Moab police have released body cam footage recorded during an August 12 incident between Gabby Petito — the 22-year-old New York woman who later went missing during a cross-country road trip — and her fiancée Brian Laundrie.
It’s understood that Petito and 23-year-old Laundrie, self-described “van lifers,” were traveling to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks in Wyoming in August. Their trip began in New York in July, according to ABC News. Petito’s mother reportedly last heard from her on August 25, but Laundrie returned home to North Port, Florida alone with the white Ford Transit registered to Petito on September 1. Ten days later, Petito’s family reported her missing.
Laundrie hasn’t yet cooperated with investigators. On Wednesday he was named by police as a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance.
The body cam footage, which lasts for an hour and 17 minutes, begins with an officer following the van, noting erratic driving and speeding. The couple are pulled over, with Laundrie behind the wheel and Petito in the passenger seat, visibly distraught with tears in her eyes.
The police ask the two to step out of the vehicle, and both provide statements; Petito admits to slapping Laundrie during an argument. An officer explains to Laundrie that, per the state’s domestic violence law, the couple must be separated; however, if Petito has nowhere else to go, she’ll have to be put in jail as the “primary aggressor” in the incident.
Laundrie repeatedly states that he doesn’t want to press charges or see Petito go to jail, and the officers appear to have a difficult time deciding how to proceed. They ultimately choose not to cite Petito for domestic violence, describing it in the report instead as a “mental/emotional break.” However, the police do attempt to separate the two for the night. Petito is given the keys to the van, and Laundrie is taken to a hotel. They’re instructed to stay away from each other in the meantime and not contact each other.
Prior to the police stop, officers had been alerted to seek out a white van after a witness at the Arches National Park reported a dispute between the couple. From the New York Times:
On Aug. 12, the police in Moab, Utah, responded to a report of a “domestic problem” after Mr. Laundrie had “some sort of argument” with Ms. Petito and told her to take a walk and calm down, according to a police report. She didn’t want to be separated from him and began slapping him, and he “grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van,” the report states.
He then tried to lock her out of the van, but she managed to get in the driver’s side door and climb over him before the van took off. Mr. Laundrie and Ms. Petito both told the police that they were in love and engaged to be married and “desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime.”
Petito was last seen checking out of a Salt Lake City hotel on August 24. Her mother received two text messages since August 25, though they lacked information on Petito’s whereabouts, so at the moment it’s not certain who sent them. North Port police have seized the van but not yet released findings from searching it.
Investigators from multiple states and the FBI, including North Port Police Public Information Officer Josh Taylor, have urged Laundrie to share whatever he knows. Per ABC:
“We’re hopeful to talk to him. He needs to talk to us,” Taylor said. “We need to know exactly where he was, where she was, their last locations. And the fact that he was back here for 10 days, you know the family reported her missing 10 days later ...”
Laundrie’s lawyer, Steven Bertolino, stated that he’s advised his client’s continued silence for legal reasons, according to the Times:
“The warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance,” Mr. Bertolino said. He described the designation of “person of interest” as a “formality” that would not change his advice to Mr. Laundrie to remain silent.
In an earlier statement, Mr. Bertolino said that Mr. Laundrie’s family hopes “the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family.”