: Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie set out on their road trip from Blue Point, New York – in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island

July 5: The couple stopped at Kansas’ Monument Rocks

July 8: Their next stop was Colorado Springs

July 10: Petito updated her Instagram with photos of her walking at Grand Sand Dunes National Park

July 16: Petito’s smiling in a photo from the couple’s next stop at Zion National Park

July 20: Petito informed her Instagram followers that they were at Cedar Breaks

July 21: The next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park

July 26: Petito posted a photo relaxing in a tub at Mystic Hot Springs

July 30: The couple stopped at Canyonlands National Park Mesa Arch

August 12: They couple took a hike at Arches National Park

August 13: Laundrie posted an Instagram photo from their next destination in Moab, Utah

August 24: The couple were seen checking out of a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah

August 25: Petito’s family spoke to her for the last time over the phone and she said she was in Grand Teton National Park

August 27, 30: Petito’s mom Nicole Schmidt had a text exchange with who she thought was Petito, but didn’t hear from her over the phone to confirm

Unknown date: Laundrie returned to the couple’s home in North port, Florida, without Petito

September 11: Schmidt reported her daughter missing after not hearing from her for nearly two weeks

Neither Petito's family nor her boyfriend Laundrie could be reached for comment at press time. The Suffolk County Police Department opened an investigation after her family reported her missing just before 7 pm on Saturday, the agency wrote in a press release

Neither Petito’s family nor her boyfriend Laundrie could be reached for comment at press time. The Suffolk County Police Department opened an investigation after her family reported her missing just before 7 pm on Saturday, the agency wrote in a press release

'[My daughter] was last physically seen on August 24th when she checked out of a hotel with her boyfriend salt Lake City, Utah,' said Gabby Petito's father, Joseph Petito, on Facebook. '[Brian Laundrie] has since returned home and retained a lawyer, and is uncooperative currently.'

‘[My daughter] was last physically seen on August 24th when she checked out of a hotel with her boyfriend salt Lake City, Utah,’ said Gabby Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, on Facebook. ‘[Brian Laundrie] has since returned home and retained a lawyer, and is uncooperative currently.’

The engaged couple had documented their conversion of a 2012 Ford van into a camper and their life traveling in it on YouTube and Instagram

The engaged couple had documented their conversion of a 2012 Ford van into a camper and their life traveling in it on YouTube and Instagram

Neither Petito's family nor her boyfriend Laundrie could be reached for comment at press time. The pair are pictured together in Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Neither Petito’s family nor her boyfriend Laundrie could be reached for comment at press time. The pair are pictured together in Canyonlands National Park in Utah

The Suffolk County Police Department opened an investigation after her family reported her missing just before 7 pm on Saturday, the agency wrote in a press release.

The Suffolk County Police Department opened an investigation after her family reported her missing just before 7 pm on Saturday, the agency wrote in a press release.

In an Instagram post on July 16, Petito wrote, 'The past two nights camping in Zion have been so cool, literally. We hiked up here in about 100F and it was so nice coming back to our campsite, watching the sky fill with dark clouds, and view the lightning storm in the nice cool air of the light rain.

In an Instagram post on July 16, Petito wrote, ‘The past two nights camping in Zion have been so cool, literally. We hiked up here in about 100° and it was so nice coming back to our campsite, watching the sky fill with dark clouds, and view the lightning storm in the nice cool air of the light rain.’ 

Petito and Laundrie had turned back from Utah in late August to evade wildfire smoke, Nicole Schmidt said, and had planned to go to Yellowstone National Park next. 

Schmidt said she would remain vigilant and keep up the search for her daughter. 

‘I just want people to keep looking and not stop until we find her,’ Schmidt told Newsday. ‘She’s out there somewhere… We won’t stop until we find her.’ 

Schmidt’s husband and son TJ have posted two missing persons posters on their Instagrams as well as a picture of Petito, appealing for her safe return. 

Both warned they were unable to ‘comment any further because there is an active investigation.’

Since Petito’s disappearance, her family has launched a GoFundMe that has accrued $5,000 in just six hours. They have also started a social media campaign on Facebook, simply called ‘Find Gabby,’ where a number of national park visitors have claimed to recognize the pair’s van. 

‘While we are working with the FBI, multiple law enforcement agencies, and outside resources to pursue any and all leads the family will need funds and resources to travel and pay for expenses related to an investigation and search on the other side of the country, any help is appreciated,’ reads the body of the fundraiser.

'Downsizing out life to fit into this itty bitty van was the best decision we've ever made,' Laundrie wrote on Instagram in early July.

‘Downsizing out life to fit into this itty bitty van was the best decision we’ve ever made,’ Laundrie wrote on Instagram in early July.

Petito is an artist, a vegetarian and a yoga enthusiast, according to her Instagram page. She was reported missing on Saturday evening, and her family has not heard from her since August 25

Petito is an artist, a vegetarian and a yoga enthusiast, according to her Instagram page. She was reported missing on Saturday evening, and her family has not heard from her since August 25

'I love the van,' Petito said in the couple's YouTube video, which was posted three weeks ago

‘I love the van,’ Petito said in the couple’s YouTube video, which was posted three weeks ago

Since Petito's disappearance, her family has launched a GoFundMe that has accrued $5,000 in just six hours. They have also started a social media campaign on Facebook, simply called ' Find Gabby ,' where a number of national park visitors have claimed to recognize the pair's van

Since Petito’s disappearance, her family has launched a GoFundMe that has accrued $5,000 in just six hours. They have also started a social media campaign on Facebook, simply called ‘ Find Gabby ,’ where a number of national park visitors have claimed to recognize the pair’s van



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