GABBY Petito starred in a music video to help bring awareness to violence against children several years before she was murdered during a cross-country road trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie.
Titled Irreplaceable, the music video was originally uploaded to YouTube in 2013 and stars a 14-year-old Petito and her two younger brothers.
Long Island native Deb Henson, who wrote and sang the accompanying song, told The Sun her inspiration for the track came in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, in December 2012.
In the video, Gabby is seen holding up a sign that reads, “I’m irreplaceable.”
‘EERIE’ NEW MEANING
Eight years on, Henson says the song’s message has taken on a new meaning entirely following the murder of Gabby, 22, whose remains were discovered at a Wyoming campsite on September 19.
Gabby’s death came just two months into a four-month road trip across the US with her partner Brian Laundrie, 23. Laundrie returned home to Florida on September 1, refusing to cooperate with police before vanishing sometime around September 14.
“The lyrics are almost eerie now,” Henson told The Sun. “It’s ironic and tragic that she’s in this video and that this happened to her.
“This song isn’t just about violence against kids. It’s also about domestic violence and violence in general. It’s just God awful really what happened to Gabby.”
Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…
Henson also added that she vividly remembers the time that she spent with Gabby and her family while shooting the project.
Gabby and her brothers were put forward to star in the video by Maya Polsley, the lead actress in the video who is a close friend of Gabby’s step-mother, Tara Petito.
“It was a magical weekend,” Henson reflected. “And Gabby was just, just the sweetest kid, she was just so full of love, she just wanted to help and be involved in any way she could.
“Gabby was an artist,” she added. “Maya calls Gabby her flower child. She was just one of those people that was just so lovable. I think that’s why her story has resonated the way it has.”
‘BREAKS MY HEART’
Henson said that she now finds it difficult to watch the video back.
“It just breaks my heart. It gets me. It’s just so sad,” she said. “I have so many people reach out to me saying the same thing.”
Henson added that she hasn’t stopped thinking about Gabby since she first learned of her disappearance around two weeks ago.
Calling her death a tragedy, Henson wished “solace” for the family and friends of Gabby.
She added that, when it comes to violence, Gabby’s death and her song serve as a reminder that “nothing has changed in the eight years since we filmed it,” particularly when it comes to domestic violence and gun crime.
“The whole Petito family are really just wonderful people. They really don’t deserve this,” Henson said.
“I really have to think that something great will come out of this tragedy eventually.
“Only the good die young, I suppose.”
Henson said she hopes the track will inspire others and remind people that all lives are “irreplaceable.”
She also said that any proceeds generated by iTunes downloads or Spotify streams will go towards a fund to help Gabby’s family.
A funeral was held for the slain 22-year-old vlogger in her hometown of Blue Point, New York on Sunday.
During the service, her father warned attendees to leave damaging relationships in a seeming reference to Laundrie.
“I want you to take a look at these pictures, and I want you to be inspired by Gabby,” he said.
“If there’s a trip you guys want to take, take it now. Do it now while you have the time. If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now.”
Joseph Petito also asked for friends, family, and followers of the tragic story not to be sad, but rather “inspired” by Gabby and all that she stood for.
“So when you leave here today, be inspired by what she brought to the table,” he said, “because the entire planet knows this woman’s name now. And she’s inspired a lot of women and a lot of men to do what’s best for them first.
“Put yourself first and do it now while you have the time. I couldn’t be more proud as a father.”
‘LET IT BE’
Also addressing mourners was Gabby’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, who in his remarks referenced a tattoo Gabby had on her arm that said “Let It Be”, her favorite Beatles song.
One particular verse, Schmidt said, “speaks” to him: “When the broken-hearted people living in the world agree there will be an answer, let it be.”
“It’s okay to mourn for Gabby, and it’s okay to feel sorrow and pain. But we want to celebrate her and how she lived her life,” Schmidt said.
“We need to hold on to all of those wonderful memories we shared with her, because that will be the answer. Let it be.”
Ahead of Sunday’s service, close family friend Jen McNamara and her son Jack, 14, whom Gabby used to babysit, remembered Petito to The Sun as a “free spirit.”
“She was a free spirit. Very much a free spirit,” McNamara said.
“She was adventurous she, she, she did things to the beat of her own drum. You know, she didn’t want to be like everyone else do you want to be different. He wants to travel, she was incredibly artistic. She was fun. She was really really fun.”
Jack added: “She was someone just living with rainbows. She was a happy person. And as a babysitter, I say most of the time she had no rules so she was always the most fun person out there.
“She had a very fun personality and I want people to remember her for being a fun and outgoing person.”
HUNT FOR LAUNDRIE
Meanwhile, the search for Laundrie has continued into its second week on Monday.
Laundrie, according to his parents, hasn’t been seen since September 14 when he allegedly told them he was going hiking at a Florida nature reserve but never returned.
His parents didn’t report him missing for three days.
Neighbors of the family claim they saw Laundrie and his parents packing up a van for what they presumed was a long weekend away just days before they said he vanished.
Laundrie has not yet been named as a suspect in Gabby’s murder but has been designated a person of interest.
He and Petito had been traveling across the country in a white, repurposed van when Gabby was killed.
Laundrie quietly returned home alone to Florida on September 1. He reportedly refused to tell Gabby’s family where she was and immediately retained an attorney.
Gabby’s mother eventually reported her missing to police in New York on September 11, more than two weeks after she last spoke to her daughter by phone.
Laundrie is now wanted by the FBI on an active arrest warrant issued late Thursday on allegations of unauthorized use of a debit card.
He has also been the subject of a massive, more than weeklong manhunt across a Florida reserve.
The scale of the search is expected to be scaled back in the coming days.
Josh Taylor, of North Port Police Department, told Fox: “The FBI is now leading the search. I’m told, it will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence.
“Hopefully water will lower in areas hard to currently access.”
Officers from NPPD will still be involved in the investigation.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the FBI’s tips line on 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).
Gabby Petito timeline
Gabby Petito, 22, was last seen on August 24, leaving a hotel in Utah. Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito’s disappearance:
- June 2021 – Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie set off on a cross-country trip across the US.
- July 4 – Gabby posts photos of herself barefoot in Gove County, Kansas.
- July 8 – Gabby posts photos of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
- July 18 – Gabby and Brian post photos of themselves at Utah’s Zion National Park.
- August 12 – Body camera footage was released in September showing an encounter Brian and Gabby had with police in Utah. Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.
- August 19 – Gabby and Brian post a video on their YouTube channel chronicling their trip. The video receives more than 200,000 views.
- August 24 – Gabby is spotted leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- August 25 – Gabby Facetimes her mom, Nichole Schmidt, for the final time. In a later police report, Schmidt said her conversations with her daughter revealed “more and more tension” between her and Brian.
- August 25 – Gabby also posts her last Instagram. No location is given.
- August 27 – Gabby is seen for what’s believed to be the final time. Witnesses claim they saw Brian in an explosive argument with staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, leaving Gabby in tears.
- August 27 – Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple’s van “abandoned” on a dirt road.
- September 1 – Brian returns home to Florida without Gabby.
- September 11 – Gabby’s parents report her missing to Suffolk County police.
- September 14 – Brian’s family issues a statement saying he has retained an attorney and will not be cooperating with investigators.
- September 14 – Brian is allegedly last seen by his family. He reportedly told them he was going hiking in Cartlon Reserve but failed to return.
- September 15 – Florida’s North Port police announce Brian is a person of interest in the case. He is not charged with any crime.
- September 16 – Utah police release body camera footage of the police encounter with Brian and Gabby.
- September 17 – Brian’s parents say they have not seen their son in a couple of days and report him missing.
- September 18 – Police announce they were searching Carlton Reserve in Florida for Brian. Police announce they have not found anything.
- September 19 – Authorities in Wyoming say they found a body in Grand Teton National Park. The FBI announces the body was believed to be Gabby’s but a full forensic identification needs to be completed first to confirm.
- September 20 – Police execute a search warrant on Laundrie’s home, seizing his silver Mustang and a hard drive that may contain “evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed.”
- September 21 – Officials announce they will be conducting an autopsy on the remains found in Wyoming to confirm whether or not they belong to Gabby. Police also resumed their search for Laundrie, this time on the Venice side of Carlton Reserve.
- September 21 – The FBI announced the body found in Wyoming was identified as Gabby’s. The cause of death was not yet revealed.
- September 21 – The Teton County Coroner’s office said Gabby’s official cause of death was still pending but the initial manner of death is homicide.
- September 22 – Police continue to scour Carlton Reserve for a trace of Laundrie but yield no leads. A specialist dive team is called in to assist with the hunt.
- September 23 – Officials announced a federal arrest warrant for Brian was issued.
- September 24 – Gabby’s father announced his daughter’s funeral will be held on Sunday, September 26.
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