Petito cases raises need for attention to missing minorities

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:37 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A member of the Advocates for Social Justice says the Petito case is highlighting the lack of attention Black and Brown people receive when they go missing.

“Action was swift; once the family reported Gabby Petito missing, it was all hands on deck,” said Leslie Neely, one of the founding members of the Advocates for Social Justice.

Neely followed the Gabby Petito case intently as the search for her, and her boyfriend, went on. Petito was on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie. Laundrie returned to his Florida home without her. Her body was found a little more than a week ago.

“I have never seen someone be on the front page of everything,” Neely said. “She was all over social media; I couldn’t get away from it.

Neely feels minorities don’t get the same attention if they go missing. She pointed to 26-year-old Destini Smothers of New York. Smothers was found earlier this year, four months after she was reported missing.

“If people had taken action as quickly as they did in this case, how many of those cases would’ve been solved, or they would’ve been found alive,” Neely said.

The nonprofit group “Black and Missing Foundation” said more than 540,000 people were reported missing in 2020, and 40 percent of those missing were minorities.

“Right now, in America, we’re at a turning point,” said Neely. “I think it was just another thing that needed to be publicized to be equal.”

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