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Moab, UT

Police release body camera image of missing woman after apparent fight with boyfriend

ABC News
ABC News
 2021-09-16

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Police in Utah have released body camera images of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman who went missing during a cross-country road trip, and her boyfriend during an incident Aug. 12.

The photos show Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, talking to an officer after her 2012 Ford Transit had been pulled over by Moab police.

Another image shows Petito, who appears to be crying, sitting in the back of a police vehicle.

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AP - PHOTO: This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Gabby Petito talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021

On Aug. 12, police in Moab responded to an "incident" involving the couple, but "insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges," Moab Police Department Chief Bret Edge said in a statement Tuesday night.

Officers responded to a report of a domestic problem after a witness said the couple, involved in an altercation at the Arches National Park, drove off in a white van, according to a police report.

When officers located a van and pulled it over for a traffic stop, the couple admitted to arguing and that Petito had slapped Laundrie, according to the report. The couple also stated to police that Laundrie did not hit Petito.

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The Moab Police Department via AP - PHOTO: This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Gabrielle Petito talking to a police officer near the entrance to Arches National Park in Utah, Aug. 12, 2021.
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The Moab Police Department via AP - PHOTO: This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021

Petito told police she suffers from severe anxiety and other medical conditions, which were redacted from the police report, and that the couple's argument had been building for days. Police labeled the incident as a "mental/emotional break" rather than a domestic assault, according to the report.

Police also are "actively looking" into a connection between Petito's disappearance and a double homicide of two women that occurred in Grand County, Utah, on Aug. 13, the Grand County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday.

Investigators searching for Petito have expressed frustration that Petito's boyfriend has not shed any light on her possible whereabouts.

AP - PHOTO: This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Gabby Petito talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021

In June, Petito and Laundrie left on a trip from the Florida home they shared with Laundrie's parents in Petito's van, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison told reporters in a news conference Thursday afternoon. They intended to drive west, visiting state and national parks along the way, Garrison said.

"Two people went on a trip. One person returned," he said. "And that person that returned isn't providing us any information."

Petito's family said she maintained regular contact with them throughout the journey, and she and Laundrie documented their travels on Instagram and YouTube. Posts show them at the Mystic Hot Springs in Utah on July 26 and on a large rock structure at Arches National Park in Grand County, Utah, on Aug. 12, the same day police in Moab, Utah, responded to the incident involving an altercation between the couple.

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North Port Police Department via AP - PHOTO: This undated photo provided by the North Port, Fla., Police Department shows Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito.

Communication from Petito "abruptly stopped" toward the end of August, Garrison said, adding that investigators have not yet pieced together a complete timeline of Petito and Laundrie's travels.

MORE: Gabby Petito's boyfriend named person of interest after her disappearance during road trip

Petito was last seen leaving a hotel in Utah with Laundrie on Aug. 24. The next day, she spoke to her mother, Nichole Schmidt, informing her that their next stops would be Grand Teton and Yellowstone, Schmidt told ABC News earlier this week.

"She sounded good and excited to continue her trip and excited to start her YouTube channel," Schmidt said in tears. "She seemed OK."

Schmidt received two text messages from Petito's phone since Aug. 25, but there were no photos or details from the trip, so it is unclear whether Petito actually sent those texts, Schmidt said.

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SplashNews via Newscom - PHOTO: Brian Laundrie's home is shown in North Port, Fla., Sept. 15, 2021.

Laundrie returned to Florida with Petito's van on Sept. 1, police said. Petito's family reported her missing on Saturday after they hadn't heard from her in more than two weeks.

Laundrie, named a person of interest in the case on Wednesday, has not made himself available to speak with investigators, despite numerous pleas from the police department and Petito's parents, authorities said.

MORE: 22-year-old woman vanishes while documenting cross-country trip with boyfriend

The latest statement from the attorney representing the Laundrie family, Steven P. Bertolino, said he's advised Laundrie not to speak with authorities.

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Courtesy Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito - PHOTO: Gabby Petito is pictured in a photo posted to her Instagram account on Feb. 20, 2019.

"Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito's absence," the statement read. "In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this, and the warning that 'any statement will be used against you' is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito's disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter."

The statement continued: "I have been informed that the North Port, Florida, police have named Brian Laundrie as a 'person of interest' in this matter. This formality has not really changed the circumstances of Mr. Laundrie being the focus and attention of law enforcement and Mr. Laundrie will continue to remain silent on the advice of counsel."

While police are still treating Petito's disappearance as a missing persons case, Garrison acknowledged that investigators have grown weary of Laundrie's refusal to speak to them, even if he is "exercising his constitutional rights" to remain silent.

"We share that frustration with the world," Garrison added.

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North Port Police via Twitter - PHOTO: A van recovered from the home of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie is pictured in a photo released by the North Port Police in North Port, Fla., Sept. 15, 2021.

During the press conference, Petito's father, Joseph Petito, made an emotional plea to Laundrie, his family and the public to help find his daughter.

"I'm asking for help from everyone here," he said. "I'm asking for help from everyone at home. I'm asking for help from the parents of Brian.

"There is nothing else that matters to me now. This girl right here. This is what matters."

ABC News' Will Gretsky and Bonnie Mclean contributed to this report.

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