Gabby Petito’s mother says that even with the benefit of hindsight, she’s not sure she can save her daughter from her boyfriend Brian Laundrie’s violent abuse.
Nichole Schmidt announced she is partnering with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to encourage women to seek help as her daughter’s death anniversary approaches.
The Gabby Petito Foundation is also donating $100,000 as the hotline receives an increase in calls from women seeking help.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Ms. Schmidt said that by working to bring attention to the soaring rates of domestic abuse, she helped preserve her daughter’s memory.
Ms Schmidt told the Associated Press: “I think Gabby’s story has touched a lot of people and she is saving lives.
“I always get people texting me that they were inspired by her to get out of a relationship.”
Petito’s remains were found near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on September 19 last year following a month-long nationwide search for missing persons, attracting national attention.
Investigators determined she was strangled by Laundrie, who later admitted to killing her in a letter of confession before taking his own life in a Florida swamp.
Evidence of the abuse Ms. Petito suffered was revealed when police in Moab, Utah, dragged the couple over several weeks before her death after receiving reports that they had fought.
Laundrie was released without charge, although a witness reported seeing him assault Ms Petito.
An independent investigation into police failures in the case found Ms Petito was most likely “a long-term victim of domestic violence”.
Ms. Schmidt told the Associated Press that she had not seen any red flags.
“I think the only two people who can know what happened in that relationship are Gabby and Brian. And we can guess and we can make assumptions but we don’t really know what happened,” she said.
Ms. Schmidt said she will continue to use the tragedy of her daughter’s death to help survivors of domestic violence.
“It’s her legacy.”
A donation of $100,000 from the Petito Foundation, plus another $200,000 gift from another family, will go toward expanding the national hotline’s “Hope Can’t Wait” initiative.
CEO Katie Ray-Jones told The Associated Press it received 440,000 calls in 2022, up a third from the same time last year.
“It’s been a significant increase, really overwhelming our services,” said Ms. Ray-Jones. “We need to increase the number of supporters.”