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  • Emily G.

'missing white woman syndrome'

The names ‘Gabby Petito’ and ‘Brian Laundrie’ were making headlines this past summer after Petito was reported missing by her parents. Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, were on a cross-country road trip together in a small van where they would hike through many national parks. Although they were constantly traveling and hiking, Petito consistently called home and posted on social media. After two weeks of silence, Petito was reported missing, and Laundrie became a person of interest in the case.

After continuous search and rescue efforts for Petito by law enforcement, her remains were soon to be found in Wyoming, and the pursuit for Laundrie continued. Persistent in their efforts, local law enforcement kept on the manhunt for Laundrie, which reportedly cost about $200,000 per day.

All resources were exhausted to find Petito and Laundrie. This case was covered on every type of social media, news outlet, etc. – there is even a movie being produced titled, “The Gabby Petito Story.” It is clear that the same attention is not extended to marginalized communities, an example being the case of Mary Johnson, an Indigenous woman.

Mary Johnson, 40, was last seen November 25, 2020 on the Tulalip Reservation in Washington State, according to the FBI. Johnson was walking on a road in Western Washington on her way to a friend’s house the day she went missing. Law enforcement believes “that someone must have picked Johnson up at some point” during her walk because of the distance and the speed at which she had traveled, which was noted from cell phone records. Because of the little information police do have, Johnson’s case remains unsolved.

“If that was a little White girl out there or a White woman, I’m sure they would have had helicopters, airplanes and dogs and searches – a lot of manpower out there – scouring where that person was lost… None of that has happened for our sister.”

If you were to google ‘Mary Johnson,’ the latest updates about her case are from 2021. Comparatively, Petito’s case is still a headline today, even though the case has been solved. In some part, the media becoming so invested in the story of Gabby Petito helped to find her remains as well.

Petito’s case became wildly publicized, “while the disappearances of Indigenous women and other people of color went largely ignored.” Johnson’s family and friends have no closure as to what happened to her that day while she was walking to a friend’s house, and may never get that closure. Law enforcement was able to spend $200,000 a day to find Brian Laundrie considering the social media following that the case had, meaning all eyes were on them to find this man; yet Mary Johnson was invisibilized, with few resources being used to find her whereabouts.

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