Gabby Petito’s family reacts to FBI’s Brian Laundrie investigation files

Posted at 8:06 PM, June 14, 2024

MOAB, Utah (Court TV) — The FBI’s latest extensive investigation into Brian Laundrie revealed an unsettling look at his mental state leading up to him taking Gabby Petito‘s life and his own. This is not just for those who were following the case but also those living it, like Gabby’s parents, who told Court TV’s Vinnie Politan that they were learning many of these upsetting details for the first time. The following is a transcription of the conversation with Gabby’s parents, Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito, as well as Tara Petito, Gabby’s stepmom, from the night after the 366-page FBI report was released.

Vinnie Politan:  Gabby’s father, Joseph Petito, is the vice president of the Gabby Petito Foundation. He’s with us. He’s joined by Gabby’s stepmom, the foundation secretary, Tara Petito, and also with him, the president of the Gabby Petito Foundation. Gabby’s mom, Nichole, is with us. Thank you all for joining us. Nichole, can we start this hour by taking a look at your shirt and then explaining to folks who may not know what that means?

Nichole Schmidt: So, I wore this shirt during the victim impact statement reading, and it was because… it was a way to say F-You, Roberta, in, in a very subtle way. And while I was reading it, Tara and I both wore them. So we could kind of say it without saying it.

Joe Petito: Not so subtle, not so subtle.

Nichole: I mean, listen, she hurt us, she hurt our family, she hurt my daughter, and, yeah, we’re angry at her.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito

Brian Laudrie and Gabby Petito pose for a photo posted on Gabby’s social media account. (Court TV)

Vinnie: As we sit here tonight, one of the things we’re going to be talking about is the information that came out from the FBI. And what I’m not clear on is how much information have they shared with you prior to this stuff becoming public? And have you gone through it all? Did all of you want to learn as much as you could about what happened? And things that you may not have known prior to the investigation.

Joe: No.

Tara Petito: So, we didn’t know anything that came out, I guess, today. We were not aware of any of that. Obviously, Brian had a lot of mental health issues. And we just wish that he got the help that he needed. There is a suicide hotline, and it’s 988. I actually talk to my kids to make sure that they know that that hotline is available – just to make sure that if you are in those dark places, you need to talk to somebody and get the help that you need. I think it’s important for us to all know that that’s out there to help.

Joe: I can also give you another number: The substance abuse and mental health hotline. It’s 1-800-622-HELP. That’s another area where you can talk to somebody, let them know what’s going on upstairs, and hopefully get the help that you need. I did not see something like this happen again.

Vinnie: For people who watched and, you know, were invested in finding Gabby and wanted justice for your family eventually. And everything else. It goes back to this relationship because many of us have children. Our children grow up and our children meet people, and sometimes we don’t like who they’re with. Right? For whatever reason. Did any of that exist prior to this? Was there any sort of hesitation on your part? Oh, we, I don’t know about this guy, or was he able to sort of cover that enough that it was it didn’t really become obvious or even show its face that there was another side to the young man that Gabby was with?

Tara: I think hindsight is 20/20. Were there signs that we can look back at? Probably, but not at the mental health issues that were going through his head. No, none of that. We weren’t aware of any of that.

Nichole: And as you saw, he bamboozled police officers in the video. So, he bamboozled all of us. He bamboozled Gabby, and he was really good at that, showing us his good, sweet, kind side. I thought he was a very good kind of person. I didn’t see anything that would scare me or freak me out with him.

FILE- In this image taken from police body camera video provided by The Moab Police Department, Brian Laundrie talks to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park in Utah on Aug. 12, 2021. The family of Petito filed a notice of claim Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, of plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the tourist town of Moab, Utah, over police officers’ handling of an encounter with Petito and her boyfriend weeks she was found dead in Wyoming. (The Moab Police Department via AP, File)

Vinnie: Yeah, and I don’t want to talk much about Moab tonight and the police department, for obvious reasons, but that was an observation, I think, that all of us made at the time like he’s speaking, he’s kind of taking charge. And, you know, again, we’re looking at it in, in, you know, in 20/20 hindsight, whatever. But the way he tries to take control of the situation in the narrative, I thought, was indicative of his personality, which was like, oh, “I just like nature. I like to play the guitar.” But there was something else at play in all of this. From the information that you’ve learned, was there anything outside of the mental health issues that really surprised you or kind of, you know, you had to take a second look at and say, oh, wow, I, I wouldn’t even have considered that or thought that?

RELATED: Brian Laundrie’s FBI file reveals depths of his ‘deceptive’ ways

Joe: We didn’t get a lot of them. We got none of the reports that recently came out. And they’re difficult for us to read for obvious reasons. But, no, any anytime that we’ve ever had an interaction with Brian, he was always, I would assume, on his best behavior, We didn’t see that side. We didn’t see those flags. But now that we know that those flags existed, we’re going to try and send that message out there to pay attention to those things and hopefully give people information that wasn’t readily available to us at the time and really push that message out there.

Vinnie: So a couple things I wanted to talk about here. One of them is a witness who encountered Gabby at a gas station, and this took place on August 27th, 2021, just a few days before. According to the reports and interviews, the individual he believed to be Gabby went into the gas station, asked for directions to Yellowstone, and told the attendant they were going to camp in every national park, but then locked herself in the bathroom and was heard to be crying for a few moments?

Nichole: Yeah, we don’t know if that’s true or not. I mean, a lot of witnesses came forward, and, you know, I skimmed through this today quickly, and I saw some stuff that could or could not be true. So, I think they were just unconfirmed reports.

Vinnie: Could be like people trying to inject themselves into what was obviously, you know, the biggest story in the country at the time.

Nichole: Could be.

Tara: We just got it today. actually, my file wouldn’t even open, so there was nothing that I could really look into and see. So, I mean, people tried to interject themselves.

Nichole: Or it was just a mistake.

Joe: Recently, we saw one report that, on August 28th, they interacted with Gabby or saw Gabby. And we know that that can’t be true.

Tara: But also, maybe they were just trying to help. Maybe they thought they saw her. Maybe you know it’s it’s definitely a possibility.

Vinnie: There’s also a letter from Gabby to Brian. Would it be okay if I read that, or do you not want to hear it? You tell me.

Nichole: Yeah, it’s okay.

Vinnie reads Gabby’s handwritten letter: ‘Brian, you know how much I love you so. And I’m writing this with love. Just please stop crying, and please stop calling me names because we’re a team, and I’m here with you. I’m always going to have your back. Sorry I got upset over a dumb piece of paper, but I just wanted to do that with you. You know, really, this is all your fault because you’re into all this cool stuff. I was sheltered from. So just try to understand. Yes, I can be a child sometimes. I know, but it’s because you give me this energy, and I just love you too much. Like so much it hurts. So you in pain is killing me. I’m not trying to be negative, but I’m frustrated. There’s not more I can do.

Vinnie: What are you hearing as I read that?

Nichole: It sounds like somebody who’s brainwashed in a domestic violence situation. It sounds like somebody who has very low self-esteem, who doesn’t believe in themselves, and they’re believing what they’re told about themselves. She’s begging him for, you know, him to love her and apologizing for something that she’s done. So. Yeah, it’s just horrible. It’s horrible.

Joe: A lot of things when it comes to domestic violence, you see her taking the accountability or even the blame when the other person doesn’t, you know, that’s just indicative of how that how this issue is just escalated and just grows from there.

Vinnie: Having seen those videos of him, I can picture him taking the position and crying and and blaming her. Right. Like you’re hurting me when it’s, you know, the opposite. It’s like gaslighting. It’s unreal.

Joe: It’s easy to take the blame when you don’t want to have the, you know what’s coming. If she doesn’t, the consequences were, you know, probably even worse. So again, assumptions. But based on the things that we saw read this, it’s just the same thing over and over. And her story is like thousands of others before.

Tara: And that’s why we started the foundation, so we can help others and stop this from happening.

Vinnie: And the foundation has some events coming up. Right? (Vinnie holds up his teal Gabby Petito Foundation bracelet) What do you have coming up?

Joe: Nice, man. That’s what I’m talking about.

Gabby Petito's parents join Vinnie Politan and Julie Grant to discuss how the pain and suffering they've faced is a driving force in trying to help others, so that Gabby's story doesn't happen again.

Gabby Petito’s parents join Vinnie Politan and Julie Grant to discuss how the pain and suffering they’ve faced is a driving force in trying to help others, so that Gabby’s story doesn’t happen again. (Court TV)


Tara: There’s a golf outing coming up Friday. Unfortunately, right now, ticket sales have stopped. But we do have an amazing raffle. It’s two tickets to CrimeCon 2025, VIP passes, and two nights at the Gaylord Rockies Conference Center. And so we will definitely be there at CrimeCon. It’s a wonderful event. It creates a lot of awareness. People come from all different places, looking for answers for themselves.

RELATED: Gabby Petito’s Family Joins Court TV at CrimeCon

Joe: There are missing fliers everywhere, so it’s an amazing event. It’s $25. CrimeCon donated these tickets for us to give away. 100% of the proceeds go to our foundation to help fight our mission.

Joe: We actually also hear that again. This is a rumor that the hotel might actually have been sold out on the blocks that they had with that. So, these are two VIP tickets for a two-night hotel stay. And CrimeCon, I was apprehensive about going the first time. And we’ve gone two years in a row. It’s amazing to see the support system that CrimeCon offers to others when it comes to advocacy and… just storytelling and ways to protect yourself or get out of certain situations. There’s a huge missing person. It’s just great to see. And my assumptions were way off. It really is a great event, and we hope to be part of that for many years to come.

Vinnie: So, the FBI has now released a bunch of information…and there’s a lot of electronics that were seized, an iPhone, GoPro cameras, various camera equipments, batteries, SIM cards, flash drives. You would expect to find that, right? Because they’re doing a lot of social media work on their trip. There are patches from various national parks and travel brochures. You’re seeing all the images from surveillance videos. Now, this one’s significant: It’s Brian Laundrie, the killer, with the van at a gas station. And this is after the murder, on his way back then.

Images from FBI file on Brian Laundrie

A newly-released FBI file on Brian Laundrie reveals chilling details, such as images of weapons, dead animal drawings and a ‘choke’ book, found during a search of the Laundrie family home while investigating Gabby Petito’s murder.

There were books that Brian Laundrie apparently had: ‘No Country for Old Men,’ ‘The Watchtower,’ ‘Choke,’ and ‘On the Road.’ Then there’s also the search from his room and some of the things that they found in his room: A hollowed-out book and a wad of cash. Then weapons and ammo. brass knuckles, a box of ammunition. Some more ammunition and a handgun owner’s manual were found as well. Then you’ve got a crossbow and some arrows.

They found some of Gabby’s stuff as well as her belongings, one of Gabby’s, a shirt and then some more personal items as well, like a hairbrush, computer chargers, and a bag of markers. They found Gabby’s notebook and the letter that we read to you, the letter from Gabby to Brian, as well.

Vinnie: And then some drawings made by Brian. A minotaur being shot by an arrow, ‘Don’t trust anyone’ drawings. So, as this stuff is being revealed, it’s not easy. What are you thinking right now, Joe?

Joe: (Deeply inhales and exhales) A lot that I probably can’t say. You know, it’s just a shame that some of the stuff that he had going on upstairs just didn’t get the attention that it needed. So, this particular situation didn’t happen. It happens a lot, you know. I mean, here are the facts that we figured out with domestic violence. You want to lower the murder rate? Help domestic violence. You want to, you know, help the suicide rate? Help domestic violence. You want to help the drug abuse and alcohol addiction rate? Help domestic violence? All these things all stemmed from domestic violence.

Nichole: And mental health, it all goes back to mental health.

Vinnie: Nichole, did his parents know about this? Do we know if his parents knew about all the things he was dealing with and going through?

Nichole: I don’t know what they knew and didn’t know. I feel like. How do you not know something like that’s going on with your child, and how do you not get help for them? But again, I don’t know for sure if they did. If they did, it’s a shame on them. And, if they didn’t, we just don’t know if they did.

Joe: There that that that school shooting where the parents are being held accountable, right? That wouldn’t be up for us to determine. But let them figure that out.

Nichole: It’s just a shame, it really is.

Vinnie: How much of a role do you think them spending so much time together in those close quarters played in all of this?

Joe: It wasn’t the first time that they did that… they went on a previous trip as well. So, I don’t think that played as much as a factor as, as people believe it to be. At least, in my opinion, she was just done with the relationship and wanted to leave, and that’s how we got to where we are. Because now you take the power away from that person, and when you take that power away, they’ll do anything they can to regain it. Or just make sure no one else can have it.

Nichole: I think she was broken down at that point. And it was time to end things because Gabby was a strong person. Now, people may not see her as a weak girl, but she was very strong and tough. So, it was shocking to us that she was even going through this.

Tara: And the worst time to leave a domestic violent relationship is – when you leave is the most dangerous time.

Nicole Schmidt, mother of Gabby Petito, takes a moment during a press conference for SB117, a bill advocating for domestic violence protections, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Ryan Sun/The Deseret News via AP)

Joe: Not just for the victim as well as also for law enforcement, when law enforcement gets called to the domestic violence call, is the most dangerous call for them to get. So, that’s why we’re advocating for that lethality assessment. And all the states. I’m just going to keep knocking them down one by one.

Vinnie: What was the status of their relationship? Were they ever engaged? Were they not engaged? What was what was going on there?

Nichole: They were engaged, but they had put that on hold so they could take the trip. They weren’t really rushing or worried about it. That’s that’s what I was told. So, yeah, there wasn’t even a ring. It was just three days, and that was it.

Vinnie: As we run out of time, the final word for people who are thinking about Gabby is, what do you want them to be thinking about? 

Tara: For me, it’s, if there’s a trip, take it. I mean, don’t stop your life. Live life to the fullest. Gabby loved to go on adventures. It’s something that it was in her. She loves to see you laugh and dance. So just keep living life and try to be as happy as possible.

Nichole: You don’t have forever. So, and be kind to everyone because you do not know what someone is going through. So, show kindness. You might change somebody’s life just by giving them a compliment. Mental health issues need to be taken care of. We all need to work together.

Tara: If you have a friend who comes to you with some issues, don’t judge. Try to help, be patient and kind, and get them, help  them get the resources, hold their hand and be there for them.

Joe: You guys have the substance abuse and mental health hotline – the suicide hotline is 988. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE. These are numbers that not only you need to know but also make sure your children know. And the one thing we realize more than anything else is a lot of people don’t know what resources they have at their disposal. And these are numbers that could significantly help reduce some, you know, some tragedy. So, please write them down. Please talk to your loved ones about them so they know about them.

Vinnie: Big thank you to all three of you. I know this stuff was just coming out, and we appreciate it. The one thing that I think is amazing about what you all have done is you have faced the tragedy that no one ever wants to face, and you’ve come out the other side and are helping others. And I know everyone at home appreciates that so much. And I know they’re all going to go on to the, and they’re all going to enter that raffle.

Joe: And everybody that’s watching, you know, it’s without you that these stories couldn’t be, you know, elevated to where they are. So you know, it says as great as Vinnie is and as great as, you know, other, you know, social media, you know, influencers and stuff like that, without the people going on into their lives or tuning into this network. those those stories don’t get elevated. So thank you to everyone that helps push those stories out…continue to hit those those likes and subscribe for those people so you can see those things go out there.

Vinnie: We can. Together, we can. That’s it. Thank you so much.