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Young Woman Living Van Life With Fiance Disappears

Family frantic after man returns alone with van
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2021 2:22 PM CDT

(Newser) – A 22-year-old woman traveling around the country in a van since July was reported missing Saturday. Gabrielle Petito last spoke to her parents at the end of August—and her traveling partner and fiance, Brian Laundrie, returned home to Florida without her, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Petito’s parents say Laundrie is refusing to speak to them and has hired a lawyer, the Daily Mail reports. Petito had recently moved from New York to Florida, and then set off in a 2012 white Ford Transit van that had been converted into a camper. They drove back north to attend Petito’s brother’s high school graduation, then headed west.

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They were last seen together checking out of a hotel in Salt Lake City. Petito’s mother said she got a few texts from her phone, but she can’t be sure they were actually from her daughter, and her Instagram account, @gabspetito, hasn’t been updated since Aug. 25. Nicole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, said the couple were planning to go from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming to Yellowstone, per NBC News. Petito linked to a video of their trip on her Instagram page.

Schmidt had been asking people to look for the van, but Laundrie returned to Florida alone with the van, which police then recovered. Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, told Newsday that not knowing his daughter's whereabouts is like "drowning with your hands tied behind you.” Petito’s family describe her as 5 feet 5 inches tall with blonde hair, blue eyes, and several tattoos including one on her right forearm that reads "Let it be." (Read more missing person stories.)

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