By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The mother of murder victim Gabby Petito, speaking during a recent appearance on “60 Minutes Australia,” called the man being sought in connection with her daughter’s death a coward.
Nicole Schmidt, who appeared on the show over the weekend with Petito’s father and stepfather, was explicit in her thoughts about Brian Laundrie, who disappeared shortly before Petito’s body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest.
“He’s a coward,” she said. “He consciously knows what he’s doing.”
Petito’s body was found in the forest in northwest Wyoming last month after she was last heard from in August. She and Laundrie, her fiance, had been traveling the country in a van. On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the van and without Petito.
Nicole Schmidt did say she was concerned about her daughter going on the road trip, but felt more secure due to the fact that she would be with Laundrie. The mother and daughter spoke regularly, about every other day, while Petito and Laundrie were out seeing the country.
Schmidt and Petito last spoke by video conference on Aug. 24. Petito was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11 and her body was found on Sept. 19. Laundrie was reported missing in Florida on Sept. 17.
Laundrie has yet to be found, despite extensive searches by law enforcement agencies, along with Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman. A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.
Nicole Schmidt told “60 Minutes Australia” that Laundrie had always been polite, but quiet whenever he was around Petito’s family. However, she said he got along well with Petito’s younger siblings.
“He just seemed like a nice guy,” she said.
Nicole Schmidt said she did not even know Laundrie had been home with his family for nearly two weeks until she reported her daughter missing.
Last week, Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed Petito’s cause and manner of death as homicide by strangulation. He also said her body had been in the forest for three to four weeks before law enforcement officials discovered her remains.
“I just hope she didn’t suffer and that she wasn’t in any pain, that she was in a place she wanted to be, looking at the beautiful mountains,” Nicole Schmidt said.
The Schmidts believed Laundrie is hiding from police to escape justice.
“We were up every day and every night until we found Gabby,” said stepfather Jim Schmidt. “Are the people that love him doing the same for him? And why not?”
Joe Petito, Gabby’s father, echoed similar sentiments, questioning why Laundrie’s parents have refused to speak with police about the incident.
During their appearance, the family members expressed frustration.
“Gabby was 22-years-old. Her life was stolen from her,” Jim Schmidt said. “She was taken from us. This was evil.”