After 22-year-old American woman Gabby Peitito was reported missing on September 11, the world tuned in with interest.
International media were detailing the aspiring travel blogger's last-known movements; from the cross-country road trip she'd embarked upon with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, back in July to Laundrie's arrival home in Florida without her earlier this month.
Headlines parroted every update. The altercation the couple reportedly had during a stop in Utah, and their subsequent encounter with police. Laundrie's refusal to cooperate with investigators searching for Gabby, and his recent disappearance.
Meanwhile, internet sleuths pored over police reports, social media posts and dashcam footage looking for clues to Gabby's whereabouts. One piece of footage taken by a family of travel bloggers captured Gabby and Brian's van on the edges of Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest. That footage was handed to the FBI on September 18, and Gabby's body was located near that forest location the following day.
Listen: It’s the story that could be the plot of a movie, but at its centre is a real 22-year-old woman named Gabby Petito. Should we be careful about obsessing over true crime stories in real-time?
The international attention and scrutiny given to the 22-year-old's case is rare. It's the kind of exposure of which most missing persons' loved ones could only dream.
Even in his grief, even amid the ongoing search for his daughter's killer, Gabby's father Joseph Petito acknowledged that this week.
"I want to ask everyone to help all the people that are missing," he told media at a Wednesday press conference. "If you don't do that for other people that are missing, that's a shame, because it's not just Gabby that deserves that."
"I want to ask everyone to help all the people that are missing and need help ... And if you don't do that for other people that are missing, that's a shame because it's not just Gabby that deserves that." -Gabby Petito's Dad Joseph Petito. pic.twitter.com/5AcmJmfeCI— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 28, 2021
Here in Australia, for example, there were more than 51,000 missing persons reports made to police in 2020 alone. While the vast majority of cases are resolved, there remains more than 2,600 long-term missing persons — that is, those who've been missing for more than three months.