The Gabby Petito bodycam video is haunting. We are in the position of the Utah police officer on August 12, 2021, as he approaches the vehicle Gabby and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, have been driving across the country. The white Ford Transit that they converted for the “van life” was going 45 mph in a 15 mph zone, and then hit the curb.
The officer approaches. Gabby is crying. Distraught. Apologizing. She says they were fighting this morning. That she suffers from OCD and gets crazy. The officer asks her to step out of the van. She is shaking. He gently asks what is going on, and then asks her to sit in the back seat of the police vehicle. He reassures Gabby that she is not in trouble.
More cops show up.
The first officer goes back to talk to Laundrie. He asks Laundrie to get out of the van. Laundrie seems to be hyperventilating, but he’s doing his best to smooth things over. He says his girlfriend was upset, and he just wanted them to take a walk in opposite directions so they can cool down. The officer asks about scratches on Laundrie’s face. He admits Gabby did it, but really, it’s no big deal.
The officers recognize that they have a domestic abuse situation on their hands, but it appears that Gabby is the aggressor. They have to follow the law, which means separating the couple and issuing a No Contact order. But Gabby and Laundrie are from Florida. They’re living together in a van. They don’t know anybody in Utah and don’t seem to have any money. How are they going to separate them?
Laundrie establishes rapport with the cops. He doesn’t want to press charges. Nobody wants to press charges. But it’s the law.
Finally, the cops work with a local domestic violence agency to find Laundrie a motel room for the night. After the officer drops him off, Laundrie shakes the cop’s hand and thanks him for his assistance.
Gabby and Laundrie get back on the road. On August 25, 2021, she posts her last picture on Instagram.
On September 1, Brian Laundrie arrived at his home in North Port, Florida. Gabby was not with him.
On September 11, Gabby Petito’s mother reported her missing.
On September 19, Gabby’s remains were found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Brian Laundrie is a “person of interest.” He disappeared and is now the subject of a manhunt.
People who knew the couple since they started dating in high school have been speaking to the media.
According to People Magazine, Gabby’s best friend, Rose Davis, says Laundrie had a jealousy problem and the relationship was toxic. In her opinion, Laundrie is a sociopath.
One of the officers who responded to the incident, National Park Service Ranger Melissa Hulls, warned Gabby that her relationship was toxic. Hulls implored Gabby to make a change in her life. Now she wishes she could have found the right words to make a difference.
Hindsight is 20/20. From our perspective as observers after the fact, we see that Brian Laundrie was controlling. We see that Gabby Petito was trauma bonded. But while she was in the relationship, Gabby couldn’t see it.
If anything good comes from this tragedy, I hope it’s a better understanding of what domestic abuse can look like. I hope with all the media coverage of this story, other young women — and men — who may be at risk see the Gabby Petito bodycam video and recognize their own situation.
And knowing what happened to Gabby, I hope they make the decision to leave — and live.