The body cam footage of the Moab, Utah police stop following an alleged altercation between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie before their respective deaths showed signs of an unhealthy relationship, expert Heather Dugan exclusively tells In Touch.
“You know, I will confess, I didn’t look closely. I have a very difficult time viewing that kind of pain for somebody. Obviously she was very distraught,” the Friendship Upgrade and Date Like a Grownup author reveals. “That again would be another red flag. I know that in many of the interviews, people talked about volatility and drama. In a healthy adult relationship, there isn’t so much drama. The drama may be from an outside incident in life, but you learn how to handle those bumps along the way together without turning it into something cycling between the two of you. It seemed like they had many spin cycles in and out of that kind of a volatile back-and-forth thing.”
Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, met at Bayport-Blue Point High School in their shared hometown of Long Island, New York. The couple had been dating for several years and got engaged in July 2020. They were living together and sharing a home with Laundrie’s parents, father Christopher Laundrie and mother Roberta Laundrie. In July, they embarked on cross-country road trip from Long Island through the American West in Petito’s converted white 2012 Ford Transit van, as part of the “van life” social media movement.
On August 12, after more than a month of traveling together, Petito and Laundrie had an encounter with police in Moab following an alleged altercation. A 911 caller claimed he witnessed a domestic violence incident in which a “male had been observed to have assaulted the female” near the Moonflower Community Cooperative, ABC News 4 reported. The couple drove off, but police caught up with their van near the entrance to Arches National Park.
According to body camera footage, which was released on September 16, Petito was very emotional and crying as Laundrie appeared calm. “At this point, it sounds like she’s the primary aggressor,” an officer said in the video. Petito and Laundrie were questioned separately, and Petito told officers that they had been “fighting” and claimed she had “really bad OCD.” While cleaning, Petito said she apologized to Laundrie for “being so mean” and said she “really stressed” because she had “a lot of work” to do on her computer that morning.
“I’m trying to start a blog, so I’ve been building my website so I’ve just been really stressed and he doesn’t really believe that I can do any of it, so that’s kind of been like a, I don’t know, he’s like a downer,” Petito told an officer. “I don’t know, we’ve just been fighting all morning and he wouldn’t let me in the car before.”
Dugan shared her thoughts on Petito’s demeanor in the footage. “What I saw there is somebody struggling period. People get into that situation when they feel overwhelmed by life. And that can be from their interactions with another person or just their inability to handle their own day to day,” the award-winning author says. “It’s difficult when you don’t feel like you can plant your feet. And that, to me, sadly, is a woman who didn’t know how to plant her feet well to be able to make her own choices. I’m sure that the journey, the travel, I mean, many of us kind of gravitate to that kind of lifestyle. And obviously it was not turning out to be what she had expected.”
After getting Laundrie’s side, during which Laundrie was asked about visible “scratches” on his face, police later separated the two for the evening. No charges were pressed because the couple insisted to cops that they were in love. Responding officers determined that the incident was not domestic violence but an incident caused by a “mental health crisis.”
Petito was reported missing on September 11 and her body was found on September 19 near Spread Creek dispersed camping area in Wyoming, one of the last places she was known to have been seen alive. The location is just outside of Grand Teton National Park. The aspiring travel vlogger was confirmed dead on September 21. A warrant for Laundrie’s arrest was issued on September 23 in relation to his “activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito,” according to a press release tweeted by FBI Denver’s official Twitter account.
On October 12, her autopsy results confirmed her manner of death as homicide and her cause of death as manual strangulation/throttling.
Laundrie was reported missing on September 17 — two days after he was deemed a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance. His body was found at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Wednesday, October 20. He was confirmed dead on Thursday, October 21.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential support.
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