KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE: The mysterious disappearance of 21-year-old Leila Santanello of Kingsport, Tennessee, is a chilling echo of the highly publicized Gabby Petito case that left her family searching for answers.
Nearly five months after Leila disappeared without a trace, her mother, Jennifer Santanello, is drawing parallels to the Petito case and is making a sincere plea for help, especially from the YouTube community.
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Leila Santanello was in serious condition in the days leading up to her disappearance (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation).
Layla was last seen leaving the ice cream store on June 27, barefoot and seemingly upset, heading to Five Below across the street.
Jennifer, struggling with fading hope of finding her daughter alive, has tirelessly urged the public, especially those who were in Kingsport that fateful day, to check dash cam footage and devices for any glimpses of Layla.
She drew stark comparisons to Petito, whose case became a breakthrough after a YouTuber made an important video of her abandoned van.
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What’s causing the controversy surrounding Gabby Petito’s murder?
Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman, disappeared while traveling cross-country with her boyfriend, Brian Landry, in August 2021. Landry returned to his Florida home without Petito and was identified by law enforcement as a person of interest. in her disappearance.
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Unfortunately, her lifeless body was discovered in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming about a month after her disappearance. Landry was later found dead in Florida’s Myakkahatchee Creek Ecological Park and confessed to killing Petito in a note.
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Layla Santanello’s mother, Jennifer Santanello, emphasized the potential importance of such videos in her daughter’s case.
She noted, “There are a lot of people in Kingsport who are just learning about Layla’s disappearance. “June 27 may not be a special date for anyone else and they may not think to look, but please look because you never know what you might find.”
“Isn’t it Gabby Petito who was found after another YouTuber happened to see her van? If they hadn’t checked their records, they would never have known about it. We need help; we need the support of the community, we need the help of those who live here, and we need the help of people across the country,” the mother added.
Jennifer noted, “If she’s out there somewhere, I need everyone to know I’m looking for her. I need everyone to see her face,” reports The Sun.
Leila Santanello looked disheveled and paranoid before she disappeared.
Leila Santanello was last seen at Marble Slab Creamery on North Eastman Road. Wearing a white tank top, black leggings and no shoes, her subsequent movements remain a mysterious mystery.
Jennifer carefully traces Layla’s journey, revealing the disturbing series of events that led to her disappearance.
According to Jennifer, Layla and her boyfriend had argued a few days earlier, which led her to stay with friends before checking into the Americourt Motel on June 25. Witnesses reported that Layla appeared disheveled and paranoid, apparently “trying to hide in the shadows.”
On June 26, she was seen walking from house to house in a distressed state, refusing offers of help from concerned strangers.
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“There was some commotion in another part of the hotel, and people who were outside that night saw her just get scared and run across the parking lot into the woods behind the motel,” Jennifer said.
She added: “She obviously stayed in that wood until the morning. When she got up, she was seen walking across a field near a warehouse, where one man said she appeared to be searching for something in the grass.”
“She asked someone for a cigarette, but they weren’t smoking, and then she headed toward the Kingsport-Greenbelt Trail,” the mother continued.
Jennifer emphasized, “And – this is the part that really gets to me, so if anyone saw her that morning, please let us know – Marble Slab employee around noon.” [ice cream store] found her on the back patio, sitting under an umbrella at one of the tables.
She went on to say: “She looked disheveled, upset and confused, so she gave her an ice cream and they chatted for a bit. […] she told her that she was going to go to Five Below to buy shoes, but she never showed up.
The disturbing events that led to the disappearance of Leila Santanello
The unfolding events took an even more mysterious turn when Jennifer Santanello received messages from Leila Santanello’s Facebook account, supposedly from her boyfriend, asking whether Leila was in jail or in the hospital.
Later that evening, she texted her mom, saying, “I’m fine, Mom. […] I was with a friend [sic]. I don’t have a phone number to write or call. I’m using someone else’s [sic]”
About two weeks after her disappearance, Jennifer began receiving disturbing Cash App requests from Layla’s account, as well as threatening messages. Jennifer believed her daughter might have been a hostage, but authorities later discovered it was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by someone posing as Leila.
Despite the traumatic experiences of recent months, Jennifer remains committed to finding her daughter. The recent disappearance of 19-year-old Hollynn Snapp in Kingsport, just a few miles from her daughter’s last known whereabouts, has heightened Jennifer’s concerns.
Discovering a connection between the two cases, both mothers suspect a potential connection, expressing fears of human trafficking and even more sinister possibilities. “We live in a scary world today […] anything is possible,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer, along with her mother Hollynn, held a vigil on November 10 in memory of her missing daughters, seeking public support and awareness. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to fund private investigators and is offering a $3,000 reward for any information leading to Leila.
The mother’s unwavering determination echoes her plea: “If you know something, please say something… A whole family is hurting right now because we don’t know what happened to our man.”
Anyone with information that could help locate the two women is asked to contact the Kingsport Police Department at (423) 343-9780.
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