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Gabby Petito’s stepfather creates stone cross memorial at exact site where daughter’s body was found

Gabby Petito’s stepfather James Schmidt has visited the exact spot where her body was found in Wyoming, and created a memorial to the 22-year-old New Yorker.

Schmidt, who is married to Petito’s mother Nichole, traveled from New York to Wyoming last week to help with the search for the missing ‘van life’ traveler.

She had been reported missing on September 11, and he set out on September 14. Her body was found on September 19.

On Wednesday Schmidt made a stone cross at the site where Petito was discovered, Fox News confirmed. He left yellow and white flowers on the site, beneath the trees. 

Gabby Petito’s father James Schmidt has visited the exact spot where she was killed, and created a stone cross. He laid a floral tribute

James Schmidt, Gabby Petito's stepfather, traveled to Wyoming on September 14 to help the search for the 22-year-old. Four days later her body was found

James Schmidt, Gabby Petito’s stepfather, traveled to Wyoming on September 14 to help the search for the 22-year-old. Four days later her body was found

Schmidt is pictured with his wife Nichole, Gabby's mother, at a press conference on September 14 - shortly before he set out for Wyoming

Schmidt is pictured with his wife Nichole, Gabby’s mother, at a press conference on September 14 – shortly before he set out for Wyoming

Petito saved money for her road trip by working in a pharmacy and then set out on July 2

Petito saved money for her road trip by working in a pharmacy and then set out on July 2

Gabby Petito, 22, is pictured with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, in a YouTube video made to document their 'van life' road trip. Petito's body was found on Sunday and Laundrie has disappeared

Gabby Petito, 22, is pictured with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, in a YouTube video made to document their ‘van life’ road trip. Petito’s body was found on Sunday and Laundrie has disappeared

A memorial of stones arranged in a cross pattern was spotted Monday evening at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite east of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On Wednesday Petito's stepfather made a similar tribute at the exact spot where her body was found

A memorial of stones arranged in a cross pattern was spotted Monday evening at the Spread Creek Dispersed Campsite east of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On Wednesday Petito’s stepfather made a similar tribute at the exact spot where her body was found

A similar memorial had been made on Monday, on an open patch of muddy land on the banks of a river near the campsite.  

Gary Rider, a friend of Schmidt, said the pair had visited the site on Wednesday and that they had left some flowers next to the other cross.

‘We did go – the small cross with flowers was made by Jim and myself,’ he told The Independent.

‘That larger cross was not done by anyone connected with the search or recovery of Gabby.’ 

A memorial for Petito will be held on Sunday in New York, the Long Island funeral home confirmed on Wednesday.

Moloney’s Holbrook Funeral Home, in Holbrook, 50 miles east of Manhattan, announced the memorial on their website.

The event will be held from noon until 5pm.

No details were given about a funeral or service.

The funeral home on Long Island, New York, has published details of her memorial

The funeral home on Long Island, New York, has published details of her memorial

Sunday's memorial will be held at the Holbrook funeral home near her family's house

Sunday’s memorial will be held at the Holbrook funeral home near her family’s house

Petito and Laundrie are seen on July 4 in Utah. They had set out two days previously on a road trip, planning to document their journey on social media

Petito and Laundrie are seen on July 4 in Utah. They had set out two days previously on a road trip, planning to document their journey on social media 

The pair had been travelling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11

A mural of Gabby Petito with wings was placed at Nicholls Road and Montauk Highway, in Blue Point, New York

A mural of Gabby Petito with wings was placed at Nicholls Road and Montauk Highway, in Blue Point, New York

Petito was originally from New York with her family saying they will release a statement when her body is returned there

Petito was originally from New York with her family saying they will release a statement when her body is returned there

A makeshift memorial for Gabby Petito is seen near North Port City Hall in North Port, Florida, where she used to live

A makeshift memorial for Gabby Petito is seen near North Port City Hall in North Port, Florida, where she used to live 

Petito’s family – from Blue Point, New York – have not spoken since a coroner on Tuesday confirmed that the body discovered on Sunday was indeed her.

They said that they would speak once her remains were returned to them. 

The hunt for the sole ‘person of interest’ in her case continues. 

Her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, was reported missing by his parents on September 17, three days after telling them he was setting off on a hike.

Laundrie’s family lawyer said: ‘May she rest in peace.’

The search for Laundrie has since Sunday been concentrated on the Carlton Reserve – a swampy, alligator-filled 25,000 acre site where Laundrie’s abandoned car was found. The silver Ford Mustang contained a note, requesting it be towed away.

North Port Police Department on Wednesday evening at around 7pm tweeted that the search had concluded for the day, and would resume in the morning.

‘The ground search for Brian Laundrie has been halted for the evening. Nothing found,’ they said. 

‘We will be back out Thursday, similar operation.’ 

Search teams are pictured on Wednesday heading into the Carlton Reserve in Florida

Search teams are pictured on Wednesday heading into the Carlton Reserve in Florida

The Carlton Reserve has been the focus of a search for Laundrie since his car was found at the site on Sunday

The Carlton Reserve has been the focus of a search for Laundrie since his car was found at the site on Sunday

Laundrie was apparently an avid reader, with some pointing to a video on the couple's YouTube page showing him reading a book about a missing woman. He is seen here camping on the Appalachian trail with Petito in March for her birthday

Laundrie was apparently an avid reader, with some pointing to a video on the couple’s YouTube page showing him reading a book about a missing woman. He is seen here camping on the Appalachian trail with Petito in March for her birthday

Brian Laundrie mowed the lawn and went on family bike rides ‘like nothing bothered him’ after returning from cross-country trip alone, says neighbor 

Brian Laundrie’s neighbor has revealed that the 23-year-old mowed the lawn and went on family bike rides ‘like nothing bothered him’ after returning from the cross-country trip alone.

Charlene Guthrie, who lives across the street from the Laundrie family in North Port, Florida, told Fox News she saw Laundrie return to ‘normal life’ – all the while his girlfriend Gabby Petito was missing, possibly already dead. 

‘He mowed the lawn. Him and his mother went for a bicycle ride around the block,’ Guthrie said. 

‘I mean, everything was just normal life once he came back. 

‘And I just can’t get over the fact that they — it seemed like nothing bothered him. How can you do that?’

Laundrie returned to North Port without Petito in the couple’s campervan on September 1. Authorities were then alerted to her disappearance on September 11. 

Guthrie said the discovery of Petito’s body and Laundrie’s disappearance look ‘really, really bad for him’ and that she believes he ‘should be a suspect.’

The neighbor also hit out at Laundrie’s parents for not coming forward when their son went missing and that they ‘let him go’ in the first place.

‘I have children, and I know that you do what you can to protect your child, but, you know, that can go so far, and you gotta do the right thing eventually. You have to,’ Guthrie said.

‘[The Laundries] should have absolutely come forward now. I mean, I just… can’t believe they didn’t do something. I’m really angry now that they… let this go.

‘And that everything was so natural and they remained so normal through the whole thing, you know, while they were here, till he went on the run.’ 

Earlier on Wednesday there was a flurry of activity as divers were brought to the site, but it later emerged that there was no connection to the case.

The team, made up of about 10 divers, was requested by North Port Police on Wednesday morning, said Sarasota County Sheriff’s office spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez.

‘These divers are specifically trained and very talented in low visibility bodies of water,’ Perez said. 

‘They dive down where you and I can’t see anything at all. They utilize technology and other special equipment to help them get down deep into really deep bodies of water, so they’re out there right now to recover whatever it is that they might find.’

The Laundrie family were initially reluctant to cooperate with the investigation.

Their house was searched on Monday, and Brian’s parents Christopher and Roberta were questioned.

On Wednesday the Laundrie’s neighbors, William and Charlene Guthrie, said that they saw the Laundrie family leaving the house with a camper van about a week after Brian’s September 1 solo return to Florida.

William Guthrie told Fox News that he was working in his yard when he saw the Laundries attach what looked like a new camper to the back of their pickup truck.

‘I saw them doing some work. And then when they prepared for their trip, I saw them loading the camper,’ he said.

The couple told Fox that the Laundries were gone ‘for the weekend’ after packing up the new camper.

At that point, Petito had not been officially reported missing: her family did not raise the issue with the police until September 11.

The Guthries said they found it ‘odd’ that Christopher, Roberta and Brian Laundrie would all spend the weekend together in one small vehicle.

It also emerged on Wednesday that Petito and Laundrie were seen on August 27 at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson Hole – where an ‘aggressive’ Laundrie berated wait staff during an argument over the bill.  

Nina Celie Angelo of New Orleans was at the restaurant with her boyfriend Matthew England and noted the blazing argument, sometime between 1 and 2pm.

Their account provides what is believed to be the last sighting of Petito.  

While dining at the restaurant, they overheard a loud conversation in which another customer – believed to be Laundrie – was heard screaming at wait staff in what appeared to be an argument over the check.

Nina Celie Angelo

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

Nina Celie Angelo (left) of New Orleans recalled the August 27 incident in Jackson Hole, Wyoming involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie (right)

Angelo, a photographer, was with her boyfriend, financial adviser Matthew England, when they stopped to have lunch at Merry Piglets sometime between 1 and 2pm. The couple was in Wyoming in late August to attend a wedding. While dining at the restaurant, they overheard a loud conversation in which another customer, Laundrie, was heard screaming at wait staff in what appeared to be an argument over the check

Angelo, a photographer, was with her boyfriend, financial adviser Matthew England, when they stopped to have lunch at Merry Piglets sometime between 1 and 2pm. The couple was in Wyoming in late August to attend a wedding. While dining at the restaurant, they overheard a loud conversation in which another customer, Laundrie, was heard screaming at wait staff in what appeared to be an argument over the check

Angelo, a photographer, was with her boyfriend, financial adviser Matthew England, when they traveled to Wyoming for a wedding in late August

Angelo, a photographer, was with her boyfriend, financial adviser Matthew England, when they traveled to Wyoming for a wedding in late August

Angelo said that the man involved in the dispute displayed ‘aggressive’ body language.

The man left the restaurant and then returned around four times, she said. 

Afterward, a young woman who was with the man – believed to be Petito – came into the restaurant and apologized to wait staff for his behavior.

Merry Piglets officials later posted on Instagram: ‘Yes, we can confirm Gabby and Brian were in Merry Piglets.

‘We have already notified the FBI and they are aware. We are letting them do their jobs and we are respecting Gabby’s family and have nothing further to comment.’ 

As England watched the images of Petito and Laundrie in the body cam footage, it began to dawn on him early on Wednesday morning that they looked familiar.

‘He goes, ‘Nina, that was the couple fighting at the restaurant’,’ Angelo said.

‘And it stopped me in my tracks. I felt like the blood left my body.

‘I was like, ‘Oh my God, I completely forgot about that incident’.’

Their account is yet another crucial piece of the puzzle, as police and FBI try to understand Petito and Laundrie’s movements.

They have been helped by intense public interest in the case.  

A huge manhunt was launched on September 11 to find the missing woman, and police said that they eventually received more than 1,000 tips.

As of Tuesday, the hashtag #GabbyPetito has received more than 650 million views on the social media platform TikTok, according to the Associated Press. 

Petito and Laundrie had cultivated a following on social media as the traversed the West in their van, and fellow social media users jumped into the hunt for clues.

The van was spotted in footage made by YouTubers, a TikTok user said that she had given an ‘antsy’ Laundrie a lift when he was hitchhiking on August 29, and an Idaho woman who owns a shop in the town of Victor said that she had seen the pair around that time. 

A graphic designer who has spent the past four years living in her Airstream trailer said that she believes she is the one that led the FBI to Petito’s body, after agents told her: ‘you guys are the ones that really tipped us off to the right place’.

Jessica Schultz told law enforcement that she spotted Laundrie near the Spread Creek campsite in Wyoming on August 26, 27 and possibly 28.  

Schultz, 38, said that the publicity surrounding the missing New Yorker encouraged her to come forward, and she spoke to the FBI on September 16.

She said in a TikTok that she and a group of friends were camped at Spread Creek from August 22 to 29.

‘In that time frame, we all independently noticed that van,’ she said.

Schultz said that she noticed the van because it was trying to park, and blocking her way. She very clearly recalled seeing a man alone – who she now believes was Laundrie.

She said she was ‘100 per cent certain’ that it was him. 

‘He was very… kind of awkward and confused,’ she said on TikTok.

‘It was just him, there was no Gabby.’  

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito had been traveling since early July. Petito was reported missing on September 11, and on September 16 a fellow 'van life' traveler told the FBI she believed she had spotted Laundrie

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito had been traveling since early July. Petito was reported missing on September 11, and on September 16 a fellow ‘van life’ traveler told the FBI she believed she had spotted Laundrie

‘He was very kind of awkward and confused. And it was just him. There was no Gabby’: Jessica Schultz describes on TikTok seeing Laundrie 

‘So I saw Brian Laundrie parking his van August 26 at Spread Creek. 

‘So I had already reported to the FBI what I had seen. 

‘And I wasn’t 100 per cent sure, but now that there is dashcam footage of the van where I saw it, I’m 100 per cent certain that I did see him parking his van. 

‘And he was very kind of awkward and confused. And it was just him. There was no Gabby. 

‘But that’s only because, as a van lifer, I was checking out their van and I was checking out to see if it was a couple or a solo dude. 

‘So it was a solo dude, as far as I could see. Unless she was in the back somewhere. But when I pulled up he was driving still and hadn’t yet pulled over. 

‘So I was like, hey, what are you going to do? Are you going to let me pass because it’s only one car width of a road. 

‘And he kind of pulled over like half way, and made me drive half out into the road to go around him. 

‘So I thought it was just really weird. And for a timeline, it was parked on the 26th, I believe.’ 

‘Sorry my last video cut off. I guess I only get 60 seconds. 

‘It’s probably a good thing as the FBI actually called me back. Not as a result of my TikTok. 

‘So a group of friends and I were camping at Spread Creek from the 22nd to the 29th. 

‘And in that time frame we all independently noticed that van parked there. And I noticed it particularly because I had seen that van trying to park. And also because it wasn’t actually parked in a designated spot. 

‘The Spread Creek camping area is a series of designated spots and you’re not supposed to camp outside those spots. 

‘This van was not in a real spot so I figured that he would get booted by the people who patrol the area. But the van was there for several days and nights and it did not get booted. The weirdest part was that there was no indication that there was anybody at the van. 

‘Usually small van people have their doors open, they’re outside, they have a hammock, something. But we didn’t see any signs of actual life at the van.’

The van that Petito and Laundrie were traveling in was spotted by multiple travelers, including Schultz

The van that Petito and Laundrie were traveling in was spotted by multiple travelers, including Schultz

Schultz approached the van to see if the man wanted to join their group, but saw that he was much younger than them so decided against extending the invite. 

‘He was just acting weird,’ she told The San Francisco Chronicle. 

‘You know, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, your hackles go up when you see something that’s out of the ordinary.’ 

She added: ‘I’m pretty sure he got out of the van to like look around or something. 

‘There’s definitely nobody in that passenger seat; like he definitely doesn’t have a girl in there.’  

On August 27, Schultz saw the van again.

This time, she was traveling as a passenger in her friend’s vehicle, and noticed that the van belonging to Petito and used by her and Laundrie was in the same area.

‘I was like, ‘Oh, that guy stayed the night,’ Schultz recalled telling her friend.

She remembered it clearly, she said, because it was not a designated parking spot. 

Schultz also believes she saw the van on August 28, because she recalled thinking it was surprising the owners had not been asked to move on to an actual parking place. 

‘The weirdest part of it was that there was no indication there was anybody at the van,’ Schultz recounted on TikTok. 

When footage of the missing couple began circulating, Schultz noticed the distinctive hat that was on the dashboard – which she had seen.

‘My friend texted me a picture of the hat on the dashboard and I just lost my s***,’ Schultz said. 

‘And that’s when I called the FBI and said, ‘Guys, look at Spread Creek.’   

Lupe Alvarez, a friend of Schultz’s who was camping at the site, said he and his partner first saw teams of police crews looking for Petito arrive on Friday evening. 

On Saturday a forest ranger approached them as they were about to set off on a hike and asked them not to destroy any evidence.

‘She told us, ‘You’ve probably heard about the missing girl and the van,’ Alvarez said. 

Schultz said someone with the FBI called her and her friends back for an interview just before 10am on Sunday – before it was announced that Petito’s remains had been found.

Schultz recalled that the FBI agent said: ‘I’ve talked to hundreds of people, but you guys are the ones that really tipped us off to the right place, so thank you.’

She added: ‘We’re triumphant — we were right and we led them in the right direction. 

‘But then, of course, it’s not something you like to be right about. It’s been emotionally exhausting for sure.’   

‘Don’t try to find me. I have finally escaped my master’s clutches’: Brian Laundrie’s cryptic Pinterest posts

Gabby Petito’s missing boyfriend Brian Laundrie shared cryptic messages on Pinterest before his girlfriend’s death was declared a homicide. 

A folder titled Things To Burn Off is filled with pictures of tattoos – most of them diabolical with images of demons, crypt keepers and more cynical quotes.

One tattoo read: ‘Do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR)’ in red ink surrounding a picture of a man performing CPR with a red ‘X’ through it.

‘Doctor, I want to die dignifiedly,’ it also said. 

There was also an image of a woman with a tattoo across her back saying: ‘I’m the hero of this story. I don’t need to be saved.’

The obscure quote leaves a lot up to the imagination, including queries about whether Laundrie was trying to send a message.

Another post, titled The Opposite Of Lost, said: ‘Don’t try to find me. I have finally escaped my ‘master’s’ wicked clutches’ under an image of purple and pink clouds read.

‘To others I say: Join me. Bite the hand that feeds you. Vive la liberté,’ it added.

It appears to have originated from a missing dog flier in Oregon in 2006.   

Other items Laundrie shared to a folder he called ‘My Heart’ are just as mystifying, and a photo he reposted of a pillow embroidered with the quote ‘sorry for what I said while we were trying to park the camper,’ cannot be missed.

Other posts include a line from the 1999 movie Fight Club that said: ‘It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.’

A particularly disturbing post under the account @blaundrie1197 showed a headstone with ‘my baby’ inscribed on it. 

The artwork, which was designed by Sacha Strange, also read: ‘She’ll never find a sweet man like me. Let her go, let her go, God bless her, wherever she may be.’ 

Gabby Petito's missing boyfriend Brian Laundrie shared cryptic messages on Pinterest a month before his girlfriend's death was declared a homicide. The post - titled The Opposite Of Lost - appears to have originated from a missing dog flier in Oregon in 2006

Gabby Petito’s missing boyfriend Brian Laundrie shared cryptic messages on Pinterest a month before his girlfriend’s death was declared a homicide. The post – titled The Opposite Of Lost – appears to have originated from a missing dog flier in Oregon in 2006

A photo he reposted of a pillow embroidered with the quote 'sorry for what I said while we were trying to park the camper,' cannot be missed

A photo he reposted of a pillow embroidered with the quote ‘sorry for what I said while we were trying to park the camper,’ cannot be missed

He posted a quote from the 1999 movie Fight Club that said: 'It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything'

The account was last used five weeks ago and the latest post is a drawing of a matchbox that reads: 'Burnt out'

Other items Laundrie shared to a folder he called My Heart are just as mystifying, including a quote from the 1999 movie Fight Club that said: ‘It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything’

A particularly disturbing post showed a headstone with 'my baby' inscribed on it. The artwork, which was designed by Sacha Strange, also read: 'She'll never find a sweet man like me. Let her go, let her go, God bless her, wherever she may be'

A particularly disturbing post showed a headstone with ‘my baby’ inscribed on it. The artwork, which was designed by Sacha Strange, also read: ‘She’ll never find a sweet man like me. Let her go, let her go, God bless her, wherever she may be’

Brian Laundrie (pictured) arrived home early from the campervan trip - on September 1 - without Gabby Petito. She was reported missing on September 11 and Laundrie went missing himself on September 14

Brian Laundrie (pictured) arrived home early from the campervan trip – on September 1 – without Gabby Petito. She was reported missing on September 11 and Laundrie went missing himself on September 14

Another posts features a skull and a hand holding what appears to be a match with accompanying text that reads: ‘You do it yourself, and that’s what really hurts.’  

And another mentions the phenomenon nyctophilia, ‘a love of darkness or night; finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness’ while another asks: ‘Am I okay?’ 

According to The Sun Laundrie shared the account with Petito and his mother Roberta. It’s unknown when exactly the cryptic images were posted or if Laundrie himself was behind it. 

However, the account was last used five weeks ago and the latest post is a drawing of a matchbox that reads: ‘Burnt out.’   

The post cites the book Burnt Out: How To Cope With Autistic Burnout in a folder he named Bleak, as reported by The Post. 

A summary of the book said that ‘burnout leaves us feeling weak and exhausted’.

It added: ‘Autistic burnout is when autistic people can’t do things they used to because of how little energy they have left. It takes a whole lot more energy to function whilst being autistic and do basic tasks such as remembering to eat or doing laundry.’

Meanwhile, a folder called Life Goals is filled with much less obscure messages and contains a host of wedding inspiration-type images. 

There’s a slew of photos with wedding dresses, table settings and even tips on making your own invitations and table settings. The couple were engaged.  

Another posts features a skull and a hand holding what appears to be a match with accompanying text that reads: 'You do it yourself, and that's what really hurts'

Another posts features a skull and a hand holding what appears to be a match with accompanying text that reads: ‘You do it yourself, and that’s what really hurts’

It's unknown when exactly Laundrie reposted the cryptic images to his Pinterest account but they are certainly plentiful

One mentions the phenomenon nyctophilia, 'a love of darkness or night; finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness' while another asks: 'Am I okay?'

It’s unknown when exactly Laundrie reposted the cryptic images to his Pinterest account but they are certainly plentiful. One mentions the phenomenon nyctophilia, ‘a love of darkness or night; finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness’ while another asks: ‘Am I okay?’

Meanwhile, a folder called Life Goals (pictured) is filled with much less obscure messages and contains a host of wedding inspiration-type images. There's a slew of photos with wedding dresses, table settings and even tips on making your own invitations and table settings

Meanwhile, a folder called Life Goals (pictured) is filled with much less obscure messages and contains a host of wedding inspiration-type images. There’s a slew of photos with wedding dresses, table settings and even tips on making your own invitations and table settings

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk