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Utah vigils held in memory of homicide victim Gabby Petito

This photo, shot at the Monarch Gallery, in Ogden, and posted on Aug. 25, was the last image Gabby Petito posted on Instagram. Photo: Instagram/ gabspetito

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 22, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utahns held candlelight vigils Tuesday and Wednesday for Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito — the woman who traveled to multiple locations in Utah with boyfriend Brian Laundrie — before being found murdered in a remote wilderness area outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Ogden’s vigil, Tuesday, was held near a butterfly-themed wall outside the Monarch Gallery. The last photo social-media savvy Petito posted on her Instagram page, on Aug. 25, was one of her posing in front of the colorful wall. After that, Petito’s account went eerily silent.

“She looks like me,” said a blond girl visiting the Monarch wall Wednesday, looking at a flower flanked, framed printout of the photo from 22-year-old Petito’s account. “My hair is just a little different. She could almost be me.”

The Wednesday night tribute in Salt Lake City’s Sugarhouse Park drew a collection of like-minded strangers.

“I think it’s probably safe to assume that no one here knew Gabby personally, I sure didn’t,” one woman said when it was time to share thoughts with small crowd. “But there’s a reason I’m here anyway. I think it’s safe to say the reason that we’re all here is because we all know a ‘Gabby’ or have been a ‘Gabby.'”

That reason was domestic abuse, she said.

A video released by the Moab Police Department shows body camera footage of police questioning Petito and boyfriend Laundrie, who arrived at the Florida home he shared with Petito and his parents on Sept. 1, in Petito’s van, but without the woman he had called his fiancée.

A witness alerted police he had seen the man strike the woman, and described their van. Officers responded, and during the interview, Petito admitted hitting Laundrie and took the blame for provoking the incident. Moab officers made the decision not to press charges, and instead allowed the couple to go free, provided they agreed to separate for the night.

And in a story that broke Tuesday, Instagram user Nina Celie Angelo said her boyfriend recognized Laundrie and Petito from an incident at a Jackson Hole restaurant, where they allegedly witnessed Laundrie becoming “relentlessly” verbally abusive to a server. Laudrie stormed in and out several times, Angelo said.

The incident left the woman, believed to be Petito, “crying hysterically” and apologizing to the wait staff, the poster said.

A speaker at the Sugarhouse vigil Wednesday said the behavior seen in the Moab police videos, along with that reported at the Wyoming restaurant, paints an all too familiar picture of domestic abuse, one where an emotionally battered victim blames themselves for sparking the incident, and where police fail to recognize the signs of abuse and just how dire the situation really is.

“One in four women and one in nine men have been a victim of domestic violence in their lives, which can also be mental, emotional or psychological,” the speaker said.

“Gabby is your sister, Gabby is your coworker, Gabby could be your child or you friends, Gabby could be your parents. I think those of us who have experienced it recognize it within seconds of that (Moab Police) video…. It’s not always what you think. It’s not always physical.  And it’s really not always clear who is the aggressor actually is,” she said.

“I would like to see law enforcement trained to recognize different kinds of domestic violence and what it may look like.”

The speaker said she hopes Gabby’s legacy will be increasing awareness of domestic abuse, which is all around us, but rarely recognized.

“Be aware of it and recognize it,” she said. “Recognize domestic violence and what it may look like.”

A Utah domestic violence hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or visiting the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s website.

For a national hotline, call 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit the Hotline website.

Timeline

Below is a timeline of the Petito case.

● June and July, 2021 — The couple takes an extended, cross country trip in her 2012 Ford Transit camper van, with Petito documenting the journey on social media. On July 10, Petito shared a photo of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is in southern Colorado. On July 16, she posted photos from Zion National Park. On July 26, Petito shared another picture of herself at Mystic Hot Springs in Utah.

The photo below, shot in Ogden and posted on Aug. 25 on Petito’s Instagram account, was the last image she shared there.

This photo, shot at the Monarch Gallery, in Ogden, and posted on Aug. 25, was the last image Gabby Petito posted on Instagram. Photo: Instagram/gabspetito

● Aug. 9 — Petito’s travel adventure video Van Life is uploaded on YouTube.

● Aug. 12 — The couple is reported to the Moab, Utah, Police Department after a witness reports seeing an altercation, in which Petito admitted being the aggressor after Laundrie reportedly locked her out of their van. Police arranged for the couple to spend the night separately to calm down. Laundrie declined to press charges.

● Aug. 25 — Nicole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, says this is the last day she got a text from her daughter’s phone, although Schmidt has expressed some doubt her daughter typed it in.

● Sept. 1 — Brian Laundrie returns alone to his family home in North Port, Florida, in the van owned by Petito, who also resided with the Laundries.

● Sept. 11 — Members of Petito’s family, based in Long Island, New York, report 22-year-old Gabby as a missing person. Laundrie’s family, speaking through an attorney, declines to talk with police.

● Sept. 16 — Body camera video of the police interview in Moab with Petito and Laundrie was released.

● Sept. 17 — The Laundrie family attorney, police and FBI officials confirm Brian Laundrie left the family home three days earlier.

● Sept. 18 — FBI and North Port police begin a search of the Carlton Reserve, a 24,565-acre nature preserve in Sarasota County, Florida, where Laundrie’s family tells officers he may have gone.

● Sept. 19 — The searches in Wyoming and Florida continue. In the later afternoon, the FBI announces a body consistent with Petito’s has been found in a forest near Grand Teton National Park.

● Sept. 21 — Initial autopsy results find that the remains are those of Petito, and her manner of death was homicide.

● The search for Laundrie continues at the nature preserve.

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