Gabby Petito's Family Launches Foundation Aimed at 'Preventing This from Happening to Someone Else'

The Gabby Petito Foundation aims to help find missing persons and combat domestic violence

Gabby Petito's family is launching a foundation in her memory aimed at helping to find missing persons and combatting domestic violence.

According to the mission statement on its website, The Gabby Petito Foundation will "address the needs of organizations that support locating missing persons and to provide aid to organizations that assist victims of domestic violence situations, through education, awareness, and prevention strategies."

Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, and father and stepmother, Joe and Tara Petito, spoke with WFLA in Tampa about the foundation and how they've been coping after Gabby's death.

"We're still grieving and it's going to be a process for a long time," Schmidt said. "I think starting the foundation is a way of us grieving and getting through this. Some mornings I wake up, I want to save the world and I know I can't do that but I'll die trying. And that's Gabby's legacy."

She added, "For me, it means preventing this from happening to someone else. That's what we're trying to do here."

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito. Gabby Petito Instagram

Petito, 22, vanished in August while on a cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23. The couple had spent the summer traveling across the country in a white van together, documenting their adventures on YouTube along the way — but on Sept. 1, Laundrie quietly returned to his parents' Florida home without Petito.

On Sept. 11, Petito's woman's family reported her missing, and on Sept. 19, Petito's body was discovered in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. She had been strangled to death.

Laundrie, who was considered a person of interest in Petito's death but was never charged in connection to it, was found dead in October in a Florida park near his parents' home. His cause of manner of death have not been released.

At the time his body was found, Laundrie faced charges of using an unauthorized debit card with intent to fraud in relation to activities that occurred after Petito's death.

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Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie
Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie. Find Gabby/Facebook

Amid the continuing attention on the case, video footage surfaced showing a police encounter between the couple that belied the happy image they had presented on social media.

In the footage, Petito says that Laundrie had grabbed her face and hit her. One eyewitness who called 911 to report the incident told the dispatcher Laundrie had been slapping Petito. Another eyewitness, who provided a written statement, said it appeared Laundrie was possibly trying to lock Petito out of the van and take her phone.

Despite this, police classified the incident as "disorderly conduct" rather than domestic violence, and determined Petito — who cried and appeared highly distressed throughout the footage — was the aggressor. Police advised the couple to spend the night apart, with Petito keeping the van in which they were traveling and Laundrie — who appeared calm in the video — being sent to a hotel.

Gabby Petito case: Full bodycam video from second Utah officer
Another image from a Moab City Police body cam, showing Gabby Petito on Aug. 12, 2021. Moab City Police Department

According to the CDC, one in four women have experienced intimate partner violence. In an interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz on The Dr. Oz Show, Schmidt said Petito's story has helped people leave abusive relationships.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito. Joseph Petito Twitter

"I have had some … people that I know message me and say, 'My sister she got out of a relationship. Thank you to Gabby. She saved her life.' Things like that. You hear that and you think that's a blessing," Schmidt said.

WFLA reports Petito's family is calling for a nationwide alert system for people ages 18 to 64. Currently, Amber Alerts address missing children while Silver Alerts address at-risk seniors.

"What about these people that are in between?" Schmidt told WFLA. "If a family member knows they're missing, there's got to be some kind of alert system so people start looking immediately."

Meanwhile, Petito's family is still grieving. Her stepmother, Tara Petito, told WFLA, "I cry every night. I stare at her pictures. So it's been very difficult."

Her father, Joe Petito, said they are channeling their grief into doing positive things: "Doing that, staying focused, researching — that's what we're doing in terms of trying to cope. Trying to make a difference," he said.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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