The stepfather of a missing New York woman who has gone to Wyoming to search for her is desperately begging her boyfriend and traveling companion to step forward and tell authorities where she is.
Long Island resident Gabrielle Petito, age 22, of Blue Point, who was last known to be in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in late August, was reported missing to Suffolk County Police on Saturday, Sept. 11, by her mother after last being heard from on Monday, Aug. 30.
Her stepfather, James Schmidt traveled to Wyoming on Wednesday, Sept. 15, to assist authorities in their efforts to locate Petito just hours after her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, age 23, was named a person of interest in the investigation by authorities in North Port, Florida, where the couple temporarily lived and where he returned home to with "Gabby's" white van in which they were traveling.
Since Petito's disappearance, Laundrie has hired an attorney from East Islip and has refused to speak with police, the FBI, or the family regarding her whereabouts.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Schmidt said: 'Our family's aware of the statements made by his attorney,' Schmidt said, forcefully. "It's unacceptable. It is unacceptable to us. We deserve more. Gabby deserves more information out there. She deserves to be found and brought home safe. And we need you to step up and do the right thing.
"The longer they don't, the longer it's going to take to bring her home. And we need her home now. So, they have to. It's not a matter of sitting back. They have to come forward, for Gabby, for everyone."
Laundrie's attorney, Steven Bertolino, told Daily Voice the fact Laundrie is a "person of interest" does not change their stance of not speaking.
"This formality has not really changed the circumstances of Mr. Laundrie being the focus and attention of law enforcement and Mr. Laundrie will continue to remain silent on the advice of counsel," Bertolino's statement said.
In the meantime, the Grand County Sheriff's Office in Utah and the City of Moab Police in Utah said they are looking at everything, including an incident on Thursday, Aug. 12, between the two in which a witness said the couple was fighting over a phone and the incident became physical causing the witness to call the police.
Moab Police released reports and bodycam footage from the incident that show their interaction with the couple when they pulled over their white van outside Arches National Park in Moab on Aug. 12.
In the footage, obtained by ABC 7 NY, Petito sobbed as she spoke to an officer.
“I have really bad OCD," Petito told the officer. "I was apologizing to him saying I’m sorry I’m so mean."
“We’ve been fighting all morning. He wouldn’t let me in the car before. … He told me I needed to calm down.”
The officer took Petito to sit in his squad car before going back to speak to Laundrie.
“She just gets worked up sometimes, I try to distance myself from her. I locked the car,” Laundrie told the officer.
“I said, ‘Let’s just take a breather.’ She had her phone. I was trying to push her away to say, ‘Let’s just take a step back,’” he said, adding that Petito hit him with her phone.
Laundrie also told the officer Petito had grabbed the wheel of their van to make him pull over as police were following them.
Petito reportedly told officers she suffers from serious anxiety and other redacted medical conditions, and police categorized the incident as a "mental/emotional health break" rather than a domestic assault, the news station reported.
Both told officers they didn't want to press charges and were let go by police.
Back in Florida, North Port North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison spoke out about the case on "Good Morning America" Thursday, Sept. 16.
"Two people went on a trip and one person returned. And that person is not talking to us," Garrison said.
He added Laundrie, "has the pieces to the puzzle that we need to be able to find Gabby."
Petito's Instagram account, which had been taken down, is now back up. It includes a link to an eight-minute YouTube victory called "VAN LIFE: Beginning Our Van Life Journey."
The FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips. 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).
To date, they have received hundreds of tips, the North Port police said.
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