“Gabby at 22 years old helped teach me you can always make money but you can’t make up for lost time,” said Schmidt, a former Blue Point fire chief. “She is an example for all of us to live by, to enjoy every moment of this beautiful world as she did, love and give love to all like she did.”
“She was a beautiful soul; she was full of life, always smiling,” said Desiree Keeffe, a friend of Petito’s mother, Nichole. “She gave you love. She was just a beautiful soul. She touched everybody like she did now.”
Two fire trucks were positioned one on either side of the funeral home, each with its ladder extended, and a line of firefighters was seen filing into the building. Across the street, a chain link fence was adorned with posters featuring Petito’s image and messages such as “She touched the world”.
Petito was reported missing on September 11 by her parents after she didn’t respond to calls and texts for several days while she and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie visited parks in the West.
Her body was discovered last Sunday in a remote area in northwestern Wyoming. Laundrie and Petito grew up on Long Island but in recent years moved to Florida.
Lexi Ruiz recalled working with Petito at a cafe in nearby Patchogue that Ruiz managed.
“She was always willing to help someone else,” Ruiz said. “She was just such a light. Anywhere she went the room lit up. It’s nice to see so many people come together and support her family.”
Inside the funeral home, dozens of floral arrangements and childhood photos of Petito lined the walls, some capturing her travels. One floral arrangement sent from Norwalk, Connecticut, read “I don’t know you but your story broke me”.
Mourners were greeted with a placard bearing a poem titled “Let it Be” that began with the line, “Do not grieve for me for I am free.”
Petito’s death has been classified as homicide, meaning she was killed by another person, but medical examiners in Wyoming haven’t disclosed how she died pending further autopsy results.
The couple posted online about their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper. They got into a fight on August 12 in Moab, Utah, that led to a police stop for a possible domestic violence case. Ultimately, police decided to separate the quarreling couple for the night, but no charges were filed and no serious injuries were reported.
Investigators have been searching for Laundrie in Florida swaplands behind his parents’ home in North Port.
On Thursday, federal officials in Wyoming charged Laundrie with unauthorised use of a debit card, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorised withdrawals or charges worth more than $US1000 ($1370) during the period in which Petito went missing. They did not say who the card belonged to.