Lifetime has greenlit "The Gabby Petito Story," a movie based on the 22-year-old woman of the same name whose disappearance and death became widely publicized last summer.
The film “will explore 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,” the network said in a statement Thursday.
The movie, which is part of Lifetime's Stop Violence Against Women public affairs initiative, will feature actor Thora Birch, who will make her directorial debut and portray Petito's mom, according to the network.
Laundrie and Petito set off on July 2, 2021 from New York on a cross-country tour of national parks, documenting their journey on YouTube and Instagram using the hashtag #VanLife.
But when Petito's family reported her missing on Sept. 11 — just 10 days after Laundrie is believed to have flown home from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Tampa, Florida without her — her sudden disappearance dominated headlines, as authorities across the country launched a nationwide search for her whereabouts.
Petito’s body was found on Sept. 19, 2021, in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, in an area where the couple had been traveling, according to an NBC News timeline.
Laundrie’s body was found on Oct. 20, 2021, in a nature preserve not far from his Florida home. A Florida medical examiner said he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In the months following their deaths, Petito's family has since filed a lawsuit against Laundrie's parents, accusing Laundrie and his family of going on vacation together while knowing the location of Petito's missing body. Steven Bertolino, Laundrie's family attorney, has previously called the allegations in the lawsuit “baseless” and “frivolous,” and has tried to have the suit dismissed.
A jury trial is scheduled to start the week of Aug. 14, 2023, in Sarasota County, Florida.
News about the film being developed drew some backlash on social media.
“That poor girl isn’t dead a year and this already…..Too soon…,” one person commented on a Facebook post with the announcement.
In a separate Facebook post about the movie, another person commented: “I just don’t understand. Isn’t there anything else we can make movies out of, besides other peoples tragedy. I can’t imagine being a family member and appreciating all of that. Ridiculous.”
Similar thoughts were echoed by some on Twitter.
"How about no? Gabby hasn’t even been dead for that long and people are jumping at the chance to profit off it?" tweeted one person.
"Too soon. Seems very exploitative," wrote another person in a tweet.
“The Gabby Petito Story" will be filmed in Utah this summer and premiere later this year, timed to the one-year anniversary of Petito’s disappearance, the network said.
In its news release, Lifetime also said it was is developing “several movies surrounding violence against women who may not have had the same media attention as Gabby Petito,” including Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, Adriane Fields, Beatrice Weston.