Family friend of missing NY native Gabby Petito to 880: 'She brings a very warm feeling to you'

Gabby Petito
22-year-old Gabrielle Petito, who grew up on Long Island, went missing during a cross-country road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie.
By , WCBS Newsradio 880

BLUE POINT, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — The close-knit Long Island, New York community where Gabby Petito grew up is rallying behind her family as the search continues for the missing 22-year-old woman.

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Petito, who moved to Florida two years ago from her native Blue Point, disappeared last month while on a cross-country "van life" trip with her fiancé, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie.

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Longtime family friend Jennifer McNamara told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall on Friday that the community of Blue Point has come together to support Petito's mother, stepfather and siblings in any way they can.

"We live in a very, very small community here on Long Island and I think everybody is rallying around the family," McNamara said. "Whether it's making donations, ensuring that they are taken care of with food, mostly what I see, especially on social media, is everybody getting the word out. Everybody's talking about Gabby, making sure that everybody in the world knows who Gabby is and what she looks like."

McNamara said she herself has been contacting people from around the country through social media to spread the word to help find Petito.

"I've got people in Colorado, I've got people in Wyoming, I've got people in Utah, and I personally reached out to them and said, 'Hey, can you repost this?'" McNamara said.

Next week, the community will also put up Petito's photo and ribbons throughout the neighborhood to show their support for the family.

McNamara said she has known Petito and her family for two decades through her late husband, who was a member of the Blue Point Fire Department along with Petito's stepfather.

She describes Petito as a beautiful person, inside and out.

"She's one of those people that you saw and she would brighten your day," McNamara said. "She really is one of the sort of more positive people I've ever met. You see her and you want to hug. She brings a very warm feeling to you when you see her."

Her nonprofit, the Johnny Mac Foundation, is raising money, 100% of which she says will go to Petito's family to assist with travel expenses and other needs as the search continues.

"We are heartbroken and want to do anything we can to help find this beautiful soul," a message on the nonprofit's website reads. "All funds are tax deductible and will go directly to the family to defray expenses."

In July, Petito and Laundrie left on their van trip from Long Island and were aiming to arrive in Oregon on Halloween, but Petito disappeared after her last known contact with family in late August from Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, authorities said.

Laundrie had driven the van back alone to the Florida house where the couple lived with his parents on Sept. 1 and Petito's family filed a missing persons report with Suffolk County police on Sept. 11.

On Wednesday, Laundrie was named a “person of interest” in the case by the North Port Police Department, the agency in Florida leading the investigation. He has not been charged and has remained silent since Petito was reported missing.

Asked at a Thursday afternoon press conference in Florida if any criminality was suspected in the case, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said, “None at this time.”

“Right now, it’s a missing person case,” he stressed.

Petito is approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads "let it be." She also has a belly button piercing.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact a national tip line set up by the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).

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