UPDATE: It’s being reported that Laundrie returned home with the van a full 10 days before Ms. Petito was reported missing.
A story we are following closely is that of a young woman, Gabby Petito, who was on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé but is now missing.
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie set off in early July, traveling from Florida to New York, then to Utah and beyond, clocking 2,328 miles, which they excitedly documented on social media. Now their customized camper has been recovered, sans Gabby, and Brian has returned home and is remaining silent about the whereabouts or condition of his future wife, refusing to talk to police or Gabby’s desperately worried family.
Gabby last spoke to her mother, Nicole Schmidt. on August 25th from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
“I don’t know if she left Grand Teton or not,” Ms. Schmidt said. “I did receive a text from her on the 27th and the 30th, but I don’t know if it was technically her or not, because it was just a text. I didn’t verbally speak to her.”
Gabby had posted pictures of the couple’s journey on Instagram:
She was also chronicling video clips of the trip and had posted a video called VAN LIFE on her YouTube channel “Nomadic Statik.” This video is eerie to watch in light of her disappearance.
Because Ms. Petito’s last Instagram post was not geotagged, it’s not clear where or even if she was last active.
In what could be a crucial clue as to what precipitated the couple’s split–and where Gabby is–the Moab, Utah Police Chief Bret Edge has confirmed that his department’s officers responded to an “incident involving Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito” on Aug. 12.
Just today, police released a heartbreaking bodycam video from the encounter, which shows an emotional Petito speaking to officers about her “anxiety and stress” after their van pulled off the road near Arches National Park. Evidently, the two were in an argument that became physical. Laundrie can be seen with scratches on his face and arm, which he reportedly incurred from Petito after he grabbed her face and pushed her out of the van. He then tried to lock her out and drive away but she was able to get inside.
Police say despite the conflict, the couple said afterward that they were in love and declined to press charges.
“After evaluating the totality of the circumstances, I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis,” the police report said.
After the incident, police say they got Laundrie a hotel room so that he and Petito could have a night apart to cool off. During this time, Petito kept the van. She wasn’t reported missing until Sept. 11, though apparently, Laundrie returned to the couple’s home in North Port, Florida with the van ten days earlier.
The North Port Police Department in Florida released a statement on Facebook, saying there is “no definitive information that a crime took place here in North Port … [but] the circumstances are odd.” Police investigators in Florida, including the FBI, are gathering evidence. Brian Laundrie has been named a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation.
Petito’s family has also released a statement, which asserts that “the one person that can help find Gabby refuses to help.” They also “beg the Laundrie family to not ‘remain in the background’ but to help find who Brian referred to as the love of his life. How does Brian stay in the background when he is the one person that knows where Gabby is located?”
“Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her,” the Petito family said. “Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers.”
Petito is described as an artist, a lover of beauty, and someone who loved to make people smile.
Let’s hope she returns home safe.