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Elizabeth Smart reflects on her case, offers ‘heartbreaking’ insight surrounding Gabby Petito case

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Posted: Oct 14, 2021 / 07:58 AM MDT / Updated: Oct 14, 2021 / 12:04 PM MDT

FILE – Gabby Petito, left, and Elizabeth Smart, right. (Courtesy Nexstar, AP)

(ABC4) – In 2002, one Utah girl captured the attention of thousands nationwide. Elizabeth Smart, just 14 at the time, was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City and held captive for nine months until she was spotted in Sandy. Her abductors were then arrested and sentenced.

Smart now advocates for child safety and oversees a foundation named after her, which aims to “bring hope and end the victimization and exploitation of sexual assault through prevention, recovery, and advocacy.” She recently spoke out about another case grabbing the nation’s attention – the case of Gabby Petito.

Petito was reported missing in early September after she had been on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, for multiple months. Eight days after she was reported missing, Petito was found dead in Wyoming with a coroner recently revealing her cause of death was strangulation. Authorities are still searching for Laundrie, who is the only named person of interest in her case.

“I was alive. I came home,” Smart explained to Jada Pinkett Smith and Adrienne Banfield Norris on their Facebook series Red Table Talk. “[Gabby’s story] tragically has not ended that way. But knowing what it’s like being on the other side and potentially what may have happened and what may have led up to her final moments and understanding probably a lot of what she was feeling, it’s heartbreaking.”

Smart continues, saying the worst part for her parents during her disappearance was “not knowing” if she was alive. She recounts asking her kidnapper that if he was going to rape and kill her to “do it fairly close to my house, because it was important to me that my parents find my body and know I hadn’t run away.”

“When I think of Gabby Petito, when I think of all of these other victims, I feel like they still deserve every bit as much to be found so that their stories have an ending as well,” Smart tells Pinkett Smith and Banfield Norris. At one point, Banfield Norris had to take a break to collect herself emotionally as Smart recounts her story.

SLIDESHOW: Photos from the Gabby Petito case

  • Gabby Petito mimics the way she said Brian Laundrie grabbed her
  • This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. (The Moab Police Department via AP)
  • Nichole Schmidt, mother of Gabby Petito, whose death on a cross-country trip has sparked a manhunt for her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Bohemia, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • Nicole Schmidt, mother of Gabby Petito, whose death on a cross-country trip has sparked a manhunt for her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, speaks alongside, from left, Tara Petito, stepmother, Jim Schmidt, stepfather, and Joseph Petito, father, during a news conference, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Bohemia, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • Nicole SchmidtNicole Schmidt, mother of Gabby Petito, whose death on a cross-country trip has sparked a manhunt for her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, holds back tears during a news conference, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Bohemia, N.Y. Schmidt, along with Petito’s father and two step-parents, were recently tattooed in memory of their child with the words, “Let it be.” (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • People light candles along Blue Point Ave. in Blue Point, NY in memory of Gabby Petito, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. Federal officials say Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of Petito, whose body was found at a national park in Wyoming after a cross-country trip with him, has been indicted for unauthorized use of a debit card. (Steve Pfost/Newsday via AP)
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers ride past media stationed at the entrance of the Carlton Reserve during a search for Brian Laundrie, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Venice, Fla. Laundrie is a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  • Postcards sent to the family of Brian Laundrie’s sister by Gabby Petito. (Cassie Laundrie via ABC News)
  • A U.S. Park Ranger vehicle drives in the Spread Creek area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, just east of Grand Teton National Park off U.S. Highway 89, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Wyoming. Authorities say they have found a body believed to be Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, who went missing on a trip with her boyfriend. (AP Photo/Amber Baesler)
  • FBI agents and North Port Police flood the Florida home of Brian Laundrie. He is the only identified person of interest in the case of Gabby Petito. (WFLA’s Christine McLarty)
  • This photo provided by North Port Police Department, law enforcement officials conduct a search of the vast Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota, Fla., area for Brian Laundrie on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. Laundrie is a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito. (North Port Police Department via AP)
  • Authorities have discovered a body consistent with the description of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito, who has been missing since late August. (Courtesy of FBI Denver)

As the show continues, images and information about other missing people from across the country appear on the screen. Pinkett Smith applauds Smart’s efforts to bring attention to those in “marginalized communities that might not get the same amount of press as you got or Gabby got.”

“I believe that every single person deserves to have that attention in regards to being missing,” Pinkett Smith continues. Smart echoes Pinkett Smith’s remarks, adding she hears new stories of people who have gone missing throughout the last two decades.

“Are they any less worthy?” Smart adds. “Has any less of a hole been left because they’re gone? No, they’re somebody.”

Smart’s episode comes shortly after Petito’s family, specifically her father Joe, called on everyone to give “the same type of heightened awareness” to other missing persons cases that Petito’s received. Pinkett Smith commended his call, saying she thought it “was such a powerful message” and applauded their “strength, courage, compassion to think about others who are going through the same thing.”

During the same episode, a former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates, joined the table. She tells the others, “It breaks my heart to think about how many people, how many children, are wondering, are they enough for somebody to look for me?”

You can watch the full Red Table Talk on Facebook here. To learn more about those still missing in Utah, click here. For those missing in America, click here.

Petito was reported missing in early September after she had been on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, for multiple months. Eight days after she was reported missing, Petito was found dead in Wyoming with a coroner recently revealing her cause of death was strangulation. Authorities are still searching for Laundrie, who is the only named person of interest in her case.

Source: https://www.abc4.com/news/gabby-petito/elizabeth-smart-talks-gabby-petito-case-says-other-victims-deserve-every-bit-as-much-to-be-found/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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