'We're Fighting for Gabby'
People US|June 17, 2024
THREE YEARS AFTER HER BRUTAL DEATH, HER PARENTS AND STEPPARENTS HAVE JOINED FORCES TO MAKE CHANGE
JOHNNY DODD and CHRISTINE PELISEK
'We're Fighting for Gabby'

A solemn silence falls over the crowded conference room in a Nashville hotel as Gabby Petito’s mom, Nichole Schmidt, strides toward the stage with a look of determination on her face. She gazes briefly at the audience of 400 people who have traveled there for CrimeCon 2024, an annual true-crime convention, before delivering, for the first time, the victim impact statement she’d written but had never gotten the chance to read in court to the man who killed her 22-year-old daughter. “We were denied the chance to confront our daughter’s killer, to look him in the eye and express the profound pain his actions inflicted upon us,” Nichole, 45, a former teaching assistant, tells the room. “The unbearable weight of Gabby’s absence is compounded by the sickening injustice of her murder remaining unpunished. This pain is indescribable, an unrelenting heartache that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”

Nearly three years have passed since Gabby Petito’s name first appeared in headlines across the nation and around the globe when the budding YouTube blogger disappeared on a cross-country journey with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, in the summer of 2021. The desperate search for Gabby started after her worried parents filed a missing person report on Sept. 11 after more than a week of failed attempts to contact her, and ended eight days later when her body was discovered near a campground in Wyoming. Her death was ruled a homicide by a coroner, who determined that she had died of “manual strangulation” at least three weeks earlier. (See timeline.)

This story is from the June 17, 2024 edition of People US.

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This story is from the June 17, 2024 edition of People US.

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