The family of Gabby Petito, 22, whose death during a cross-country trip sparked global outcry and a search for her missing fiance, is honoring her legacy through matching tattoos and by bringing attention to other missing people cases.
Petito’s family said Tuesday at a news conference that they are confident the FBI will find Petito’s fiance, Brian Laundrie. Petito’s mother and father shared that family members got tattoos matching their daughter’s: “Let it be” inked onto their skin beside a wave symbol.
They got the tattoos together Monday night, the day after Petito’s funeral.
The family announced the Gabby Petito Foundation to help find other missing people, emphasizing that they all deserve the same level of attention Petito got. The foundation website requested donations in lieu of flowers for her funeral.
Petito’s father, Joe, emphasized how much social media helped investigators in their search for his daughter and thanked people for their “outpouring of support.” But he said, “This same type of heightened awareness should be continued for everyone.”
“I want to ask everyone to help all of the people who are missing and need help,” he said Tuesday. “It’s on all of you, everyone that’s in this room to do that. And if you don’t do that to other people who are missing, that’s a shame because it’s not just Gabby that deserves that.”
Joe Petito initially announced the foundation Saturday on Twitter: “No one should have to find their child on their own. We are creating this foundation to give resources and guidance on bringing their children home. We are looking to help people in similar situations as Gabby.”
Richard Stafford, the Petito family’s lawyer, said the foundation is working out the details on what type of missing people cases will be targeted
“Gabby’s family does not want that light to dim,” he said Tuesday. “And they want to make some good from this awful tragedy.”
Though the news conference centered around remembering Petito, Stafford touched briefly on the search for Laundrie, urging him to turn himself in and his family to offer any information they have.
“The Laundries didn’t help us find Gabby,” he said. “They’re sure not going to help us find Brian.”
Stafford said Petito’s parents are “100% happy with the FBI” and “know that they will bring justice for Gabby.”
Monday, authorities said they were scaling back the search for Laundrie in a Florida nature reserve. The search, led by the FBI, is “targeted based on intelligence” rather than “large-scale” efforts, North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor said.
Last week, 16 law enforcement agencies searched for Laundrie in the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, using dogs, drones and ATV vehicles in the treacherous wetlands, which include swampy terrain where alligators, snakes, bobcats and coyotes dwell.
Laundrie was last seen nearly two weeks ago after returning home without Petito on Sept. 1 from a cross-country trip the couple took. His parents told authorities that Laundrie said he was going hiking in the reserve Sept. 14.
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The couple’s trip was well-documented on social media and Petito’s YouTube channel as a romantic adventure. When Laundrie came home alone, investigators said, he and the people close to him refused to share crucial information with them.
Petito’s body was found at a campground near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, and her death was ruled a homicide.
Authorities named Laundrie a “person of interest,” but he has not been charged in Petito’s death. Last week, the FBI issued a federal arrest warrant, saying he used a debit card and bank accounts without permission from Aug. 30 through Sept. 1.
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Petito’s funeral was held Sunday in Holbrook, New York, near the Bayport-Blue Point community where she grew up.
“She was a beautiful soul. She was full of life, always smiling,” said Desiree Keeffe, a friend of Petito’s mother, Nicole. “She gave you love. … She touched everybody like she did now.”
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY; The Associated Press