Elizabeth Smart Speaks Out About Gabby Petito & What We Can Learn About Domestic Abuse Prevention

Photo: YouTube
Elizabeth Smart, Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

In the case of the missing girl who “touched the world,” Gabby Petito was tragically murdered in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.

After the discovery that Petito died of strangulation, all fingers pointed to Laundrie who went missing immediately after Petito’s disappearance had been reported.

With the discovery of his body and death in the Carlton Reserve in Florida, we may never get answers as to what happened between Laundrie and Petito on that fateful day.

But, in an attempt to make sense of what could have happened, one woman who knows the importance of getting justice is weighing in on the viral case. 

Elizabeth Smart spoke about Gabby Petito to Dr. Oz.

There are so many unanswered questions that both the Petito family and the Laundrie family may never get — why was their daughter killed? Will there ever be any justice?

RELATED: Why Gabby Petito's Parents Say They Were Fooled By 'Nice Guy' Brian Laundrie

For Smart, seeing her kidnappers receive their sentences and be brought to justice opened a new chapter in her life.

“I can only speak for me and I know when I finally saw that my captors were sentenced that the trial happened that it was finished it really was the closing of a chapter,” she told Doctor Oz in an interview.

"So I can only imagine for Gabby Petito’s heartbroken family that there is a sense of loss and lack and that they don’t get to receive that ending, that kind of closure.”

Smart was kidnapped at age fourteen on June 5, 2002, from her home in the Federal Heights neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah.

She had been held in captivity for over nine months before she was finally discovered in Sandy, Utah, on March 12, 2003.

Elizabeth Smart's parents can relate to Gabby Petito's family.

“I’ve had many in-depth conversations with my parents about it, and both of them talked how it wrecked them,” she said about how her parents felt. “

I mean it just completely drained them of everything, I mean it consumed their lives, every day it was a question of ‘is today the day?’ ‘Are we gonna finally find her?’ ‘Are we gonna finally get answers?’”

Smart’s parents were repeatedly brought in to identify bodies that could have potentially been their daughter.

“The relief and yet the heartbreak that they felt leaving and knowing that it wasn’t me but that it was somebody else, how hard that was,” she said.

RELATED: Gabby Petito's Stepdad Describes Identifying Her Body — Exactly Where And How She Was Found

Similarly, Petito’s stepfather was the one called in to identify his daughter. Law enforcement officials also found at least 7 other bodies during the search for Petito.

Doctor Oz discussed Petito and Laundrie's Moab police incident. 

In bodycam footage taken during the now-infamous road stop, Petito is pointing out how Laundrie handled her — grabbing her face and claiming that he didn’t hit her.

She tells police she could be bruised from the grabbing while Laundrie jokes with police about going to jail and taking their radios.

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Oz points out how odd their differences in behavior are and asks Smart for her opinion.

“Hindsight’s always 20/20, looking back you think ‘well this was clearly not a good situation,’” she said.

"And bless those police officers’ hearts. I mean, who knows how much training, how much insight they had to this situation, I’m sure they were trying to do the best they could.”

The Elizabeth Smart Foundation began a new initiative called, ‘We Believe You,’ focused on providing resources and information for those suffering from domestic abuse and abusive relationships, and she says it’s hard to know the signs.

“Unless you know what you’re looking for,” she said, “unless you know the signs that speak out against even louder than what words say then you don’t really know what you’re looking at.”

She hopes to help people understand those signs to prevent a situation like the Gabby Petito case from happening again.

RELATED: Online Sleuths Are Skeptical Of Wyoming Restaurant Manager’s Account Of Night Gabby Petito Was Last Seen

Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.