Gabby Petito's Stepdad Leaves Stone Memorial at Site Where Her Body Was Found

Gabby Petito’s stepdad Jim Schmidt helped the search before her body was recovered in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming 

gabby petito

Gabby Petito's stepfather is honoring her memory.

Jim Schmidt paid tribute to his late stepdaughter on Wednesday after the FBI confirmed that the body found over the weekend in Grand Teton National Park matched the victim.

Schmidt's friend Gary Rider told The Independent they left flowers and stones in the shape of a cross at the site where human remains were found on Sunday. The FBI's Denver field office said the remains were "consistent with the description" of 22-year-old Gabby prior to making a positive identification.

"We did go — the small cross with flowers was made by Jim and myself," Rider told the outlet.

There is also a larger cross near where Gabby was found, though her father's friend said it was happenstance.

"That larger cross was not done by anyone connected with the search or recovery of Gabby. It was just a coincidence, we confirmed that," he told The Independent.

Schmidt, who is married to Gabby's mother Nicole Schmidt, has been assisting with search and rescue efforts in Wyoming since last week. The Long Island, New York, resident flew out last Wednesday to aid the search, family members told the New York Post.

"He's not leaving until he brings Gabby home," Nicole told the outlet. "Now we have eyes, ears, feet on the ground … in both her home states and where she was last seen."

Gabby was last heard from in late August during a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.

Following Sunday's discovery, the FBI's Denver field office ruled Gabby's death as a homicide.

Investigators have yet to reveal how Gabby was killed, but believe she died sometime between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito. Gabby Petito Instagram

"The FBI and our partners remain dedicated to ensuring anyone responsible for or complicit in Ms. Petito's death is held accountable for their actions," Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in the FBI's tweet.

Schneider added that 23-year-old Laundrie is a person of interest, saying, "Anyone with information concerning Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts should contact the FBI."

Following the FBI's announcement on Sunday that they found a body believed to be Gabby's, her father, Joseph Petito, shared a tribute on Instagram.

Joseph posted a photo of his smiling daughter posing with angel wings with the caption, "she touched the world."

Joseph spoke with PEOPLE on Sept. 15 about Gabby, describing her as a "free spirit" who would've gone to the 1969 Woodstock Festival if she could.

"She's so artistic. She's an amazing artist. She loves to draw. She has a great eye with decorating," he said. "She's that flower child type of personality. The old soul, you know?"

Gabby was reported missing on Sept. 11, 10 days after Laundrie quietly returned to his parents' Florida home without her.

A search was then conducted in the Wyoming wilderness where authorities believed she last was.

Soon after Gabby's disappearance first garnered attention, authorities in Utah revealed that two weeks before her last conversation with family officers received a 911 call reporting a domestic dispute that involved Gabby and Laundrie while they were traveling through Moab.

Officers located them and pulled their van over to investigate. Body camera footage released to the public shows a tearful interaction with Gabby and police, who separated the couple for the night.

Gabby's disappearance also led to police attempts to interview Laundrie and his family in Florida. Authorities allege they refused to cooperate and directed their requests for questioning to their attorney who instructed their clients not to talk.

On Sept. 17, the Laundrie family spoke with the FBI for the first time to inform them that Laundrie himself had now gone missing two days after he was named a person of interest. His parents said he hadn't been home since he left for a hike on Sept. 14. They did not, however, provide information on Gabby's disappearance.

After the FBI confirmed Tuesday that Gabby's body was found in a Wyoming, an attorney for the Laundrie family issued a brief statement.

"May Gabby rest in peace," Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie. Gabby Petito Instagram

Friends of Gabby and Laundrie, who'd dated since high school, recently told PEOPLE the couple had a history of "drama."

"One minute, they'd be all over each other, the next minute, he'd be like, 'We're fighting,'" Laundrie's friend, Ben Matula, said while describing their relationship when they were teenagers in Long Island, New York. "They always had some drama."

Matula, who spoke to PEOPLE exclusively for this week's issue, added: "There was always something below the surface where things weren't 100% wonderful."

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito. North Port Police Department/Facebook

For exclusive interviews and details on the Gabby Petito case, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

Gabby's friend Alyssa Chen, 23, also told PEOPLE, "They had times they were toxic and times where everything seemed a lot more healthy. They had very low lows and very high highs. But they really seemed to love each other."

"When things were good, you'd be like, 'Why can't I have a relationship like that?'" she recalled. "When they were bad, you'd be like 'Oh my God, just break up and spare yourself from the drama and everyone else from having to hear about it.' "

If you have information on this case, call 1-­800-­CALL-­FBI (225­-5324).

Related Articles