BLUE POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The search continued Tuesday for a missing women originally from Long Island. The 22-year-old disappeared while on a cross country van trip with her boyfriend. He returned home, but she didn’t.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday, the search for Gabby Petito is now a multi-state effort — from Suffolk County, where she departed, to Florida, where she lives, and Wyoming, where the free spirit was last heard from while hiking in Grand Teton National Park.
“I probably haven’t slept since Friday, haven’t eaten since Saturday,” said her father, Joseph Petito.
Poring over what he calls heart-wrenching tips on social media, he said he’s praying she will be found alive and well.
“If you’re hiking a trail and stuff like that and you see her, you can turn around ‘That’s Gabby … Gabby, here is my phone. You need to call your folks right now,'” Joseph Petito said.
Gabby Petito embarked on her van trip with boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, and was documenting what appeared to be their happy adventure. He returned to their house in North Port, Florida, as did the van, but without her.
“There has been no contact, so there is no story,” Joseph Petitio said, reiterating when asked by Gusoff that his family has not spoken to Laundrie.
The missing woman’s mother said Monday she last heard from her more than two weeks ago.
“The first couple of days, though I wasn’t getting responses, I believed she was in a place with no service. It was like day eight or nine when I really became concerned,” Nichole Schmidt said.
Police in Florida said the van has been secured for preservation of evidence if any crime was committed and are calling Laundrie a person of interest, as would any missing person’s last known contact.
“You had someone who was in constant communication with their family on a pretty regular basis. Then, all of sudden, nothing. Then, all of a sudden, the person she was travelling with is back here and she’s not here. That person is unwilling to talk with us to this point. All of that is very, very concerning,” said Josh Taylor, public information officer for the North Port Police Department.
Police said the inability to speak with Laundrie is hampering the investigation. They have only been given the name of Laundrie’s attorney to ask their questions through. That attorney, Steven Bertolino, is on Long Island. He would not respond to questions about Gabby Petito’s whereabouts.
“It’s a very difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. On behalf of the Laundrie family, I hope that Miss Petito is located and that she’s reunited with her family,” he said.
Police said they are very concerned for the young woman’s well being. The family is asking for the public to focus on finding her.
Suffolk County police and the FBI are also involved in the investigation. A National Parks Service spokesman said, “We are coordinating with multiple law enforcement agencies as part of the investigation into Gabrielle Petito’s whereabouts. As the investigation is ongoing, we do not have any further information to provide at this time.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, a statement was issued by Gabby Petito’s parents urging Laundrie to come forward and tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her.
“The Schmidt and Petito family are going through the worst moments of their lives. Their beautiful 22-year-old daughter is missing and the one person who can help find Gabby refuses to help. Brian Laundrie was traveling with Gabby in the Grand Teton-Yellowstone area. They were traveling together in Gabby’s 2012 Ford Transit van. This is where we believe Gabby was last seen.
“Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers.
“The Schmidt and Petito family beg the Laundrie family to not ‘remain in the background’ but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located?
“The Schmidt and Petito family implore Brian to come forward and at least tell us if we are looking in the right area.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS