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Witness Said Brian Laundrie Was Slapping Gabby Petito

And more on the disappearance of the 'van life' blogger
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2021 1:28 AM CDT
911 Caller Said Brian Laundrie Was Slapping Gabby Petito
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito are seen in a screenshot from police bodycam footage.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – The official line when police released bodycam footage of their encounter with Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie was that Petito admitted to hitting her fiance. The Moab Police Department did not classify the Aug. 12 incident as a domestic assault, and simply separated the couple for the night. But now the 911 call that sparked the traffic stop has been released, and it paints a different picture, People reports. "A gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller tells dispatchers, per KSL. "They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off." The dispatcher confirms with the caller that the man was slapping the woman. When police pulled over the couple, Petito did not accuse Laundrie of any violence, and a responding officer wrote in the report that it was more a "mental health crisis" than a domestic assault.

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Another officer did, however, write in the same report that "It wasn't clear, but I believe it was reported the male had been observed to have assaulted the female." An Arches National Park ranger tells the Deseret News that she was among those who responded to the incident, and that she warned Petito the relationship with Laundrie seemed "toxic." "I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life,” she says. "She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him." Thirteen days later Petito posted on Instagram and spoke to her family via phone for the last time; she was reported missing when Laundrie returned home to Florida with the van but not Petito. A body believed to be hers was found Sunday near Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, and Laundrie, a person of interest in the case, has been missing for a week. More of the latest headlines:

  • A forensic psychiatrist tells Fox News of the bodycam footage, "They were both minimizing their argument. I think that's clear." But Petito, he notes, seems not just stressed but "scared" in the video while Laundrie appears calm.
  • Multiple people have come forward documenting encounters with one or both halves of the couple during their "van life" travels, including a travel blogger who may have helped authorities locate the remains. Another fellow traveler, a graphic designer who lives out of her Airstream, now tells the San Francisco Chronicle about encountering Laundrie and the van near Grand Teton on Aug. 26, "acting weird" and apparently without Petito.
  • Another woman and her boyfriend say they picked up Laundrie, who was hitchhiking alone at Grand Teton Aug. 29, and that he told them his fiancee was back at the van working on their website.
  • The case has taken over TikTok, and BuzzFeed and Yahoo News look at the phenomenon, including pointing out that some people with potentially important information are taking it to social media first rather than police.
  • After searching Laundrie's parents' Florida home Monday, police also visited his sister's home, Fox News reports. Later, a Laundrie family attorney canceled a press conference that had been scheduled for Tuesday after speaking with the FBI.
  • Also Monday, another "odd" text supposedly from Petito made headlines. On Aug. 27, two days after Petito's family last spoke to her by phone, her mother got a text from Petito's phone reading, "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls." Stan refers to Petito's grandfather, and her mother says the message is strange because Petito never referred to him by his first name, Yahoo News reports. Three days later, Petito's mother received the last text she would ever get from Petito's phone, and she has previously said she doesn't think Petito sent it.
(Read more Gabby Petito stories.)

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