Moab police release details on incident between missing 22-year-old & boyfriend

Sep 15, 2021, 3:07 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 1:48 pm

MOAB, Utah — Officials with the Moab City Police Department have released a report that details an incident they responded to between missing 22-year-old Gabrielle Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.

Police previously confirmed they responded to the Aug. 12 incident before Petito was reported missing this week.

Chief Bret Edge with the Moab City Police Department said the incident was reported by a third party and officers found “insufficient evidence” to make criminal charges.

According to the report that was released Wednesday, officers responded to calls about a domestic problem that had taken place near the Moonflower Co-op at 39 East 100 N. in Moab around 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 12.

A man named Christopher placed the 911 call after seeing the couple fight over something on a phone.

Police said Petito and Laundrie got into some kind of argument and Laundrie tried to “create distance” and he told Petito “to go take a walk to calm down.”

Witnesses told a responding officer that Petito said she didn’t want to be separated from Laundrie and she began slapping him and climbed “through the window as if (Laundrie) had locked her out and she was trying to find a way in.”

According to the report, Laundrie grabbed Petito’s face “and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van,” but she was able to force her way into the van before it took off.

Witnesses described the van, which matched the description of the van Petito and Laundrie were driving on their cross-country trip.

Another officer located the van near the turnoff from U.S. Highway 128 to Arches National Park and initiated a traffic stop after he said he observed the van going 45 mph in a 15 mph zone.

He said the van crossed the double yellow diving line, merged into the right lane and abruptly swerved into the curb on the right-hand side.

According to the report, Petito was “crying uncontrollably,” and the officer asked her to step out of the van and talk with him.

Police said Petito said she “was struggling with her mental health” due to her preexisting conditions, which were redacted from the report, and the arguments the couple had been having, and that all led to the initial domestic incident.

She also told the officer the van swerved when she hit Laundrie in the arm to get his attention, but she did not intend to hurt him.

The officer said Petito could not “stop crying, breathing heavily, or compose a sentence without needing to wipe away tears, wipe her nose, or rub her knees with her hands.”

The officer said he then spoke with Laundrie, who said both he and Petito suffer from serious anxiety and don’t take medication for it, and issues had been building for days.

The report said the couple had been together on the road for four or five months at this point, and Laundrie said he tried to calm them both down when he tried to drive away during the initial argument.

Laundrie claimed Petito went into a manic state and thought he was going to leave her in Moab without a ride when she went to slap him.

“As (Petito) started to swing, (Laundrie) pushed her away to avoid the slap,” police said. Officers said Laundrie had some visible, minor scratches on his face.

During the investigation, both Petito and Laundrie told officers they were “in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime.”

Officers said there were no significant injuries and Laundrie and Petito “both agreed that (Petito) suffers from serious anxiety, etc.”

One officer reported the incident would be more accurately described as a “mental/emotional health ‘break’ than domestic assault.”

According to the report, police obtained lodging for Laundrie and Petito remained in possession of the van. The couple originally insisted on remaining together, but the report said one officer required the break “in lieu of making a case against (Petito) for domestic assault.”

One officer told the couple to “take advantage of this time apart to relax their emotions and regain control of their anxiety.”

He also asked them to avoid contacting each other until the following morning, but both had their own cell phone in case of an emergency.

On her Instagram account, which was briefly deactivated by the company Wednesday morning, Petito posted pictures of the couple inside Arches on Aug. 12. She posted again on Aug. 19 a photo that shows Laundrie in the van and a picture of the van from above with the captioned:

“Almost immediately after telling @bizarre_design_ how happy it made me to see that people were truly respectful of the park, I watched some guy leave his processed pre-packed plastic conglomerate of lunch garbage on the picnic table.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Gabby (@gabspetito)

Petito’s father confirmed she stayed in a hotel near the Salt Lake City airport on Aug. 20–21. He ordered the couple Uber Eats on Aug. 21.

Chief Edge was not available for interviews with the media on Wednesday, but officials said the department has body camera video that will be released this week.

KSL TV’s records request for the 911 dispatch call was denied by Grand County Sheriff’s Office. The reasoning listed was for potential interference in the federal investigation of Petito’s disappearance.

Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case but hasn’t been arrested or charged with any crime.

KSL TV also requested information from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office on the recent murders of two women in Moab around the time the couple was there. KSL TV hasn’t heard back yet.

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Moab police release details on incident between missing 22-year-old & boyfriend