In June of 2021, Gabby Pettitio and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie set out for a road trip, but upon Laundrie’s return home without Pettito in tow, it became evident of the horrific acts of domestic violence that Laundrie performed.
Upon June 2021, the couple began their much-anticipated cross-country road trip. Throughout the entire outing, Pettito regularly remained in close contact with her family and constantly updated her social media pages.
This cycle of constant outreach through family and media continued throughout the trip, until August of 2021 when all outreach suddenly paused.
In mid-August, the couple was met with police, where officers describes them as being engaged “in some sort of altercation.” The police mentioned them getting into a fight with physical violence, however, a report from the officer states that “both the male and the female reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime.”
Officer Daniel Robbins wrote in a report of the incident that “after evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis.” However, a 911 call recording that same day shows that a caller spoke of a couple in a white van and a Florida license plate, both matching the van of the couple’s description, in which “the gentleman was slapping the girl.”
In late August the Petitio family lost communication with Gabby Petitio entirely. Their last message from Petitio read, “No service in Yosemite.” However, the general public believes that Petito’s last message was not sent from her, but was sent from Laundrie himself.
A woman made a public declaration that she, along with her boyfriend, saw Laundrie, and allowed Laundrie a ride in their vehicle. She claims that Laundrie reported she had been camping by his lonesome for multiple days, without Petito.
On the first of September Laundrie returned to the home in which he lived with Petitio and his parents. Sept. 6 through Sept. 8, the Laundrie family was at Fort De Soto campground, over 70 miles away from the home of the family. On Sept. 11, Petito is reported missing, after her family’s inability to contact her. The very same night, police approach Laundrie’s door and are met with the information of their family’s attorney. The spokesperson for the North Port police, Taylor, says that the information of the attorney was “the extent of our conversation with them.”
Sept. 17, six days after Petito being reported missing, six days of both the police and Petitio’s family begging with Laundrie and his family for simple cooperation, the Laundrie family invites the North Port police to enter their home, reporting they have not seen their son Brian since Sept. 14.
Petito’s case took the internet by storm. The #gabbypetito hashtag has culminated over 1.3 billion views on TikTok. In fact, many could argue that the internet and media solved the case. As soon as the media got ahold of the information of Petito’s disappearance, the internet already unraveled and thoroughly followed a trail of breadcrumbs to try and help the Petito family. They were so successful in fact, that when a small clip from a YouTube video centered around a couple’s trip to Wyoming was discovered, people across the internet immediately saw Laundrie’s white van. Then, only days later, Petito’s body was found nearby.
There is no doubt that the internet played a vital role in the Petito case, and while Laundrie is still missing, provided Petito’s family and the authorities with the help that they needed. However, the shocking and necessary question is: why?
In a report published by Wyoming’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Task Force, 710 Indigenous people went missing in Wyoming from 2011-2020, 85% of which being kids and 57% being female. 50% were found within one week, 21% remained missing for 30+ days. Within the white population, only 11% of people remain missing for over 30 days.
The internet takes hold of white missing person reports in a way that they do not for people of color, and in a world dominated by media, that makes all the difference. Petito was a blonde, white, blue-eyed girl, so the media’s response to news of her disappearance is not surprising, however, it is sad.
The media is a reflection of society, whether preferable or not and the fact that Petito’s disappearance was perceived in a way people of color are not, is a true test of society. Humanity should be going over the hints of their unintentional racism and thinking about how to do better, how to be better.
It is time to take a long look in the mirror and see the unclear factors, the unclear and unintentional racism, sexism, homophobia, and general inequality portrayed on a daily basis, and so best to come up with an impossible solution to a complicated problem.