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Gabby Petito’s Impact Doesn’t Have to End Now

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Note: This article was written on 09/30/2021 and was edited with new information on 10/3/2021. This article may have outdated information by the time of publishing.

There, historically, has never been a fantastic time to be a woman. Every noted period documents some sort of discrimination, violence or general disdain towards women. The 21st century United States may be void of witch trials or stoning, but we’re still not perfect. Today, girls still have to carry pepper spray, are taught how to politely turn down an advance without being harmed, and cannot go out alone after dark. 

The world was horrified this past month when news broke of an adorable influencer-to-be going missing. Gabby Petito was reported missing by her family on September 11, 2021, after not being seen or heard from for over two weeks. To make matters worse, her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, was the last person known to be with her and was not speaking to the police. 

The two had been in the middle of a cross-country road trip, beginning their “van life,” or life condensed into just a vehicle. The lifestyle has been popular for some time now and has had a specifically large following on TikTok. Gabby, known for her thirst for experience and longing to share with others, found this to be right up her alley. She and Brian were more than excited to set out on their most daring adventure yet. 

Sadly, only one of them returned from their escapade. 

Social media took Gabby’s case by storm. Within days, her face was everywhere, and even people who didn’t know much about the case knew who she was. Content creators across all genres were talking about Gabby and passing along information. The inability to escape information on the case made it easier for those who had information to realize they did and come forward. Everyone was infatuated with Gabby’s story and just wanted her to come home safe. 

Unfortunately, the story does not have the happiest of endings. Gabby Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming on September 19, 2021. Social media can take a large piece of credit for the discovery: the circulation of pictures of the van helped two YouTubers identify it in the background of some of their footage. Hauntingly, the footage was of the van empty and dark in Grand Teton, where Gabby’s body was discovered. 

True crime social media coverage is a blessing and a curse. Her Campus contributor Julianna Marie wrote an excellent article about the fallouts of TikTok in this case, which you can find here. The main point to keep in mind moving forward: these are real people’s lives, not scripted entertainment. While the public can be essential in closing a case, doing our part respectfully is of utmost importance. 

I will out myself as a true crime “junkie.” I can admit that even if Gabby’s case had not taken off the way it did, I probably would have heard about it eventually through the grapevine. But, after becoming so invested in Gabby and doing anything I possibly could from my apartment in Orlando to help, I realized that I was not putting the same effort into other cases I heard about. Her Campus contributor Corrine Dorsey wrote an article recently about the thousands of women of color who do not get a lick of attention in comparison, which can be found here. 

I wanted to make a change in the way I consume true crime content. Instead of bouncing from one case to the next, I wanted to make better efforts to directly help the victims and their families. 

Unfortunately, the opportunity presented itself rather quickly. On Friday, September 24, 19-year-old Miya Marcano disappeared from her Orlando apartment. She was last seen leaving her job at the Arden Villas leasing office around 5 PM that day. 

On Monday, September 27, the prime person of interest in the case was found dead by suicide in Longwood, Florida. He was a maintenance worker at Arden, where Miya lived and worked. According to police, he had pursued her several times and had been rejected. According to Miya’s apartment key fob tracking, he entered her apartment at around 4:30 PM on September 24. It’s speculated he was waiting for her when she got home. 

Devastatingly, a body the police believe is Miya’s was found on October 2. Not much is known to the public other than she was found over 16 miles away from Arden Villas and a bag containing her identification was nearby. Her cellphone is still missing.

Miya’s death was preventable. We need to do better to teach our sons to handle rejection gracefully. We need to do better to destigmatize mental health and get those with these issues to help before they hurt someone. We need to do better and listen to the women around us and help them feel safe in their own communities. Something terrible should not have to happen to take the necessary steps. 

I stand with Miya Marcano and her family. I am absolutely heartbroken her story ended the way it did.

If you have any information regarding Miya Marcano’s case, please contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office: (407) 836-4357. Miya deserved better than this.

If you have any information regarding the homicide of Gabby Petito or the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie, please contact the FBI: +1 (800) 225-5324. Please help bring Gabby and her family justice. 

If you or anyone you know needs help or feels they might be in danger, please reach out. Check in on your loved ones. Don’t wait until it is too late. 

Here are a few resources to part with: 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: +1 (800) 799-7233

National Human Trafficking Hotline: +1 (888) 373-7888 (Text: 233733)

National Runaway Safeline: +1 (800) 786-2929

National Sexual Assault Hotline: +1 (800) 656-4673

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: +1 (800) 273-8255

If a resource you or a loved one are looking for isn’t here, try https://victimconnect.org/ to be matched with a resource that best fits your needs.

Spread a little love and stay safe.

Senior at the University of Central Florida studying Writing and Rhetoric with a minor in Mass Media. Originally from Tampa, FL, and loves going to Disney, the beach, and reading.