He held on to hope as long as he could.
While his “gut” told him something horrible likely happened to his missing daughter, Joseph Petito wanted to stay focused on participating in the massive effort to find her.
On Sunday evening, minutes after an FBI special agent told the world that a body found in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park was consistent with the description of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, the grieving father told the world what Gabby meant to it.
“💔#GABBYPETITO she touched the world,” he tweeted at 6:21 p.m.
“The cause of death has not been determined at this time,” said FBI Special Agent Charles Jones, while extending “sincere and heartfelt condolences” to Gabby Petito’s family. “As every parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for the family and friends. We ask that you all respect their privacy as they mourn the loss of their daughter.”
The story of Petito’s disappearance has captured the attention and the heart of the nation. While many braced for the worst, there was still some hope that she would return home safely. She was reported missing on Sept. 11, more than a week after her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, 23, returned home from the couple’s cross country road trip without her.
Laundrie was identified Wednesday by investigators as a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance. He is now also missing. North Port Police in Florida learned Friday from his parents that he had been missing since leaving for a hike on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
Petito’s family had not heard from her since Aug. 25, during a Facetime call. They received texts from her four days later but they weren’t certain she had sent them.
Petito and Laundrie, both Bayport-Blue Point High School graduates, had been traveling in a converted white van, exploring national parks in Wyoming and Utah, since July 2. The couple had moved to North Port two years ago and were living with Laundrie’s parents.
Joseph Petito, formerly of Selden, lives in Vero Beach, Florida, with his wife Tara and their young children. Gabby Petito’s mom Nichole Schmidt, a Patchogue-Medford High School graduate, and her stepfather James, a former fire chief for the Blue Point Fire Department, live in Blue Point.
Below is Gabby Petito’s final post on Instagram, from Aug. 25.