12:55 PM PDT, September 15, 2021
The distraught family of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito is denouncing her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, who police now call a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance.
“The one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help,” Petito’s family said in a statement. “Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers.”
After embarking two months ago on a cross-country road trip in their renovated camper van, Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida, with the van, but Petito was not with him.
Inside Edition spoke to Petito’s stepfather, James Schmidt, who has flown from the family home in Blue Point, New York, to the outskirts of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming — Petito’s last known whereabouts.
“Can’t he just say where he saw her last?” Inside Edition reporter Steven Fabian asked James.
“I wouldn’t know why he wouldn’t want to do that,” James said.
Petito’s mom, Nichole Schmidt, also spoke to Inside Edition.
“Brian, we need you to talk to us. We need you to tell us what you know. Just please communicate. That’s all I’m asking,” Nichole said in a direct plea to Laundrie.
The criticism comes after the lawyer for Laundrie and his family said in a statement they “hope that…Miss Petito is reunited with her family,” but they intend to remain “in the background.”
“It was underwhelming and disappointing that the one person who can help the most is not talking,” Nichole said.
“If the tables were turned and this was their son that everybody was looking for, you would want anybody and everybody that has information to come forward and be open to help you,” James said.
The big heat on Laundrie is intense and growing.
On Wednesday, police in North Port Florida, where Laundrie lives with his parents, released photos of the van that he and Petito lived in on their trip. The van is now in police custody. For the first time, police officially called Laundrie a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance.
“We’re just pleading with him at this point, to please speak with us. We need to understand those details. They put out a release yesterday saying they remain in the background — that is not good enough,” North Port Police Department public information officer Josh Taylor said at a press conference.
Mystery surrounds Petito’s last days before she vanished from sight. Inside Edition is now learning that police were called on Aug. 12 to look into an physical altercation involving Petito and Laundrie.
Cops say the couple were ordered to spend the night apart until things cooled down.
“Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” police said.
Just before she was last seen, Petito listed a series of plaintive songs about heartache and love on her Spotify account.
The couple met at Bayport Blue Point High School on Long Island. They started dating after graduation, got engaged, then decided they were too young to get married just yet.
Police revealed Wednesday that Laundrie traveled home to Florida on Sept. 1 — 10 days before Petito was reported missing.