Community connects through Gabby Petito’s story at a candlelight vigil

Gabby Petito

SUGAR HOUSE, Utah (ABC4) – While Petito’s family waits for her body to return home along with the final autopsy results, Utahns gathered to honor the life of Gabby Petito in Salt Lake City. 

Dozens of people gathered at the Sugar House Park for a candlelight vigil to pay their respects to Gabby Petito. The vigil was organized by community member Serena Chavez who felt compelled to get the neighborhood together after she learned Gabby’s remains were found.  

While you could feel the pain many people who showed up were experiencing as they try to make sense of what happened to Petito, there was a sense of unity among the group.

“I think it’s safe to say the reason we’re all here is because, we all know a Gabby or we’ve all been a Gabby,” one speaker at the vigil explains.  

Wednesday’s vigil brought together complete strangers who all have one thing in common; they see themselves in Gabby Petito.

“It’s sad to say but a lot of people have been in her shoes, relationship-wise and it’s scary,” Chavez says.

Women shared their own stories that relate to Gabby’s in one way or another.    

“I wish as a child that my teachers would’ve reported the things, they saw happening to me. But it went unnoticed until my dad literally almost killed me,” shares Tawnya McGrath.

It is clear Gabby’s death hit home for many people at the vigil. Especially the body camera video from Moab Police when they responded to a fight between the couple during their road trip last month.

“I think those of us who have experienced it recognized within seconds of that video out of Moab, the effects of severe gaslighting,” one attendee states.

Many women at the vigil believe officers missed the signs of domestic violence as Gabby was labeled the aggressor.

“C’mon she was really scared, and nobody saw that. I mean I’m very angry” says Laura Frome.

However, many attendees are determined to turn their frustration into change. 

“The world could be a scary place and she needs to know the signs and what to look for as she’s growing up,” a mother Jennifer Roeling shares.

“It takes the community loving each other enough… getting out of own lives and our own heads for just a minute and caring about what you see in the next car next to you in the parking lot of a store,” McGrath states.

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