New dispatch audio may have revealed that Brian Laundrie hit Gabby Petito weeks before she disappeared near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The recording is from Utah police and provides new information regarding the now-infamous police stop captured on bodycam video.
After bodycam footage showed a distraught Petito speaking with Moab police, many people following the case started to believe the relationship had become abusive. Despite opinions, it was never proven that Laundrie physically abused Petito. However, there are now multiple accounts of repeated fights between the boyfriend and girlfriend.
“RP (reporting party) states seeing a male hit a female, domestic,” a dispatcher said on the day of the incident in mid-August. The audio was reportedly obtained by Fox 13 Utah. “He got into a white Ford Transit van, has a black ladder on the back, Florida plate.”
Though it has been known for a long time that police stopped Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito because of a domestic dispute report, it was never revealed what exactly was reported. It was only claimed that police questioned the couple after it was said they had a domestic dispute at the Moonflower Community Cooperative. Officers pulled the couple over outside of Arches National Park on Aug. 12.
According to the dispatcher, a 911 caller explained that they saw Brian Laundrie slapping a woman outside the co-op. The new information has incited an investigation into the Moab Police Department since, under Utah law, officers must make an arrest or issue a citation when they have “probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed.”
“I think they will find that they sort of manipulated the situation to not take someone into custody,” former U.S. attorney Brett Tolman explained to reporters. “I think the fact that they had another eyewitness that is not involved in it, and is objective, and said ‘he hit her’ … you’re going to have a majority of officers take him into custody.”
Tolman explained that the officers who stopped the couple in Utah will likely face disciplinary action. But despite a report that Brian Laundrie had been seen hitting Petito, another witness, known only as “Christopher,” told police that he never saw Laundrie hit inghis girlfriend.
“The witness says, ‘I never saw him hit her. I saw him shove her, but I couldn’t tell if it was an aggression against her or her defense against her as far as her being the aggressor,’” an officer detailed in the bodycam footage. “So at this point, unless the guy’s screaming that he’s going to jail and did something to this girl, it sounds like she is the primary aggressor.”
At one point during the recording, police considered arresting Gabby Petito, because she had admitted to scratching Laundrie who had a mark across his face. Officers decided not to press the issue and instead forced them to separate for the night. However, the couple reunited at some point and continued on their road trip.
“I think the hardest part about the whole thing is, even if they had arrested the wrong one, there’s a good chance she might be alive,” Tolman said. “And, you know, there’s a reason why domestic violence laws have changed and why there’s a no tolerance reaction to them.”
It was reported that two weeks after the Moab incident, witnesses claimed the couple was involved in another incident in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They claimed Laundrie entered the Merry Piglets restaurant to argue with the hostess and other staff members. Gabby Petito, who was said to be distraught during the event, frantically apologized for her boyfriend’s actions. Some believe that it was the last time she was seen in public before she died.
As of Monday morning, Brian Laundrie is still missing. The search for the missing boyfriend has returned fruitless, despite a week of officers scouring the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve, where it is believed Laundrie fled. And while authorities continue to search the swampland, the FBI had taken charge, asking for items that could have Laundrie’s DNA.
“The FBI requested some personal items belonging to Brian Laundrie to assist them with DNA matching and Brian’s parents provided the FBI with what they could,” Steven Bertolino said over the weekend. While the FBI takes charge, the search of Carlton Reserve is starting to slow down.
Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the North Port Police Department, said that “I don’t think you’re going to see those large-scale types of efforts this week. The FBI is now leading the search. I’m told it will be scaled back and targeted based on intelligence. Hopefully, water will lower in areas hard to currently access.”
Brian Laundrie was indicted on federal fraud charges last week. An investigation revealed that he used Gabby Petito’s debit card in Wyoming after she disappeared. A nationwide manhunt continues into its second week.