The nation has been gripped by the disappearance of Gabby Petito, who was reported missing earlier this month after her family lost contact with her during a cross-country trek with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.
Sadly, over the weekend, Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming and an autopsy concluded Tuesday that her cause of death was homicide.
Laundrie, who has not been charged with Petito’s death but has been named as a person-of-interest in the case, returned to the couple’s home in Florida without Gabby, raising suspicions that were heightened when he first refused to talk to law enforcement.
Since Petito’s disappearance began making headlines, law enforcement in Moab, Utah released bodycam footage of an encounter they had with the couple after receiving a 911 call for a domestic disturbance.
The caller reported a man slapping a girl before the pair drove off; Laundrie and Petito told officers that she had begun by hitting and scratching him and neither wished to press charges against the other.
Melissa Hulls, the visitor and resource protection supervisor for Arches National Park in the Moab area, responded to the call as well and talked to Petito for some time in which she advised the young woman that the relationship appeared “toxic” and urged her to “make a change” in her life.
“I can still hear her voice,” Hulls told Deseret News in an interview. “She wasn’t just a face on the milk carton, she was real to me.”
“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,” the ranger also said, admitting she’d probably been more candid than she should have been.
She says Petito, who was sitting in the back of a cruiser, was sobbing as they were talking, which the Moab police officers noted as well.
“She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida,” Hulls explained.
Ultimately, however, the pair told law enforcement they were “in love” and wanted to stay together, which they ultimately did although Petito stayed at a hotel that night as arranged by law enforcement while Laundrie took the van.
“This wasn’t a good day for anybody. We thought we were making the right decision when we left them,” Hulls says.
Laundrie, who was engaged to Petitio, subsequently disappeared himself last week after telling his family he was going to a nature reserve in Venice, Florida and has been the subject of exhaustive manhunts. Law enforcement raided his parents’ home, where he and Petito lived together, on Tuesday.
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