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Gabby Petito’s stepfather tells her boyfriend ‘to step up and do the right thing

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The stepfather of missing ‘van-life woman’ Gabby Petito is pleading with her boyfriend to ‘step up and do the right thing’ hours after he was named a person of interest in her disappearance.  

James Schmidt, traveled to Wyoming Wednesday to assist authorities in their efforts to locate Petito, 22, when news broke of her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, being made a person of interest. 

On the same day, police officially named Laundrie a ‘person of interest’ in their inquiry into Gabby’s mysterious disappearance as he refuses to cooperate in their investigation. 

‘We were made aware of that earlier today,’ Schmidt, a former fire chief in Blue Point, Long Island, told DailyMail.com in an exclusive video interview at Grand Teton National Park. ‘He was with her, so he has to know something.’ 

Jim Schmidt (pictured) the stepfather of Gabby Petito, talks to DailyMail.com from the Grand Teton National Park after his stepdaughter disappeared 

James Schmidt, former fire chief for the Blue Point Fire Department, (pictured) traveled to Wyoming Wednesday to assist authorities in their efforts to locate Petito, 22, who traveled to the state's Grand Teton National Park in late August with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.

James Schmidt, former fire chief for the Blue Point Fire Department, (pictured) traveled to Wyoming Wednesday to assist authorities in their efforts to locate Petito, 22, who traveled to the state’s Grand Teton National Park in late August with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.

Police named her boyfriend Brian Laundrie a person of interest on Wednesday. They are pictured together on their trip

Police named her boyfriend Brian Laundrie a person of interest on Wednesday. They are pictured together on their trip 

Gabby, who grew up in Blue Point, New York, was reported missing by her mother on September 11, and was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Brian in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

The following day she made her final call to her family, telling them that she and Brian had arrived at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  

Police opened a missing person’s investigation but Brian along with his parents have refused to speak with detectives.

On Wednesday, Brian’s attorney Steve Bertolino, issued the statement regarding his client in addition to Gabby’s disappearance. 

‘This is an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. I understand that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.’ 

‘Our family’s aware of the statements made by his attorney,’ Schmidt said, forcefully. 

Petito's mother Nicole Schmidt (left) and stepfather James Schmidt (right) are desperate for answers. Now, James has set off to Wyoming to track his stepdaughter down

Petito’s mother Nicole Schmidt (left) and stepfather James Schmidt (right) are desperate for answers. Now, James has set off to Wyoming to track his stepdaughter down

Petito, (pictured) who grew up in Blue Point, New York, was reported missing by her mother on September 11, and was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Brian in Salt Lake City, Utah

Petito, (pictured) who grew up in Blue Point, New York, was reported missing by her mother on September 11, and was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Brian in Salt Lake City, Utah 

‘It’s unacceptable. It is unacceptable to us. We deserve more. Gabby deserves more information out there. She deserves to be found and brought home safe. And we need you to step up and do the right thing,’ he added.    

Petito and Laundrie had been traveling in a converted van, and were expected to complete their trip at a friend’s home in Portland around Halloween.

Instead, Laundrie returned home alone and has refused to tell the cops where his girlfriend is.  

Brian’s family have since refused to let authorities interview their son when the van that the couple had traveled in before she disappeared was seized from their property late on Saturday night.  

‘I understand a parent’s wishes are to always protect their children, no matter what,’ Schmidt said. ‘I understand that. But it’s also about teaching your children the right thing and doing the right thing, no matter what the circumstances are.’

‘Whatever may have transpired or didn’t transpire, they need to come forward and start speaking to law enforcement agencies and be forthcoming with information. The longer they don’t, the longer it’s going to take to bring her home,’ he added.  

Gabby’s mother, Nicole, told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview that on September 10 she reached out to Brian and his mother Roberta Laundrie trying to reach her daughter after she had not heard from Gabby since August 25. 

‘I texted Brian’s mom that I was trying to get in touch with Gabby. I also texted Brian. I got no replies,’ Schmidt said. 

‘I knew something was wrong,’ she said. ‘I felt something was off and I needed to get her reported missing immediately.’

She went to report Gabby missing later that day but police initially blew her off. The next day, she was allowed to file a report with the Suffolk County police department. 

‘Detective Tracey Barry of the Suffolk County police department has been our angel taking on this case. She was the only one who listened and cared enough to take this on,’ Schmidt said. 

Petito, who grew up in Blue Point, New York, was reported missing by her mother on September 11, and was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Brian in Salt Lake City, Utah .

Petito, who grew up in Blue Point, New York, was reported missing by her mother on September 11, and was last seen on August 24 checking out of a hotel with Brian in Salt Lake City, Utah .

The above map illustrates the places Petito and Laundrie visited since the start of the trip leaving New York on July 2 to when she last spoke to her family on August 25 from Grand Teton National Park.

The above map illustrates the places Petito and Laundrie visited since the start of the trip leaving New York on July 2 to when she last spoke to her family on August 25 from Grand Teton National Park. 

Police said on Wednesday that Brian Laundrie, 23, returned to his parents' North Port, Florida, home without 22-year-old Gabby Peon September 1 in the couple's van they had used to travel the country

Gabby and Brian had been traveling in a converted van, and were expected to complete their trip at a friend’s home in Portland around Halloween.

Police said on Wednesday that Brian Laundrie, 23, returned to his parents’ North Port, Florida, home without 22-year-old Gabby Peon September 1 in the couple’s van they had used to travel the country 

According to the incident report, officers were called near the Moonflower Community Co-op in Moab on August 12 around 4:30pm after a witness, identified only as Christopher, reported seeing the pair ‘arguing over a phone.’       

The bystander told police that when Laundrie got into the couple’s van, he saw ‘what appeared to him as Gabrielle hitting Brian in the arm and then climbing through the driver’s window as if Brian had locked her out and she was trying to find a way in,’ responding officer Daniel Scott Robbins wrote.  

Robbins later located the couple, who had already left the area by then, driving in their Ford Transit van towards Arches National Park and pulled them over.

He said he noticed Gabby ‘crying uncontrollably’ in the passenger seat as he approached the vehicle and asked to speak to her outside. 

In his report, responding officer Daniel Scott Robbins said he pulled the couple over as they were driving towards Arches National Park and noticed Gabby 'crying uncontrollably' in the passenger seat

In his report, responding officer Daniel Scott Robbins said he pulled the couple over as they were driving towards Arches National Park and noticed Gabby ‘crying uncontrollably’ in the passenger seat

The report was redacted to conceal sensitive information but suggests Gabby told police she and Laundrie became embroiled in an altercation that was fueled by mental health issues. 

‘Gabrielle told me that she suffers from [redacted] with [redacted],’ Robbins wrote. 

‘Because of her [redacted] and [redacted], combined with little arguments she and Brian had been having that day, she was struggling with her mental health, which led to the incident that was reported to law enforcement.’   

Brian’s family have since refused to let authorities interview their son when the van that the couple had traveled in before she disappeared was seized from their property late on Saturday night. 

Schmidt said Brian’s sister Cassie is the only member of Brian’s family who has spoken to authorities.

She said she can’t understand why neither Brian nor his parents have reached out to her in the aftermath of her daughter’s disappearance.

‘It’s a very mysterious situation. We don’t understand why he’s doing this. Everybody’s assuming the worst and thinking he’s guilty of this. But I don’t want to believe that. I want to believe she’s just in need of help out there and that everybody needs to keep searching.’ 

Schmidt said she received a final text message from Gabby, which suggests she’d made it to Yosemite National Park in northern California – about 800 miles away from Wyoming where she was last seen, DailyMail.com learned exclusively.

‘No service in Yosemite,’ reads the curious text from Petito’s cell phone, sent August 30, DailyMail.com has learned.

Gabby’s mother refused to disclose the contents of her daughter’s texts, but told the DailyMail.com she believes the test was forged.

‘That text was NOT from Gabby I know it!,’ Schmidt said. 

She suspects Laundrie, who was traveling with the 22-year-old, may have sent the message from her phone, possibly to mislead her family and investigators as to her whereabouts. 

This comes as police named Laundrie a ‘person of interest’ in their investigation into her mystery disappearance.

Cops in North Port, Florida, where Petito and Laundrie resided, said: ‘Brian Laundrie is a person of interest in this case. As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details.’

A statement also revealed exactly when Laundrie arrived back in North Port alone from the road trip he was taking with Gabby, 22.

It said: ‘We know that Brian returned here to North Port on September 1 – 10 days before her (Gabby’s) family reported her missing on September 11. ‘  

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