Lifetime has a long history of mining real-life crime stories for ripped-from-the-headlines TV movies. But social media users are slamming the cable network for dramatizing the recent murder of Gabby Petito in the movie The Gabby Petito Story, which premieres tonight, Saturday, October 1, at 8/7c. And now Nicole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, is addressing the small-screen take on her daughter’s death.
“We thought our followers should know that the Lifetime movie on Gabby Petito has no connection to the Petito family nor did they give their approval,” Schmidt said in a statement released by The AWARE Foundation, according to Newsweek. “Lifetime took it upon themselves to make the movie.”
The film “explores Gabby and her fiancé Brian Laundrie’s complicated relationship and what may have gone wrong during their cross-country trip that resulted in Gabby’s tragic murder,” Lifetime says. “As the one-year anniversary of her tragic death approaches, the movie will bring to life Gabby and Brian’s doomed love story, including the warning signs that Gabby’s life was in danger, the ensuing search for her, the eventual discovery of her murder and ultimately, Brian’s suicide.”
As Newsweek reports, Twitter users have recently criticized Lifetime for giving The Gabby Petito Storythe green light — especially so soon after Petito’s death. (Petito, 22, went missing in August 2021 during a road trip with fiancé Brian Laundrie, 23. Her remains were eventually found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, while Laundrie’s were found more than a month later in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida, along with a notebook in which he admitted that he “ended [Petito’s] life.”)
“This is absolutely disgusting,” one Twitter user wrote. “Foul. It’s barely been a year since she went missing. There’s just so much wrong with this.”
Another person tweeted, “@lifetimetv, y’all are ruthless and should be ashamed of yourselves for profiting off a girl’s death and a family who’s still traumatized and grieving.”
In an essay for MovieMaker, The Gabby Petito Story director Thora Birch — who also plays Schmidt in the movie — wrote that she was initially “inclined to agree that it was too soon” for a TV movie on Petito’s murder.
“But ultimately, I came to be confused by that assertion, because it avoids the true question when it comes to telling Gabby’s story, or that of so many others who have fallen victim to domestic violence: How should one approach such a delicate endeavor?” she explained. “Simply choosing not to engage doesn’t honor her memory, and doesn’t shine a light on situations that are all too common.”
The Gabby Petito Story, Movie Premiere, Saturday, October 1, 8/7c, Lifetime