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Gabby Petito’s friend says she missed meet-up and didn’t call on her birthday – but sent ‘strange’ final text to mom

MISSING 22-year-old Gabby Petito appeared to blow off a meet-up with a close friend in Yellowstone National Park and never phoned on her birthday - but sent a 'strange' final text to her mom a day later claiming she was 800 miles away before vanishing.

Petito was reported missing by her mom, Nichole Schmidt, on September 11, and had been traveling across the country with boyfriend Brian Laundrie in their camper van since July 2.

She was last known to have been visiting Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on August 25, and sent a final text to her mom on August 30, claiming: "No service in Yosemite."

Yosemite is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California - around 800 miles from Grand Teton.

Her family believe the text was not sent by her, a claim now seemingly backed up by a close friend who alleges they were set to meet up at Yellowstone National Park in September.

Gabby's pal, who wishes to remain anonymous and is yet to speak with police, told The Sun exclusively: "[The] last time I talk [ed] to Gabby was the beginning of August when we were planning for me to meet her in Yellowstone after my birthday.

"That was the next spot. At least when we planned it. I was the only one going to see them.

"She wouldn’t wander off and not contact her family. I know that for a fact.

"She wouldn't blow me off either. She's my person. And I can't stop thinking about how scared she must be."

According to reports, Gabby also told a friend on August 27 on Snapchat that she was heading for Yellowstone National Park.

Gabby's friend told The Sun they were yet to pinpoint a date to meet at Yellowstone, but she was meant to call her on her birthday, August 29, to make concrete plans.

She never heard from her again.

Just a date later, Gabby is said to have texted her mom - claiming to be hundreds of miles away at Yosemite National Park in California.

Her mom told MailOnline: "That text was NOT from Gabby I know it!"

Gabby's friend explained: "She was supposed to call on my birthday and we were going to figure it all out then because her trip wasn’t on schedule.

"The whole thing is odd. My birthday is the 29th. I don't know why she’d send that text [to her mom] and not message me.

"I also don't think she'd text her mom 'no service'. She'd call as soon as she had service, in my opinion."

The friend said she was waiting to hear from Gabby before arranging with her manager at work for time off for the trip, but wasn't concerned at first.

"I just assumed she was busy and I had a lot go on with crashing my car and I was struggling with my own life," she said.

ARGUED WITH BOYFRIEND

"But then I saw the news," she said, calling her disappearance "heartbreaking".

The pal says she classed her boyfriend Laundrie, who has now been named a person of interest in the case, as a "friend" and had no reason to worry about Gabby traveling with him.

Officers allege he is "hindering their investigation" by not co-operating with them, while his family have hired a lawyer.

"We really just want to focus on finding her," the pal said. "I wish Brian and his family would do the same.

"I considered Brian a friend. But the truth will come out and I hope for everyone's sake sooner rather than later.

"[Gabby] is a happy person. She makes a mark on anyone she comes across. Anyone would tell you that.

"Gabby made sure I kept going when I didn't want to. She shines light on every situation and was always talking about her family.

"This is so hard on me and especially the family so keep the focus on finding Gabby. Please."

Police responded to an alleged "incident" involving Gabby and her boyfriend on August 12, but neither was the reporting party.

A police report revealed Petito was sitting in the van’s passenger seat "crying uncontrollably" when a cop pulled up to their vehicle in Utah.

The document, obtained by The Sun, states: "At no point in my investigation did Gabrielle stop crying, breathing heavily, or compose a sentence without needing to wipe away tears."

FAMILY'S FEARS

Officer Daniel Scott revealed a witness saw the couple "arguing over a phone" before the pair drove away.

Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.

Gabby and Laundrie lived together in Florida the past two years having met in high school in New York, her family said.

The pair started their road trip on July 2 and planned to visit Portland, Oregon so they could see a friend at Halloween.

They had been documenting their "Van Life" travels on their social media accounts and set up a YouTube channel just three weeks ago to chronicle their adventures through national state parks.

Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates...

The couple visited Colorado Springs and many national parks in Utah but left the state due to the risk of wildfires.

A map reveals the final movements of Petito and the places that they visited before she vanished.

Her family, contacted by The Sun, held a joint press conference with Florida police focusing on her disappearance on Thursday.

Gabby's stepfather James Schmidt has said Gabby's fiancé Brian Laundrie "has to know something." 

He told DailyMail.com: "He was with her, so he has to know something.

"Our family's aware of the statements made by his attorney.

"It's unacceptable. It is unacceptable to us. We deserve more. Gabby deserves more information out there. She deserves to be found and brought home safe. And we need you to step up and do the right thing."

Anyone with information is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Harrowing bodycam footage reveals Gabby Petito sobbing to cops after she hits fiancé Brian Laundrie 'with phone'

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