NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — The father of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, who went missing during a cross-country road trip she had been on with her fiancé, stood before the public on Thursday and begged for help finding his daughter.
“What I need from everybody here is help,” Joe Petito said. “Because the goal is still not met. And the goal is to bring Gabby home safe.”
Gabby Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 by concerned family members who had not heard from her. According to police, her fiancé Brian Laundrie returned home from their cross-country trip alone on Sept. 1 in the van they had been traveling in. She was nowhere to be found.
Laundrie has retained a lawyer. The North Port Police Department, the lead agency investigating the missing person case, named Laundrie a person of interest this week.
“We share the frustration with the world right now. Two people went on a trip. One person returned. And that person that returned isn’t providing us any information,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said.
Chief Garrison held a news conference Thursday to give an update on the investigation, and invited Petito’s father to speak.
“I’m asking for help from everyone here, I’m asking for help from everyone at home. I’m asking for help from the parents of Brian. I’m asking for help from the family members and friends of the Laundrie family as well,” Joe Petito said. “Whatever you can do to make sure my daughter comes home, I’m asking for that help. There is nothing else that matters to me now.”
Petito, pointing to photos of his missing daughter, told the public, “This. This girl right here. This is what matters.”
“That is it,” he said. “Anything else, it comes second to this.”
Chief Garrison echoed Petito’s plea, asking anyone with information to point them in the right direction to find Gabby.
“Gabby is a vibrant 22-year-old with a love for life and adventure,” Garrison said. “She is a daughter, a sister and a granddaughter. She was excited to share her cross-country trek with others on social media and with her family.”
At this point, Garrison said, the police department is focused solely on finding Petito.
“Right now, we are investigating a missing person case,” he said when asked whether there’s any criminality suspected in the case. “None at this time. Right now, it’s a missing person case.”
The chief also said they cannot bring Laundrie in right now for investigation in relation to him driving the van, which belonged to Petito, home to North Port without her. He said police are still analyzing what was in the van and are also working on establishing a timeline for when Laundrie left the west coast to return to Florida.
“Our focus is to find Gabby. My focus isn’t to bring Brian in right now, it’s to find Gabby,” Garrison said. “Brian is exercising his constitutional rights and I have to respect that. But as of right now, the focus is finding Gabby.”
Garrison said the North Port Police Department is working around the clock with other investigating agencies. Another one of the agencies involved in the missing person case, the FBI, was also present at the news conference to show their partnership, Garrison said.
“Due to the geographic scope of the investigation, it’s important that we partner with our federal local partners,” Garrison explained.
He added that there’s no “grid search” currently because they’re still trying to narrow down geographic areas.
“We have no physical search teams on the ground right now like, doing grid search,” he said. “We have resources and law enforcement partners who are out in the field following up on tips and leads but as far as a grid search right now, we’re still trying to narrow down geographic areas.”