A candlelight vigil was held for Gabby Petito in Brian Laundrie’s Florida hometown, a day after her Long Island hometown held solemn services for the slain woman.
More than 100 mourners turned out to the North Port service on Saturday night, where they released butterflies in memory of the 22-year-old they called “America’s daughter.”
Some of the monarchs perched on a wooden cross engraved with Petito’s name, as crowd members, holding signs that read “Justice For Gabby” and “North Port Loves Gabby,” sang a spontaneous a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta, did not attend the vigil for their son’s girlfriend, who lived in their family home for more than a year before she was found dead in a Wyoming national park.
Petito’s death has been ruled a homicide.
The Laundries remained tight-lipped and holed up in their Wabasso Avenue home, where posters with Petito’s face have been plastered on trees in the front lawn, as cops scour the state for their son Brian, 23.
Brian is now a fugitive, with an arrest warrant issued for unauthorized use of a debit card. Though he has not been accused related to Petito’s death, authorities have called him a “person of interest.”
Vigil organizer Lisa Correll felt compelled to show support for Petito’s grieving parents, even though like most mourners present, she didn’t know the young woman.
“I’m sorry to say I didn’t know her. I’m a resident of North Port and was touched to hear her parents talk of her and seeing her beauty [in] pictures,” Correll said.
“With the sorrow and condolences to her family I wanted to bring the community together once more … and to release live butterflies as a memorial to Gabby.
“She was so young and beautiful and being a mother myself, the heartache was so real for her family.”
Somber mourners were galvanized when Phillip Krum, 55, took the microphone to demand Laundrie turn himself in.
“Brian Laundrie is innocent until guilty but let’s hope he’s man enough to come forward and explain what happened,” Krum said, to cheers from the crowd, which chanted “Justice for Gabby.”
“He can end all this suffering. Step up and be a man Brian, would that really be so hard?
“If he’s innocent it shouldn’t be difficult at all.”
The crowd also cheered when it was mentioned that Dog The Bounty Hunter Duane Chapman was joining the manhunt for Laundrie, who returned to Florida in Petito’s van at the beginning of the month, but has been unaccounted for since Sept. 14.
Domestic violence survivor Debbie Borza, 53, called for a women’s shelter to be built in North Port in Petito’s name.
“When I was 25, I lived with an abusive boyfriend and almost died,” Borza said.
“My face was beaten so badly I had six staples in my head and I had to flee to Texas.
“Gabby’s death should be a wake-up call that we need to take domestic violence more seriously. We need to educate boys from a young age that violence of any kind is not OK, but especially violence against women,” the survivor said.
“I have daughters aged 30 and 14, and it breaks my heart that a young girl like Gabby had the rest of her life taken away because of someone else’s anger.”
Police in Utah were called to a domestic dispute between the cross-country traveling couple on Aug. 12. No charges were filed, but a ranger warned the woman that her relationship seemed “toxic.”
Petito was last seen alive two weeks later.
A funeral for the Blue Point native is scheduled in Holbrook Sunday.
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