Friends, family flock to Long Island to mourn Gabby Petito

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HOLBROOK, NY – Lines of mourners on Sunday paid tribute to 22-year-old Gabby Pettito, whose death on a cross-country trip has sparked a search for her boyfriend.

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Among those gathered in Holbrook, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of New York City, were family members, friends, coworkers, and people who were influenced by Petito’s story, even though they did not know him.

“She was a beautiful soul, she was always smiling, she was full of life,” said Desiree Keefe, a friend of Petito’s mother Nicole. “She gave you love. She was just a beautiful soul. She touched everyone like she does now.”

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Two fire trucks were placed on either side of the funeral home, each with a ladder protruding, and a row of firefighters were seen entering the building. Across the street, a chain link fence was lined with posters bearing Petito’s image and messages such as “he touched the world”.

Petito was reported missing by her parents on September 11, after she had not answered calls and texts for several days while she and Brian visited the parks in Laundry West.

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His body was found last Sunday in a remote area in northwest Wyoming. Laundry and Petito grew up on Long Island but moved to Florida in recent years.

Lexi Ruiz recalls working with Petito at a cafe in nearby Patchogue that Ruiz managed.

“She was always ready to help someone else,” Ruiz said. “She was just such a light. Wherever she went, the room would lit up. It was nice to see so many people come together and support her family.”

Inside the funeral home, dozens of flower arrangements and childhood photos of Petito were hung on the walls, some capturing their visit. A floral arrangement sent from Norwalk, Connecticut read, “I don’t know you but your story broke me.”

The mourners were greeted with a placard carrying a poem titled “Let It Be”, which began with the line, “Don’t grieve for me because I am free.”

Pettito’s death is classified as a homicide, meaning he was killed by another person, but medical examiners in Wyoming have not disclosed how he died until further autopsy results.

The couple posted online about their journey in a white Ford Transit van that was converted into a camper. They got into a physical altercation on August 12 in Moab, Utah, which led to the police being held over a possible domestic violence case. Ultimately the police there decided to separate the quarreling couple for the night. But no charges were filed, and no serious injuries were reported.

Investigators are searching for laundry in Florida, and have searched his parents’ home in North Port, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Sarasota.

On Thursday, federal officials in Wyoming charged Laundry with unauthorized use of a debit card, alleging that she used a Capital One bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges of more than US$1,000, The period in which Petito went missing. He did not say whose card it belonged to.

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