Gabby Petito: Funeral service held for slain 22-year-old
HOLBROOK, N.Y. - Family, friends, co-workers and even complete strangers gathered at the Maloney Funeral Home to pay their respects to Gabby Petito, the slain 22-year-old whose case has captured the national spotlight.
"The entire planet knows this woman's name," said Gabby’s father, Joseph Petito, told attendees in an emotional eulogy. He stood in front of the crowd and cameras, with Gabby's stepfather Jim Schmidt by his side, and urged mourners not to be sad.
"I don't want you guys to be sad, to be honest with you," he said. "Gabby did not live that way."
Ahead of the funeral, Joseph Petito thanked the public for all its support in an Instagram post, asking them to make donations to the future Gabby Petito Foundation in lieu of flowers. The foundation is aimed at helping families with resources and guidance to help bring missing children home.
Gabby Petito (Source: @petitojoseph/Instagram)
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Schmidt remembered Gabby for loving life and being an example for "all of us to live by." He encouraged "people to enjoy every moment in this beautiful world."
Two fire trucks were positioned one on either side of the funeral home, each with its ladder extended, and a line of firefighters was seen filing into the building. Across the street, a chain link fence was adorned with posters featuring Petito's image and messages such as, "She touched the world."
Mourners were greeted with a placard bearing a poem titled "Let it Be" that began with the line, "Do not grieve for me for I am free." Dozens of floral arrangements and childhood photos of Gabby lined the walls.
Because the FBI has not released Gabby's body to the Petito family, an empty urn was used for the service. The FBI has not indicated when they will release the body.
Authorities discovered Gabby's remains in Wyoming on Sept. 19. She had vanished while on a cross-country trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie in a converted camper van. Gabby had last been in contact with her family in late August when she and Laundrie were visiting Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
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Their social media posts documenting the trip abruptly stopped, and Laundrie returned to their Florida home in the van — alone, according to investigators.
According to investigators, Gabby was the victim of a homicide, though no cause of death has been determined. Despite the circumstances surrounding her death, Schmidt ended Gabby's eulogy by saying he believes there's more good in the world than evil.
"Although there is a lot of evil and wrong in the world, there is more good. and there is a lot of good people out there, and they're all in this room right now and they're all across the world and they're with us all. I love you all," Schmidt said.
Investigators consider Laundrie the lone person of interest in the case, but Laundrie has not been cooperative and hasn't been seen since Sept. 14.
A federal arrest warrant has been issued for him in connection to the case, but the manhunt for Laundrie has so far proved fruitless. Sunday marks the eighth day of the search and crews are expected to return to Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County
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For the last week, authorities have scoured the 25,000 acres that make up Carlton Reserve, where Laundrie’s parents told police he went for a hike on Sept. 14.
The family attorney told FOX News the parents – Christopher and Roberta Laundrie – said Brian did not take a cell phone or wallet with him, and they’re worried he might hurt himself. Officials have already combed the whole north side of the park and much of the Venice side of the reserve.
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In recent days, mourners have held vigils in Gabby's honor. Laundrie's hometown of North Port, Florida held a candlelight vigil Saturday night, releasing butterflies in her honor and holding a silent prayer at city hall. Hundreds of people attended.
"It’s just very heartbreaking being a mom myself," said Niki Doe, a North Port resident. "I can’t even imagine what her parents are going through, it’s just an experience a parent should never have to go through."
The night before, residents of New York's Blue Point community lit up Blue Point Avenue with candles and luminaires at the edges of their driveways.
Anyone with information regarding Petito’s disappearance is asked to call the FBI national hotline at 1-800-225-5324 or submit tips to tips.fbi.gov.
This story was reported from Atlanta. The Associated Press contributed to this report.