Gabby Petito’s stepfather identified her remains from a sweatshirt bought at her favourite clothing store on Long Island.
Jim Schmidt told Dr Phil how police had shown him a piece of clothing retrieved from Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest that he recognised as belonging to Ms Petito.
“They describe the piece of clothing to me that matched one of her favourite sweatshirts that we knew was hers,” he said, adding it was purchased from a store close to their home in New York.
Mr Schmidt, a former fire chief on Long Island, had joined the FBI-led search for Ms Petito days before her remains were located on 19 September.
Mr Schmidt said four people had recently gone missing in the same area, including a young woman who resembled Ms Petito, and they needed to be certain they had found the right body.
During the interview with Dr Phil, which aired on CBS, Mr Schmidt said he had to gather himself for half an hour before he could call the rest of the family to inform them he had positively identified Ms Petito.
He called Nicole Schmidt in Long Island and Joseph and Tara Petito in Florida on a conference call.
“We were all crying, couldn’t believe it because we were all holding out for hope,” Mr Schmidt said.
“I felt it was my responsibility to make that call and I was able to compose myself… I was able to relay it to everyone.”
Nicole Schmidt recalled the moment she heard the news.
“He said that they found remains, and we knew it was Gabby. It didn’t hit me right away.. But I knew she was gone. As a mum I knew she was gone.”
Ms Petito’s father Joseph Petito and stepmother Tara Petito, mother Nichole Schmidt and stepfather Mr Schmidt sat down for their first joint interview with Dr Phil, which aired on CBS on Tuesday afternoon.