(Trends Wide) — Over the summer, Gabby Petito set out to travel with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, across the country in his white Ford van, planning to tour national parks across the western United States.
Over the past year, the young woman regularly posted photos with Laundrie on her Instagram account, and shared last May that she couldn’t wait to start “traveling the world” with him; Several weeks later, in July 2020, he announced that he had proposed to her.
“I said yes!” Petito wrote in an Instagram caption. “Every day is a dream of you.”
The young woman documented her trip this summer on social media, posting photos of herself smiling at Monument Rocks in Kansas; posing in the Great Dunes of Colorado; and enjoying the views of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
But when the camera was turned off, the reality was different. The trip seemed to be straining the relationship and passersby saw them arguing, at one point with such intensity that at least one person called the authorities to report it.
Petito called his mother regularly, and those conversations seemed to reveal that there was “increasing tension” in Petito’s relationship, according to a police affidavit for a search warrant for an external hard drive found in the couple’s van. .
In late August, Petito’s calls to his mother stopped. Periodicals on social media stopped. And on September 11, her family reported her missing.
“When he was away, he would disconnect from the grid, making his life as a van, exploring these different areas,” said Jim Schmidt, Petito’s stepfather, when she was missing. “It was not unusual for him to be absent for a few days, but he would always go back to some place where he could have a Wi-Fi connection, upload to his Instagram, make phone calls, FaceTime to go home.”
The FBI announced on September 19 that authorities had found human remains “matching” Petito’s description. The remains were later confirmed to be Petito’s. The FBI said that the initial determination of Petito’s manner of death is homicide.
They are looking for Laundrie, who returned to the couple’s Florida home on September 1 without Petito and disappeared two weeks later.
The new details that are appearing little by little help to draw an image of what the days before Petito’s death could be like.
Police detained Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
On August 12, almost three weeks before Laundrie arrived back in Florida at the home he shared with Petito and his parents, someone passed a couple in a white van with Florida license plates and called 911 to report that he had seen that “the man was slapping the girl.”
“So we stopped,” the caller said, according to a 911 audio recording from that day that was provided by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. “They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, got in the vehicle and they drove off.”
A Moab, Utah, police officer who saw the van later wrote in a police report that he observed Petito sitting in the passenger seat and “crying uncontrollably.”
In Moab Police Department body camera footage obtained by Trends Wide, an officer is heard asking the young woman, who was visibly shaken, to get out of the van and sit inside her vehicle in hopes of helping her out. calm down. Petito said the two had been fighting that morning and going through “some personal problems.”
“I have obsessive-compulsive disorder and sometimes I get very frustrated,” Petito said, adding later, “Before (Laundrie) wouldn’t let me get in the car.”
When the agent asked why, the young woman replied: “He told me that I had to calm down, but I am perfectly calm.”
“At no point in my investigation did Gabrielle stop crying, gasping or composing a sentence without wiping her tears, wiping her nose, or rubbing her knees with her hands,” Agent Daniel Scott Robbins wrote in the report.
Robbins wrote that he did not believe the “situation rose to the level of a domestic assault, but to a mental health crisis.” He suggested that the two separate for the night, to which Petito and Laundrie agreed.
“I was able to contact Safe Haven and get Brian a hotel room for the night,” Robbins wrote. “I instructed both Brian and Gabrielle to take advantage of this time apart to relax their emotions … I also asked them to avoid contact with each other until the next morning if possible.”
Petito kept the van while Robbins drove Laundrie to the hotel, the agent wrote, adding that they both carried their cell phones in case of emergency.
A witness at the scene wrote in an affidavit that the two were “talking aggressively to each other and something seemed out of place.”
Chris, the witness – whose last name was written in the document provided to Trends Wide by the Moab police – said that it appeared that the two were arguing over the control of Petito’s phone, and said that he saw the young woman at one point ” hitting (Laundrie) on the arm and / or face and trying to get into the van. “
“Why do you have to be so mean?” Chris wrote that he heard Petito say to Laundrie, though Chris added that he couldn’t be sure if the comment was meant to be taken seriously.
A National Park Service ranger who also took the call spent about an hour and a half with Petito and warned him that his relationship with Laundrie seemed “toxic,” Ranger Melissa Hulls told the Utah Deseret News. .
“I was begging her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically telling her that this was an opportunity to find another way, to make a change in her life,” Hulls told the Deseret News.
A post on Petito’s Instagram account on the same day was tagged in Arches National Park, near Moab. A caption in that post says the couple had spent time taking photos and “drawing and enjoying nature” near the arches.
Petito communicated by FaceTime with his mother
Petito called and texted his mother regularly throughout the trip, according to the search warrant that describes an apparent growing tension between Petito and Laundrie.
On Aug. 24, Petito FaceTimeed his mother and told her he was leaving Utah and heading for the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming, according to Petito family attorney Richard Stafford.
A day later, the mother and daughter texted each other again, during which her family believed Petito was in the Tetons, Stafford previously said.
“Riot” inside a restaurant
On August 27, five days before Laundrie arrived in Florida, a Louisiana couple on vacation in Jackson, Wyoming, said they saw Petito and Laundrie involved in a “ruckus” as they left The Merry Piglets Tex restaurant. Mex.
Nina Angelo, who was at the restaurant with her boyfriend, said Petito was crying and Laundrie was visibly upset, going in and out of the restaurant several times and showing his anger towards the staff around the waitress stand.
A restaurant manager told Trends Wide she had seen “an incident” at the restaurant on Aug. 27, but declined to give her name or describe what happened and said the restaurant had no surveillance video of the incident.
That same day, Petito’s mother received what she described as a “strange text” from her daughter, according to the search warrant, and was concerned that something was wrong.
“Can you help Stan? I keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” the message read, according to the search warrant. Stan was a reference to Petito’s grandfather, whom his mother said Petito never referred to in that way, according to the search warrant.
Also on August 27, GoPro video of a pair of vloggers captured Petito’s van at the scattered Spread Creek camping area, where Petito’s body was later found, between 6 and 6:30 p.m. local time. .
The vloggers, Kyle and Jenn Bethune, said that when they saw the Florida license plate on the van they thought of stopping to say hello, as they were also from Florida, but Jenn Bethune commented that no one appeared to be near the vehicle.
“We thought maybe they were hiking or just relaxing inside,” Kyle Bethune added. “There (was) no door open.”
The FBI has asked for information from anyone who was in the camping area between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30, who may have had contact with the couple or seen the vehicle.
According to the timeline Stafford previously provided, Petito’s last text message arrived on August 30, but her family doubted that she was the one who wrote the message.
“There is no service in Yosemite,” that message read, according to Stafford.
Place where Petito was found
On September 19, authorities announced the discovery of remains in the scattered camping area of Spread Creek in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. A coroner later confirmed that it was Petito.
The restaurant where, according to authorities, Petito was last seen is about 25 miles from Spread Creek.
A federal arrest warrant issued last week against Laundrie for the use of unauthorized access devices “in the District of Wyoming and elsewhere” alleges that sometime between August 30 and September 1, Laundrie is a suspect. to use a debit card and a PIN number for accounts that did not belong to him to make charges of more than US $ 1,000.
An attorney for Laundrie’s family said Thursday that the order is related “to activities that occurred after Gabby Petito’s death and are not related to her death.”
“The FBI is focused on locating Brian and when that happens the details of the charges contemplated in the indictment will be addressed in the appropriate forum,” said attorney Steve Bertolino.
Trends Wide’s Andy Rose, Rebekah Riess, Randi Kaye, Kari Pricher and Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.