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Floridians plan memorial service for Gabby Petito in town where she once lived with missing boyfriend

Larry McShane, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

A weekend memorial for Gabby Petito, featuring the lighting of candles and the release of a single butterfly, was slated for Saturday in the Florida city where her boyfriend returned home alone after the couple’s their cross-country road trip.

Residents of North Port will gather outside City Hall near a tree that has served as the spot for people to remember Petito, who was living in the city of 66,000 with childhood sweetheart Brian Laundrie and his parents. Laundrie disappeared before Petito’s body was discovered in a Wyoming national park, with her death ruled a homicide earlier this week.

“I just want the family to know our community loved Gabby, even if we didn’t all know her,” event organizer Lisa Correll told The Daily Sun, a local newspaper.

The remembrance is called “Butterfly Wings to Heaven for Gabby,” and is scheduled one day after another planned ceremony honoring the slain young woman on her native Long Island.

The homicide victim became linked with butterflies based on one of her final social media posts, showing Petito standing outside a butterfly mural at an Ogden, Utah, arts center named The Monarch.


The fruitless search for the missing Laundrie, 23, continued for yet another day Thursday in Florida’s 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve park, with no sign of the investigation’s disappeared “person of interest.” Police spread out across the park beginning at 9 a.m. to resume the manhunt.

Neither Laundrie nor his parents were willing to speak with investigators in the missing person case turned homicide investigation from the start, infuriating the family of the murdered Petito and frustrating law enforcers.

While the autopsy determined Petito was a homicide victim, her exact cause of death was not yet revealed. Her body was located in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

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