The investigation into the disappearance and eventual death of influencer Gabby Petito has riveted the United States as prominent news channels and articles document the story. But while Petitos case hits the headlines, many other missing persons cases are neglected at the national and local levels.
According to Poynter, the extensive coverage of the Petito case is a combination of her extensive documentation of her travels before she disappeared, the public intrigue over her tragic death, and the seemingly idyllic life on social media and her young age and whiteness.
Statistically, white missing persons receive more coverage than minorities. In Petito’s home state of Wyoming, a report on missing indigenous people from 2000 to 2020 found that “the killing rate per 100,000 indigenous population was 26.8, eight times higher than the killing rate among white people,” but only 30% of the missing indigenous population were covered in newspapers, compared to 51% of missing whites.
This inequality is inexcusable when lives are at stake. The publicity surrounding Petito’s case has led internet detectives and police alike to work to find answers, which in most cases are missing. Media coverage is critical to informing the public and locating potential witnesses, and it should be used to the full regardless of the race of the missing person.
In 2020, about 540,000 people were missing in the U.S. and about 1,500 are missing in Ohio. Ohio also ranks as the eleventh worst state for missing people in 2021, missing the tenth worst out of just three people.
We may not be able to resolve missing persons cases on a national level, but if the Ohio communities come together with the same passion that was shown for the Petito case, our numbers may go down and the cases will have a happier outcome than that from Petito. Nobody wants a missing person murdered because the public didn’t know they should have been looking for suspicious activity.
Ohio citizens should make it their business to actively keep up with missing person cases in their city and surrounding counties. Ohio Missing Persons provides photos of the missing along with details of where they were last seen and what they were wearing. Cases range from being published within the last week to the 1920s. This offers a long list of faces and names with families still looking for answers.
Petito’s death is tragic and the authorities should continue their attempts to do her justice, but her case is one in hundreds of thousands. When the investigation inevitably leaves the limelight, we should continue to apply the same enthusiasm to the missing in our local communities, regardless of race or status.
Charlene Pepiot is studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Would you like to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her email@example.com.