Skip to content

EVERYTHING KING: Why do people care about the Gabby Petito case?

Gabby Petito case has many people obsessed. In this week's Everything King, Wendy asks why some cases get more attention than others

Why are we obsessed with the Gabby Petito case? 

I suspect there are as many answers to that as there are questions.

By now, many of us know the basic story of the 22-year-old woman who, with her high-school sweetheart, went on a four-month camping trip in the American Midwest. She documented all the adventures on social media, until it stopped.

There is a domestic squabble that was captured on police body-cam by officers who pulled them over after getting a citizen's report about a physical fight in a vehicle. We see Gabby is hysterical and sobbing. The cops suggest she and her boyfriend separate for the night and cool off.

Somewhere in the next few days, Gabby is found dead in Wyoming.

The boyfriend goes home to Florida in the van without her. Days later, he goes missing, too.

As of this writing, he’s still missing with a warrant out for his arrest for using Gabby’s credit card.

I know we all like to be armchair detectives, but this case has so many unanswered questions.

Let’s return to the larger question of why we are so interested.

One news program asked the question: Why did we all care so much about this particular missing person case? They suggested it was because she was a young, white, blonde, attractive female. It’s called “missing white girl syndrome."

Their premise is that we don’t seem to care as much about thousands of other missing people who are non-white. We don’t pay as much attention to stories of missing black women, Asians, Indigenous women, men, or even children who aren't white.

It is an ugly thought, but one I fear may be accurate. One segment of society certainly does get the bulk of the media coverage. This is the story making all the headlines. 

Over the years, it is hard to argue we, as a society, were clearly invested in the cases of Natalee Holloway, Lacy Peterson and JonBenet Ramsay. It never occurred to me that the common thread was they were white. I thought, and still do think, it was the uniqueness of each story.

In the Gabby Petito case, I surmised it comes from the fact it is so relatable. She could be anyone’s daughter, sister or friend.

I prefer to think I am concerned about the case just out of common humanity. It's natural to care.

But, do we care more because of the colour of her skin? That seems to be such a disrespect to any other family suffering from a similar tragedy. 

Consciously, that’s not what has me obsessed, but subconsciously? I can’t honestly say. I will have to do some soul searching.

About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
Read more