Gabby Petito case compared to Netflix series while hundreds of missing persons cases ignored
700 Indigenous people were reported missing between 2011 to 2020 in Wyoming alone
A Fox News contributor found himself making an unlikely cameo appearance in the story unfolding around the disappearance - now homicide - of Gabby Pepito this week after he likened it to an "on-going mini-series for America", and a "distraction" from more important news.
While the gut-reaction of many on social media was to skewer Raymond Arroyo for his lack of sensitivity - in a later tweet he made a valid point - it overshadowed many other missing person cases.
@RaymondArroyo is everything wrong with this country. Individual lives matter. All lives matter. To say the death of someone is a distraction shows a classless lack of empathy. Utterly disgusting!#gabbypetitio #gabby #MissingPerson pic.twitter.com/oxCQzKCPtl
— PaulThePastor (@_Paul_Murray) September 20, 2021
Though Gabby Petito’s case has gotten a lot of attention, it is important to remember that there are many more missing children and adults who get little coverage. Kidnappings & Missing Persons — FBI https://t.co/NR4dWtWalh
— Raymond Arroyo (@RaymondArroyo) September 20, 2021
And on Thursday the focus turned to the plight of the hundreds of still-missing Indigenous people in Wyoming, where the 22-year-old YouTuber was last seen alive.
So, what made the Petito case stand out?
The Petito case was a ready-meal for the media.
Missing... white girl.
Throw in a road trip. Bungling cops. And a fiance who would later become a person of interest.
Marie Claire, on Tuesday, likened the case to a Netflix drama; a crude, but devastatingly accurate comparison, that seems inevitable to be capitalised on by any number of streaming services.
After all, filming was already well underway by the time Petito was reported missing on September 11. She'd been chronicling it on social media, postcards from the van-life road trip later becoming a trail of clues for salivating bedroom sleuths and TikTok detectives who helped police make breakthroughs.
So, who else has gone missing in Wyoming and why haven't we heard about it?
Then there are the other missing person cases. Many involve Indigenous people. Most you will have never heard about. They don't make the news.
Cara Boyle Chambers, the director of Wyoming's Division of Victims Services Chambers told NPR that only 30 per cent of homicide cases involving indigenous people were covered by the media. It's 51 per cent for white victims.
“The themes and media portrayal of homicide victims are that when you had an indigenous victim, the articles were more likely to have negative character framing, more violent and graphic language, really focusing more on sort of like where homicide occurred versus anything about the victim," Oxygen reported.
Here's what the stats say
- Over the last decade, 466 Indigenous women were reported missing in Wyoming
- At least 710 Indigenous people went missing between 2011 and 2020, according to a January report published by Wyoming's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Task Force. Of those that disappeared, 57 per cent were female
- Since 2000, indigenous people have made up 21 per cent of homicides in Wyoming, according to a state report released in January, even though only three percent of the population is Indigenous
- To January, approximately 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons had been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
- In the US, four out of five Indigenous people have experienced violence. For women, most of the perpetrators were of other races
And, here's an idea of how many people go missing in America
The FBI kidnappings missing person's page that Fox News contributor Arroyo posted, contains 102 pages of mug shots.
The first case mentioned is that of Mary Johnson.
Johnson, 40, a Native American/Alaskan Native, was last seen on November 25, 2020, walking east on Firetrail Road on the Tulalip Reservation in Washington State. Mary was traveling to a friend’s house and never arrived. She was reported missing on December 9, 2020.
Almost 50 unsolved cases of missing persons and homicides are currently displayed on the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation's Missing Persons and Unsolved Cases website.
Fox News suggested Thursday that Petito's case, rather than overshadowing other missing person cases, had brought them to light.
According to Statista, in 2020, the number of missing person files in the US decreased when compared to the previous year, with 543,018 cases - the lowest number of missing person files in the US since 1990.
Cara Boyle Chambers, the director of Wyoming's Division of Victims Services, told Newsweek that she hopes the Petito case will motivate people to continue using social media to help families find their loved ones.
"Why haven't Black and brown bodies received attention that their white counterparts [have]?" Chambers said. "We're encouraged by where the conversation is going."