Gabby Petito’s parents said they were duped by a “quiet and polite” Brian Laundrie, thinking he would “take care of her” and keep her safe during the young couple’s trip out west.
Instead, Laundrie is now on the run and sought for questioning in the 22-year-old slain Long Island native’s strangulation.
“He just seemed like a nice guy,” Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, told Australia’s “60 Minutes” in an interview posted online Sunday. “I worried. I told her to be careful, be safe. To be aware of your surroundings. Don’t trust anybody.”
“But I felt safe because she was with Brian and I felt like she would be OK,” she said. “I thought he would take care of her.”
Petito and Laundrie embarked on the ill-fated trip on July 2, blogging about the trek on Instagram.
“She did look happy,” the young woman’s father, Joe Petito, said. “But as we look more and more into this, it might not have been as great as people online perceived.”
Laundrie, 23, returned home to Florida on Sept. 1 without his girlfriend, quickly lawyering up and refusing to speak to investigators after Petito was reported missing.
On Sept. 19, Petito’s body was found at a remote Wyoming campground, with her death later ruled as a homicide by manual strangulation — but Laundrie was already on the run.
He is the sole person of interest in her death and is named in a federal arrest warrant that alleges he used Petito’s debit card to charge up in excess of $1,000.
Schmidt said the family had misjudged their daughter’s beau.
“He was very polite and quiet,” she said. “He’d draw them pictures and stuff. He would read books to my little one at night before bed. So, he just seemed like a nice guy.”
Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, agreed.
“Every time he would come over he was polite,” he added. “He’d talk with our other children as well. They got to know him and they liked him.”
But despite the couple’s carefully crafted Instagram posts, signs of trouble between the two emerged during the trip, including an Aug. 12 Utah police stop over a domestic incident.
Petito was last seen alive on Aug. 27 at a Wyoming restaurant, when witnesses said a visibly irate Laundrie launched into a verbal attack at the staff.
Petito’s family has since announced the Gabby Petito Foundation to help victims of domestic violence and assist in other missing person cases.
On Sunday, the group held its first fundraiser in Petito’s native Blue Point.
“It’s a fundraiser by some of their friends to raise money to help people in Gabby’s situation,” family attorney Richard Stafford told The Post. “The foundation that they are in the process of setting up is going to be to help find missing people and women in abusive relationships.”
Additional reporting by Kevin Sheehan