The name that is haunting America, as news and information about her tragic missing persons case, and now death, have captured the interest of the masses, thanks to its viral attention across social media.
For those who, like me, have only followed the case recently, Gabby Petito, 22, and her fiance, Brian Laundrie, 23, set out this summer in July on a cross country trip in their sleeper van. They were documenting their entire trip on social media: Instagram, Youtube, TikTok – in the hopes of becoming “#VanLife” travel vloggers.
On August 12, they were stopped by police in Utah after someone reported domestic abuse. There is over an hour of dash cam footage of the stop, where Laundrie is documented as the victim of her domestic abuse, when police discover cuts on his face, and nail marks on his arms. During this citation, Petito is visibly distraught, crying, and claiming to have OCD. The police, per Utah protocol, separate the two for 24 hours – he in the van, she in a hotel in Salt Lake City.
After this episode, Gabby’s parents had a Facetime call with her on Aug 23, where Gabby said the pair were driving to Wyoming. And on August 25, Gabby posted to her Instagram one final time.
On August 30, Gabby’s mother received her last text, “No service in Yosemite.”
Laundrie returned home to Florida in Petito’s sleeper van on September 1 alone, without Petito, and ten days later on September 11, her family — in New York — finally reported her missing.
Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest, has offered no information on her whereabouts, and since last week – Sept 14 – he has been missing, and a manhunt is currently underway for him, after Petito’s remains were confirmed to have been found on Tuesday of this week, in a national forest in Wyoming.
This incredibly tragic story has gone mega viral, after several fellow “#VanLife” TikTokers and influencers have claimed to have spotted their van, or the couple on their journey. One source has reported to have seen Laundrie alone in the woods, and another reportedly picked up Laundrie alone, when he was hitchhiking in late August. The viral nature of this story has garnered it over 500 million views on the #GabbyPetito hashtag on TikTok, and it has been picked up, not only by all the major news networks, but the “true crime” community, sending millions of “armchair detectives” into a tizzy to solve this unfolding mystery.
Couple that with recent outcry that the “newsworthiness” of this case is evidence of racism, citing the “Missing White Girl” phenomena, claiming that only because Petito was beautiful, young and white, this story was picked up.
All I know is that this is a terribly tragic story of the loss of a young, vibrant – and yes, beautiful – girl.
I’m going to be honest, last night after I got home from the airport, I stayed up after midnight, watching the hour+ long video of the dash-cam footage, and immersing myself into this case.
Aside from being heartbroken, learning about this young woman’s death, I was fascinated by how this story has exploded online. And it got me asking, why?
True Crime has a rabid, cult-like following in the podcast world, on TV and online, ever since the Serial podcast put the genera on the map.
Why are, women in this particular genera, so obsessed with such a dark topic matter?
And waking up this morning, I finally realized…
True Crime, and our obsession with murder cases and the like, it thrusts people into a staring match with the very real, and very important question: Am I safe?
Learning the intricate, intimate details of these murder cases, and especially with Petito’s case: having the ability to literally walk through the journey with her through all her social media posts and videos, we come to realize that bad things really do happen to good people. People just like you and me.
Because we can all see ourselves in Petito: she was young, full of adventure, in love, taking selfies and sharing kissy videos on the internet with the love of her life.
She was going to have the adventure of her lifetime, and it came to a tragic end.
Seeing ourselves in this sweet, young woman, we come face to face with the truth that we are not in control.
We’re not in control.
It illuminates the uncertainty of everything we know to be true in life, and calls into question everything we believe and everyONE we trust.
Our obsession with true crime such as this, highlights our collective masochistic tendencies to embrace fear.
There’s a reason why I don’t like true crime, and why I had avoided following this story until I absolutely couldn’t dodge it anymore: I don’t like that feeling.
I don’t like feeling unsafe. I don’t like questioning everything I know to be good and true. And I don’t like focusing on darkness and sorrowful things.
And after succumbing to that last night, I woke up with one thing on my mind:
I don’t know why God allows bad things to happen to good people. I don’t know why tragedies occur. And though we don’t know for sure what happened to Ms. Petito, there is evil in the world, and as it appears, Gabby lie victim to just that.
And I’m going to be honest, tragedies like this are real “faith shakers.” Bringing about questions like, “God, where was Your protection for Gabby that day?” “How could You allow this terrible thing to happen?” “Don’t You love Gabby?” “Don’t you care?”
It’s the age-old question: Why does God allow tragedy? – Why are children diagnosed with cancer? How did God allow all those innocent people to perish on 9/11? Why does God allow child abuse? God, where are You?
Where is God? I think the answer is that He’s right there next to us, crying with us.
He’s weeping. He’s mourning. He’s in our pain too, sad that His children would do this to one another.
Though we don’t know exactly how Petito tragically passed, the report has confirmed that her death was a homicide. I’m not saying her fiance is guilty — not at all. But someone is responsible for her death, and I know that God is mourning that fact.
Free will is a tricky thing. Because though it gives us the autonomy to choose to live and love like Christ, it also allows for evil to take root and spread like wild fire in our hearts.
And sadly, this young woman is the wreckage of the latter in someone else.
And that is the biggest tragedy of all.
So. Are we safe?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that when we are in the arms of Jesus, we can endure just about any suffering in this world. When we have our eyes on Jesus, we have nothing to fear. There is no power or principality that can snatch us from the mighty hand of Jesus.
Because at the end of the day, our home is not on this earth at all. Our home is in Heaven with Him. And when we are connected to the Vine, even in death, we are with the Father.
Gabby Petito, may she rest in eternal peace with our Heavenly Father. May she be experiencing the love and peace and true joy that await us in Heaven. Lord, comfort her family and loved ones, and bring to justice the person responsible for her death. Amen.
Have you been following the Gabby Petito case? What are your thoughts? Why do YOU think God allows tragedy in this life?
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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