Gabby Petito’s parents say daughter ‘saved so many lives’ by drawing attention to domestic violence

Gabby Petito’s family honoured her legacy at ComicCon 2023 by reading testimonies from people who have been impacted by her story.

Petito’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, and her step-parents, Tara Petito and Jim Schmidt, took the stage at the three-day event for a powerful session about domestic violence on Saturday.

The family opened up about how their lives changed forever after Petito was murdered by her boyfriend Brian Laundrie during a cross-country road trip in August 2021.

They have since launched a foundation to help victims of domestic violence and, through it, say Petito has “saved so many lives”.

During the panel, Ms Schmidt read out loud a letter from a survivor who said Petito’s story had inspired her to leave her own violent partner – and how she later found out her ex had purchased a weapon with the intention of killing her.

“She’s a hero and saved so many lives. Even though she’s not here anymore. She’s a hero,” an emotional Ms Schmidt told the audience.

At the conference, the Petito family was presented with the Crime Fighter of the Year award for their foundation.

The charity’s purpose is to spread awareness of the warning signs for domestic violence and to assist organisations that provide immediate, tangible help to survivors, according to the campaign.

The Petito family accepted the award and promptly acknowledged the disparities in the coverage of missing people of colour.

They then announced that they were donating a gift of $15,000 to the Black & Missing Foundation.

A special CrimeCon campaign for the Gabby Petito Foundation also raised more than $32,000 before the event ended on Sunday.

At the conference, Petito’s mother also thanked true crime enthusiasts for bringing awareness to her daughter’s disappearance and helping to find out what happened to her, after Laundrie returned from a cross-country trip without Petito and refused to give her family answers about her whereabouts.

“It’s thanks to all of you that we found her,” Ms Schmidt said.

Petito and Laundrie had set off on a cross-country trip together, documenting their travel experiences as “van lifers” on their YouTube channel “Nomadic Statik”.

Her parents became concerned after she stopped FaceTiming with them as she regularly did.

Petito’s posts inspired enormous interest in the case and were meticulously searched for clues by online sleuths after she was last seen in a Whole Foods in Jackson, Wyoming, on 27 August 2021.

Gabby Petito’s remains were found on 19 September 2021 after she was murdered by her boyfriend Brian Laundrie (Joseph Petito/Instagram)
Gabby Petito’s remains were found on 19 September 2021 after she was murdered by her boyfriend Brian Laundrie (Joseph Petito/Instagram)

On 19 September 2021, investigators located Petito’s body in the eastern portion of Grand Teton National Park. The discovery was aided by another travel YouTuber who spotted Petito’s van in a video they had filmed.

Laundrie also went missing as he came under scrutiny following Petito’s disappearance.

His remains were later found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on 20 October. His death was ruled as suicide.

Last year, Petito’s parents were awarded $3m in a wrongful death lawsuit against Laundrie’s estate.

The family has also sued Laundrie’s parents, who failed to immediately tell authorities that he had gone missing, claiming that they knew he had killed Petito before her body was found.