The cable network Lifetime on Thursday revealed lead casting and an airdate for its previously announced TV-movie about the Blue Point-raised Gabby Petito, whose disappearance and murder last year sparked a nationwide hunt for the fiance who had killed her.
Tied to the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, "The Gabby Petito Story" will premiere Oct. 1. Skyler Samuels, who played Grace Gardner on Fox's "Scream Queens" and the mutant triplets Esme, Phoebe and Sophie Frost on Fox's Marvel Comics drama "The Gifted," has the title role. Evan Hall (Corrections Officer Stratman on Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black") plays Brian Laundrie, who murdered 22-year-old aspiring travel blogger Petito while on a cross-country trip together, then committed suicide after returning home falsely saying she was alive.
As previously announced, actor Thora Birch (2001's "Ghost World," Netflix's upcoming Wednesday Addams series "Wednesday") will make her directorial debut as well as star as Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt. Birch had been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her 2003 Lifetime telefilm "Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story."
Lifetime also announced that a documentary special, "Beyond the Headlines: Gabby Petito," will air immediately following the movie for "a more in-depth look at the true story."
Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, had met while attending Bayport-Blue Point High School. Living together afterward with Laundrie's parents in North Port, Florida, the couple in July 2021 departed Long Island on a cross-country road trip to Oregon, documenting their journey on Instagram. Around Aug. 23, Schmidt had her last FaceTime conversation with her daughter, and on Sept. 11 reported to Suffolk County police that Petito was missing.
Laundrie by then had returned home in Petito's van without her, and soon afterward disappeared himself. On Sept. 19, Petito's body was found in Wyoming, with her death later ruled to be strangulation homicide. In October, Laundrie's remains were found in a Florida reserve, and the following month the family's attorney said Laundrie had taken his own life by gunshot.
In December, the Peacock documentary "The Murder of Gabby Petito: Truth, Lies and Social Media" interviewed both sets of Petito's parents — mom Nichole Schimdt and stepfather Jim Schimdt, of Blue Point, and father Joe Petito and stepmother Tara Petito, of Selden before moving to Florida in June 2021.
Earlier this week, Petito's family filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Moab, Utah, Police Department, arguing that officers who stopped the couple's van after a witness had reported evident domestic abuse let the two continue on their way after the couple promised to take a night apart. Police bodycam footage shows Petito with cuts on her arm and face, and other "classic hallmarks of an abused partner," the suit said. The officers also did not press Laundrie on his conflicting statements, and even threatened to arrest Petito, who said she had struck Laundrie first.
Petito's family in March filed a suit against Laundrie's parents, saying Christopher and Roberta Laundrie knew Petito was dead but did not respond to them or to law enforcement, hindering the investigation.