Gabby Petito’s hometown paid a somber tribute to the 22-year-old ‘van life’ girl whose remains were discovered at a camp site in Grand Teton National Park weeks after she was last seen alive.
The ‘Light the Night for Gabby Petito’ event took place in Blue Point and West Islip as neighbors lit candles throughout the towns in memory of Petito, whose missing persons case captured the nation as police continue the search for her fiancé, Brian Laundrie in the vast Carlton Reserve in Florida.
Hundreds of candles were being given out throughout Blue Point as organizers also collected $20 donations to deliver to Petito’s family, ABC 7 reports.
The community also decorated thousands of trees with blue ribbons to honor the 2017 Bayport-Blue Point High School graduate.
The somber vigil comes ahead of her cremation tomorrow. There will also be a public memorial for her on Sunday ahead of her funeral on Monday.
Petito, who embarked on a cross-country road trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie, was last seen alive on August 25. Laundrie returned home to Florida on September 1, and she was reported missing by her parents 11 days later.
After an extensive search at Grand Teton National Park’s Spread Creek campground, Petito’s remains were discovered on September 19. A coroner ruled that she died as a result of a homicide, but her manner of death has not yet been revealed.
Laundrie’s parents said he left their home on September 14 – but only reported him missing three days later. FBI and local police are still searching for him in an alligator-infested reserve five miles from his home.
Resident in Blue Point, New York, set up a candlelight vigil on Friday for their neighbor Gabby Petito, the missing ‘van-life’ girl whose case captured the nation and whose body was finally found on Sunday
Resident put together a number of vigils throughout the town of Blue Point
Members of the media recorded one of the makeshift memorial sites for the late travel blogger
Makeshift memorial, like the one pictured, were set up throughout the Blue Point in memory of Petito
Candles were placed along the streets of Blue Point in solidarity of the late Gabby Petito
Many of the notes left in the memorial sites read, ‘Rest in Peace Gabby,’ ahead of her funeral scheduled for Monday
Residents in Blue Point, pictured, and West Islip gathered to mourn the loss of Gabby Petito
Dorothy Johnson, of Blue Point, told News 12, ‘For me it’s important just to acknowledge Gabby, to support the family throughout the whole community, not only our community but throughout Long Island. Many people are lighting a candle.’
Jennifer Horton, of Blue Point, also put candles outside her driveway to honor Petito.
‘When the community loses one, we all do,” says Horton. “So just remember the great life she had. Losing her so young and just to really celebrate her life.’
Joseph Petito, Gabby’s father, confirmed that he funeral will take place at the Moloney Funeral Home, in Holbrook, on September 26.
The funeral home told The Sun that a memorial service was being held on Sunday for Petito’s cremation.
The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Future Gabby Petito Foundation through the Johnny Mac Foundation.
The vigils were held on Friday, ahead of Petito’s funeral and cremation services on Monday
Residents put up a heart-shaped memorial. Candles were handed out and $20 donations were collected for Petito’s family
Posters and tributes were set up across town. A ‘Fly High Gabby’ poster was put up on a tree
One resident set up a candle outside outside her driveway to show solidarity for their late neighbor
Another Blue Point neighbor helped adjust candles at one of the vigil sites
Residents also put together cards and notes to display in tribute of their late neighbor
Other residents set put up flowers to display at one of the sites besides a display that read ‘Wings of An Angel Gabby’
The memorial sites showed off candles, cards, posters, stuffed animals and flowers dedicated to the late Peitio
The site stands by a large display that reads, ‘Gabby Petito, Forever in our hearts’
‘Shine a light for Gabby’ event took place in her hometown of Blue Point, pictured, and in West Islip
Petito’s stepfather, James Schmidt, had visited the exact spot where her body was found in Wyoming, and created a memorial to the 22-year-old New Yorker.
Schmidt, who is married to Petito’s mother Nichole, traveled from New York to Wyoming last week to help with the search for the missing ‘van life’ traveler.
She had been reported missing on September 11, and he set out on September 14. Her body was found on September 19.
On Wednesday Schmidt made a stone cross at the site where Petito was discovered, Fox News confirmed. He left yellow and white flowers on the site, beneath the trees.
Gabby Petito’s stepfather James Schmidt has visited the exact spot where she was killed, and created a stone cross. He laid a floral tribute
James Schmidt, Gabby Petito’s stepfather, traveled to Wyoming on September 14 to help the search for the 22-year-old. Four days later her body was found
A memorial of stones arranged in a cross pattern was spotted Monday evening at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite east of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On Wednesday Petito’s stepfather made a similar tribute at the exact spot where her body was found
A similar memorial had been made on Monday, on an open patch of muddy land on the banks of a river near the campsite.
Gary Rider, a friend of Schmidt, said the pair had visited the site on Wednesday and that they had left some flowers next to the other cross.
‘We did go – the small cross with flowers was made by Jim and myself,’ he told The Independent.
‘That larger cross was not done by anyone connected with the search or recovery of Gabby.’
Gabby’s body was found in the area on Sunday and the next day her death was ruled a homicide. The manhunt for her fiancé Brian Laundrie enters its sixth day as he’s been declared a person of interest.
Gabby Petito, 22, is pictured with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, in a YouTube video made to document their ‘van life’ road trip. Petito’s body was found on Sunday and Laundrie has disappeared
Petito and Laundrie are seen on July 4 in Utah. They had set out two days previously on a road trip, planning to document their journey on social media
The pair had been travelling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11
Laundrie was believed to be hiding out in his parents’ Florida home until September 14, when he purportedly set off on a hike at the local nature reserve.
His family said they last saw him that day wearing a hiking bag, but did not report him missing until three days later, on September 17.
His silver Ford Mustang was also found abandoned near the Carlton Reserve with a note requesting it be towed away.
‘These guys, our law enforcement partners are motivated and they are hungry to find Brian Laundrie,’ North Port Police commander Joe Fussell, who is helping to coordinate the search, said Wednesday.
‘It’s rough out there, it’s hot, it’s wet. We are trying to cover every acre in this reserve.’
On Wednesday there was a flurry of activity as divers were brought to the site, but it later emerged that there was no connection to the case.
The team, made up of about 10 divers, was requested by North Port Police on Wednesday morning, said Sarasota County Sheriff’s office spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez.
‘These divers are specifically trained and very talented in low visibility bodies of water,’ Perez said.
‘They dive down where you and I can’t see anything at all. They utilize technology and other special equipment to help them get down deep into really deep bodies of water, so they’re out there right now to recover whatever it is that they might find.’
The search has cost $1.2million so far as it enters its sixth day.
Search teams are pictured on Wednesday heading into the Carlton Reserve in Florida
The Carlton Reserve has been the focus of a search for Laundrie since his car was found at the site on Sunday
Laundrie was apparently an avid reader, with some pointing to a video on the couple’s YouTube page showing him reading a book about a missing woman. He is seen here camping on the Appalachian trail with Petito in March for her birthday
On Thursday, the FBI issued a warrant for Laundrie’s arrest after he fraudulently used a Capitol One Bank debit card that was not his.
The FBI said Laundrie is wanted for ‘use of unauthorized access device’ related to his activities between August 30 and September 1, following Petito’s death, and that he used the card to obtain items totaling $1,000 or more.
The statement by the Bureau’s Denver desk says: ‘While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide.
‘We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI.’
Authorities are continuing to search for Laundrie, 23, who was last seen by his parents and his attorney last week.
Steve Bertolino, Laundrie’s attorney, issued a statement Thursday evening after the FBI’s arrest warrant for his fugitive client was made public, emphasizing that the warrant was not for Petito’s death but for related activities that took place after her demise.
‘It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise,’ Bertolino told Dailymail.com
Laundrie and Petito were reported to have been in heated arguments prior to her disappearance and death.
Nina Celie Angelo of New Orleans said she and her boyfriend were at the Merry Piglets restaurant in Jackson Hole on August 27 and saw the tragic Long Island woman try to calm down the hot-headed Laundrie.
‘He was just very visibly angry. She was really upset. She was crying. He immediately went to the hostess stand and was going in on the hostess and the waitress and eventually the manager,’ Angelo told GMA.
‘It was almost like he was screaming. She was like “I’m sorry, come on just let’s just go.” But she was physically upset, she was crying. You could feel his temper. He was angry.’
Nina Celie Angelo (left) of New Orleans recalled the August 27 incident in Jackson Hole, Wyoming involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie (right)
Angelo, a photographer, was with her boyfriend, financial adviser Matthew England, when they stopped to have lunch at Merry Piglets sometime between 1 and 2pm. The couple was in Wyoming in late August to attend a wedding. While dining at the restaurant, they overheard a loud conversation in which another customer, Laundrie, was heard screaming at wait staff in what appeared to be an argument over the check
The sighting at the Jackson Hole restaurant places Petito 300 miles north of Salt Lake City and just 45 miles from the Wyoming campground in the Grand Tetons where her remains were found.
Moab City Police Department announced that they will launch an independent investigation into their officers’ handling of another domestic dispute between Laundrie and Petito that took place on August 12.
Police found Laundrie with scratches to his face, with Petito claiming she’d hit him with a phone while battling her OCD. Officers deemed her to be the ‘primary aggressor’ and separated the couple for the night to try and defuse the tension between them, but neither were arrested.
That has subsequently triggered allegations that investigating the incident more deeply might have saved Petito’s life, although other’s have countered by hailing the cops’ calm handling of the couple.
The recorded encounter began after a chilling 911 audio captured a caller in Utah reporting a domestic abuse incident involving Petito and Laundrie that claimed Laundrie slapped her.
In the audio, obtained by DailyMail.com, the male caller tells a Grant County sheriff that a ‘gentleman’ in a white van with a Florida license plate had slapped a girl in the vehicle before driving away.
Moab City Police Department and the City of Moab an investigation into officers’ handling of a domestic dispute between Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito a month before she was found dead in Wyoming
Laundrie is seen with scratches on his face which he tells an officer were caused when Petito ‘was trying to get the keys from me’ and ‘hit me with her phone’
The man also mentions the incident had happened ‘by Moonflower’ – likely referring to the Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab, where Laundrie and Petito stayed the night of August 11 and where they reportedly were seen having an explosive fight.
‘I’m right in the corner of Main Street by Moonflower and we are driving and I’d like to report a domestic dispute. Florida with a white van – Florida license plate, white van,’ the man says before being interrupted by the officer, who asks him what he saw exactly.
‘They just drove off. They’re going towards Main Street. They made a right onto Main Street from Moonflower. We drove by him, a gentleman was slapping the girl,’ the man continues.
‘He was slapping her?’ the sheriff asks.
‘Yes. And then we stopped. They ran down an up the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off,’ the man says as the audio ends.
Shortly after the call at 4:30 pm, Petito and Laundrie were filmed in police bodycam footage when they were stopped by Moab Police.
The bodycam footage shows an officer reporting that the driver of a vehicle ahead is showing ‘obscure driving’, driving 45mph in a 15mph road, and is ‘possibly intoxicated.’ He says the vehicle has bumped a curb and puts the sirens on. Petito later told officers that the couple didn’t drink.
Moab police officers separated the couple for the night after responding to the 911 call. The City of Moab said they are ‘unaware of any breach of Police Department policy’ in their handling of Petito and Laundrie’s domestic dispute
Police bodycam footage revealed the moment Utah cops asked missing ‘van-life’ woman Gabby Petito why she slapped her boyfriend Brian Laundrie in a dramatic incident 13 days before she disappeared on their cross-country trip
The officer then gets out the vehicle and approaches the couple’s white camper van, which they have pulled over. The officer asks Petito to step out of the vehicle and takes her down the road, separating the couple to ask her what happened.
In the video, an emotional Petito tells officers with tears streaming down her face that she ‘was trying to get him [Laundrie] to stop telling [her] to calm down’ and admitting the couple had ‘been fighting all morning.’
In the bodycam footage from Moab officers, Petito says she suffers from OCD and anxiety, with both her and Laundrie saying she was stressed because of the YouTube blog they were working on to document the doomed cross-country trip.
The officer tells Petito she is ‘not in any trouble’ and escorts her to the back of the cop car so she can ‘take a breath’ and have ‘a few minutes.’
Laundrie is seen with scratches on his face and arm which he tells an officer were caused when Petito ‘was trying to get the keys from me’ and ‘hit me with her phone’.
He later said she was angry with him because of his dirty feet. When an officer asks Petito if her boyfriend hit her, she replies ‘I guess’ and makes a grabbing motion on her chin. Laundrie admits he ‘pushed her’ during the altercation.
‘I am separating you two tonight, okay?’ the officer is heard telling Petito. The 22-year-old nods through tears in response and mouths ‘okay.’
Moab city officials released a statement on Thursday which said they were ‘unaware of any breach of Police Department policy.’ They noted that ‘individuals can view the same situation in very different ways’ and ‘recognize how the death of Ms. Petito more than two weeks later in Wyoming might lead to speculation, in hindsight, about actions taken during the incident in Moab.’
Timeline of missing Gabby Petito’s case
- July 1: Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie left Blue Point, New York for a cross-country road trip
- August 12: Police in Moab, Utah respond to a domestic incident involving the couple
- Aug. 21: Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, has his last FaceTime video call with his daughter who was in Salt Lake City, Utah
- Aug. 24: Petito is last seen at a hotel in Salt Lake City with Laundrie
- Aug. 25: Petito makes final call to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, saying she was in Grand Teton National Park
- Aug. 25 or 26: The couple chats with the owner of a shop called ‘Rustic Row’ in Victor, Utah for about 20 minutes
- Aug. 27: Video of Petito’s van was taken by blogger Jenn Bethune, of Red White & Bethune, around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground
- Aug. 29: The day that Wisconsin TikToker Miranda Baker claimed that she and her boyfriend were approached by Laundrie at Grand Teton National Park and asked them for a ride at 5.30pm; Schmidt says she is not entertaining this claim and believes it possibly factual
- Aug. 30: Schmidt receives the last text from Petito: ‘No service in Yosemite’
- Sept. 1: Laundrie returns to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida in a van without Petito
- Sept. 11: Schmidt reports Petito missing to authorities in New York; Petito and Laundrie’s van was impounded by police in Florida that same day
- Sept. 12: Grand Teton National Park rangers search for Petito
- Sept. 14: Laundrie issues a statement about Petito’s disappearance through his lawyer; Also on this day, Laundrie allegedly left his parents’ home for a hike
- Sept. 15: Laundrie is officially named a person of interest in Petito’s case
- Sept. 17: Laundrie family attorney confirms his whereabouts are unknown
- Sept. 18: North Port police and the FBI start searching the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County for missing Brian Laundrie
- Sept. 19: Bethune realizes she has video of Petito’s van around 12am and submits the FBI with the footage 10 minutes later; Officials announce a body was found near Grand Teton National Park that matched Petito’s description in the afternoon
- Sept. 21: Coroner confirms remains found in Grand Tetons belong to Petito. Her death is ruled a homicide but her cause of death is still under invesetigation
- Sept. 20 – 22: FBI and North Port police continue search for Laundrie in Carton Reserve
- Sept. 22: Neighbors say they saw the Laudrie family pack up their detached camper on the day Gabby was reported missing. DailyMail.com photos show the camper was back in the driveway two days later, on September 13