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New Lifetime movie will explore Gabby Petito’s disappearance and death

The film will look at Petito's relationship with Brian Laundrie, and where things may have gone wrong.
/ Source: TODAY

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Lifetime is working on a film that will tell the story of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who disappeared during a cross-country trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie and was eventually found dead in Wyoming

"The Gabby Petito Story," a working title for the film, is part of Lifetime’s Stop Violence Against Women public affairs campaign, which advocates for women affected by violence, according to a statement released by Lifetime. The movie is set to film in Utah this summer and will premiere later this year.

The film will explore what happened in the relationship between Petito and Laundrie during their ill-fated road trip in the summer of 2021, during which Petito went missing, the statement said.

Shortly after being declared a “person of interest” in his fiancée’s disappearance, Laundrie, 23, also went missing. Following a nationwide manhunt, he was discovered dead in Florida from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to his family’s attorney.

After finding Laundrie's body, the FBI released a statement that said, “A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death.”

The film will be helmed by Thora Birch, who is making her directorial debut on the project. She will also portray Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, the statement from Lifetime said.

"The Walking Dead" actor, 40, has worked with Lifetime multiple times on the other side of the camera. She scored an Emmy nomination for her starring role in the network’s 2003 movie “Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story,” and she also appeared in Lifetime’s “The Pregnancy Pact” in 2010. 

Outside of Lifetime, she is also known for her roles in “The Last Black Man In San Francisco,” "Above Suspicion” and “Affairs Of State.”

The film on Petito will explore her and Laundrie’s fraught relationship, the statement mentioned, as they traveled across the country on a tour of national parks in the summer of 2021 and documented their journey on social media.

The movie will also look at warning signs of trouble in their relationship and what might have happened that resulted in the tragic killing of Petito.

On Aug. 12, 2021, police responded to an alleged physical altercation between the couple. The body camera footage shows Petito crying and telling the responding officer she was struggling with her severe anxiety.

According to a police report released at the time by the Moab City Police Department, Petito had slapped Laundrie after an argument, but both had told the officer they did not want to press charges.

On Sept. 1, several weeks after the encounter with the police, Laundrie returned to his parents' home in North Port, south of Tampa. Ten days later, Petito’s family reported her missing, and Laundrie was named a "person of interest" in the case on Sept. 16. His disappearance quickly followed.

Petito’s body was found on Sept. 19 in a campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest, near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A medical examiner found she died of “manual strangulation,” at least three weeks before her body was found.

Laundrie’s body was later discovered in Florida’s Carlton Reserve, near his parents’ home on Oct. 20.

Lifetime is rolling out a PSA tied to the film’s release that will provide resources for women dealing with violence, the Lifetime statement announced. The network is also working on other movies about violence against women that will tell the stories of survivors whose names might not be as known in the media.