Families plead for attention in help finding loved ones in light of Gabby Petito case
The Gabby Petito case has cast a spotlight on the search for other missing individuals with families pleading for coverage in help finding their loved ones.
In the two weeks since Gabby Petito went missing while on a cross-country trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie, her story has captivated national news headlines and gone viral online. It's this intense attention that families of other missing people say they wish was turned to their own loved ones' disappearance.
Equana Maddox, of Hempstead, says her brother Nathaniel Sample vanished on Sept. 26, 2019. The 27-year-old recording artist was last seen driving near Gastonia, North Carolina.
Maddox says it's been a struggle to get help from the media and police to find him.
"I wish his face was plastered all over the news so he can be found also," says Maddox. "I feel like they are definitely being way more proactive with Gabby's case than Nate's case. I believe he's a young Black boy and she's a white woman and they're treating it as such. That's literally why she's getting so much media coverage and they have to find her killer."
Maddox is not alone in how she feels. Others are using interest in the Petito case to point out disparities in media coverage and law enforcement efforts to locate missing people of color versus white people.
Domingo Ramos, of Hope Alive 865, is a private investigator specializing in missing persons cases.
"It's unfair to any family right now, they need to have closure," says Ramos. "It's as simple as that."
Criminologists say a range of factors play into the national frenzy over the Petito story, including a substantial social media trail documenting Petito's trip. They say the one positive thing in Petito's tragic story is it has sparked awareness and the need for change.
"Kind of cracked this case because of social media and I think that if we can bring more of these stories about minorities to the forefront, I think that's very, very important," says Tiana Heath, a host and producer of Missing on Long Island.
Erin Daly-Spano, of Long Island Missing People, says because of the Petito story the entire world knows more about the missing people plight in America.
"So, maybe now they will get the media attention, maybe they'll be able to add more resources," says Daly-Spano.
Maddox hopes that change will happen so she and families of other missing persons can find closure.
"Like it doesn't matter what race it is," says Maddox. "We should all get the same efforts put in to find our families because we care just as much."