911 Call Reveals Boyfriend Was Seen 'Slapping' Petito Two Weeks Before Her Disappearance - Report
A body matching the description of the 22-year-old woman was discovered on Sunday in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, while Laundrie's present whereabouts still remain unclear.
An unknown 911 caller who reported a "domestic dispute" between Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito in downtown Moab, Utah, on August 12 was heard telling a dispatcher that "the gentleman was slapping the girl" and pushing her, Fox News reported, citing a recording of the emergency call it obtained on Monday.
In the audio, a male voice can be heard telling the dispatcher that while he was riding by, he spotted a "domestic dispute" incident on the street near a white van with Florida license plates.
The dispatcher asked to clarify was the man "slapping her?" to which the witness replied, "Yes, and then we stopped."
"They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off," the caller added.
The audio of the purported 911 call appeared to contradict a previous police report, which stated that although "it was reported the male had been observed to have assaulted the female," it turned out that "no one reported that the male struck the female."
In the police report, an officer who responded to the incident near Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab reportedly wrote that the van's male driver "had some sort of argument with the female, Gabbie," citing interactions he had with Petito, Laundrie, and the witness.
"The male tried to create distance by telling Gabbie to go take a walk to calm down, she didn’t want to be separated from the male, and began slapping him," the report said, as per Fox News. "He grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van, he tried to lock her out and succeeded except for his driver’s door, she opened that and forced her way over him and into the vehicle before it drove off."
Petito was observed "crying uncontrollably" in the passenger seat when police approached the van, according to the officer, as seen on the bodycam video released last week.
In general, one of the responding officers described the incident between Petito and her 23-year-old fiance as a "mental/emotional health ‘break’." Both Petito and Laundrie refused to press any charges, explaining to the officers that they were in love and were going to get married.
Last week, the mother of the missing woman told Fox News
that she considered that particular incident "irrelevant" to the case, explaining that the conflict was most likely caused by the tiredness of both from the trip and the constant being with each other.
Bodycam Footage Provides More to the Story, Forensic Psychiatrist Suggests
"We really don't know how extensive the fight was," a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and staff member of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Ziv Ezra Cohen is quoted in another Fox News report
as saying. "… What we know is that when they were pulled over by the police, she was very upset, and they were both minimizing their argument. I think that's clear. She appears to try to blame it on her OCD, and he talks about his muddy shoes. She also says she's under a lot of stress."
Petito indeed appears distressed and regretful in the bodycam film, while Laundrie appears calm after what they describe as a hectic morning. In the video, Laundrie claims that Petito caused the scratches on his cheek. During their interrogation, police separated the two.
According to the psychiatrist, "such an imbalance of the emotional state" between the lovers "does raise a red flag" since the young woman "doesn't just look like someone who's having a panic attack or who's anxious."
"She looks scared," Cohen added. "She looks very overwhelmed. … She was emoting so much that it was very clear that there had been an incident and there had been a problem of some kind that she was struggling with."
Cohen also emphasized that although Petito claimed OCD was the reason for the fight, the disorder is not "a risk factor for violence."
"People with OCD are not violent. [...] It could cause an argument. If she does have OCD … he might get upset with her, or she might get upset with him, but people with OCD are not violent," the specialist explained.
The psychiatrist also speculated that the pair was inebriated in some way, given that the young people were in such settings in which they might "tend to use substances that can make them have an altered mental state."
"They can feel overwhelmed. They can have a bad trip. And it could lead them to act irrationally. It could also lead them to get into an altercation," he said.
On Sunday, investigators found a body
at a campsite in the Teton-Bridger National Forest in Moose, Wyoming, where Petito's van was discovered in late August by tourists. The woman was last seen alive there on August 25. Five days later, her mother received a single text message saying there was no service in Yosemite, which prompted relatives to believe Gabby Petito was not the person who wrote the message.
Meanwhile, on September 1, Laundrie drove back to North Port, Florida, where they were reportedly living with his parents, and the van was found by authorities at his family's home on September 11, the day Gabby was reported missing.
He was labeled
a person of interest in the investigation by the North Port Police Department last week, and he has stated through his lawyer that he will not be cooperating with the police.
As of Monday, Laundrie's parents say they last saw him on September 14 and had been in contact with him through their attorney. The police are still searching for the man.
Cohen speculated that the family is in denial regarding the matter concerning their son and the possibility that he committed a crime.
"I think that parental instincts tend to be very strong. There's also a parental tendency to not see the worst in one's own children, and so when you find those two tendencies, there's a tendency to deny that one's child could have been involved in such a crime and to protect them at all costs," the psychiatrist suggested.
On Monday, FBI agents went to Laundrie's parents' house and took them away for the time being. The agents executed
a search warrant and did not immediately
provide any details on the findings.