NORTH PORT, Fla. – Saturday is National Daughters Day – and the parents of New York’s Gabby Petito – who mourners around the country have called “America’s daughter” – spent it preparing for her Sunday funeral.
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, posted on Facebook Friday to grieve the loss of her daughter.
“As I scroll through all the posts, my heart is full of love. I wish I could reach out and hug each and every one of you!!! Your support has been so overwhelming and we are so filled with gratitude. Please know what you are all doing for us does not go unnoticed, and with all of you by our side, we will get #justiceforgabby.”
The parents of Brian Laundrie, who police have named as a person of interest in the activities surrounding Petito’s disappearance, also have a daughter. For much of the day they were ducking scrutiny at their home in North Port, Fla., where their son arrived on Sept. 1 in Petito’s van – without her.
Laundrie has not been charged in connection with Petito’s death, which the medical examiner ruled a homicide. He has been charged with debit card fraud – and before police found her body abandoned at the bear-packed Wyoming park where they were last seen camping, he’d already vanished from his parents’ home.
Police announced on Sept. 17 that when they spoke with his parents, they were told he had left on Sept. 14. He hasn’t been seen since, and a massive manhunt is underway at the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve northwest of the home – an inhospitable swamp full of gators, coyotes and other hazards.
Calls to the Laundries went straight to voicemail, and their attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Friday night, residents of Petito’s Long Island hometown and elsewhere across the U.S. placed candles at the foot of their driveways to honor the slain 22-year-old.
Her disappearance drew national attention – and Laundrie’s did too.
Tatiana Boohoff, a prominent Florida attorney and mother of two, announced a $20,000 bounty on him this week.
And TV’s Dog the Bounty Hunter, the profession’s most recognizable face, arrived Saturday to join the search.
Experts have expressed doubt that Laundrie is hiding out in a swampy nature reserve near his parents’ house – and they have speculated that he may have returned to the national parks circuit, the Appalachian Trail or even relocated to an urban area to try and hide in plain sight.
Still – there’s a chance he may have harmed himself or even killed himself inside the park. As of Saturday afternoon, authorities still hadn’t found him.