Appearing in person for the first time all together, Gabby Petito’s family, including her father, Joseph Petito, stepmother, Tara Petito, mother, Nichole Schmidt, and stepfather, Jim Schmidt, sat with Dr. Phil to discuss the tragic case.
Joseph Petito spoke on Dr. Phil before, but the interview was recorded before Gabby Petito’s remains were found in a Wyoming national park. The 22-year-old was reported missing after her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, returned home from a cross-country camping trip without her. Now labeled a “person of interest,” Brian Laundrie has gone into hiding and has alluded police for two weeks.
Though divorced, Gabby’s stepmother Tara Petito said that she had still been part of Gabby’s life since she was newborn. Joe Schmidt, Gabby’s stepfather, also said that he had known Gabby since she was just 2 years old. Richard Stafford, the family attorney, was also present for the interview.
Speaking out about their frustration with Brian, and the authorities, the family told Dr. Phil McGraw that it has been “infuriating.” The family also revealed that they had been calling and messaging Brian’s parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, before reporting Gabby went missing, but that they were completely uncooperative.
Originally, the family said, they had assumed both Gabby and Brian were both missing. “I was worried about both of them,” Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, recalled. That all changed when Brian came home to Florida without Gabby.
One of the texts the family sent the Laundrie’s read, “I’m going to call the police, just letting you know,” which they did not respond to, according to Gabby’s father.
“A normal parent, when you text someone that they’re going to call the cops because you can’t find your child, they would reply,” Joseph Petito said during the half-hour interview. “We thought they were both missing at that point in time when we were calling them.”
Asked if they could guess anything about Brian’s whereabouts, Jim Schmidt, Gabby’s stepfather, said that he was probably “off the beaten path somewhere, just thinking he’s not gonna get caught.”
Authorities have been combing the Florida swampland near his home in North Port, but calls have been flooding into North Carolina sheriff’s offices reporting unconfirmed sightings along the Appalachian Trail.
Brian Laundrie has been described before by people close to him as an “outdoorsman.” According to one friend, he once lived outside in the woods for a month.
“I believe he bragged about that, like he’s good at that stuff,” Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt said.
The family all had one message for Brian, which was that they wanted him to “Turn yourself in.”
“You’re only making it worse. For us and for himself and for his family,” Jim Schmidt said. “Let us have some closure. Let us come to an end to this tragic period and just move on and be able to remember Gabby for all the wonderful memories we had with her, and not looking at a TV screen wondering if he’s gonna be found.”
Jim Schmidt said that he was in Wyoming when her remains were found because he felt like someone from the family had to be there.
“We were all crying in the room,” he said, “and we couldn’t believe it because we were all holding out for hope.”
“I knew she was gone,” Nichole Schmidt said, recalling the experience. “As a mom, I just knew. When they found the van in Florida, I felt in my heart that she was gone.”
The family told Dr. Phil that they all got matching tattoos to remember Gabby that read “Let it be,” which was something Gabby also had tattooed on her arm.