Mourners attended a Long Island funeral home on Sunday for a viewing for Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman whose death on a cross-country trip sparked a manhunt for her fiance.
Among those who congregated in Holbrook, about 35 miles east of New York City, were family members, friends, co-workers and people touched by Petito’s story though they didn’t know her.
“She was a beautiful soul; she was full of life, always smiling,” said Desiree Keeffe, a friend of Petito’s mother, Nichole. “She gave you love. She was just a beautiful soul. She touched everybody like she did now.”
Fire trucks were positioned on either side of the funeral home, each with its ladder extended. A line of firefighters was seen filing into the building. Across the street, a chain link fence was adorned with posters featuring Petito’s image and messages such as, “She touched the world.”
Petito was reported missing on 11 September by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while she and Brian Laundrie visited parks in the west. Her body was discovered last Sunday in a remote area in north-western Wyoming.
Laundrie and Petito grew up on Long Island but in recent years moved to Florida. On Sunday Lexi Ruiz recalled working with Petito at a cafe in nearby Patchogue.
“She was always willing to help someone else,” Ruiz said. “She was just such a light. Anywhere she went the room lit up. It’s nice to see so many people come together and support her family.”
Inside the funeral home, floral arrangements and childhood photos of Petito lined the walls, some capturing her travels. One floral arrangement sent from Norwalk, Connecticut, read: “I don’t know you but your story broke me.”
Mourners were greeted with a placard bearing a poem titled Let it Be that began with the line, “Do not grieve for me for I am free.”
Petito’s death has been classified as homicide, meaning she was killed by another person. But medical examiners in Wyoming have not disclosed how she died, pending further autopsy results.
The couple posted online about their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper. They got into a physical altercation on 12 August in Moab, Utah, leading to a police stop for a possible domestic violence case. Police decided to separate the quarreling couple for the night. No charges were filed and no serious injuries reported.
Investigators have been searching for Laundrie in Florida, and searched his parents’ home in North Port, about 35 miles south of Sarasota.
On Thursday, federal officials in Wyoming charged Laundrie with unauthorized use of a debit card, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Petito went missing. They did not say to whom the card belonged.