By Leyla Santiago, Sara Weisfeldt, Rebekah Riess and Andy Rose, CNN
Updated: Fri, 01 Oct 2021 09:51:15 GMT
New details have emerged of a reported domestic dispute between Gabby Petito and her fiance while traveling through Utah in August, as shown on additional bodycam footage from a responding officer.
The footage, obtained by CNN, provides another glimpse into the troubles between Petito and fiancé Brian Laundrie during their cross-country road trip over the summer. A witness to the August 12 altercation described the pair before police arrived as "sort of squabbling over a phone" and striking each other "kind of like two kids fighting."
Authorities continue to investigate the death of Petito, whose remains were discovered in Wyoming in September. The search for Laundrie, who, according to his family, left their home more than two weeks ago and has not been seen since, remains a key focus for investigators as the timeline of events since his return to Florida from out West has become clearer.
Laundrie has not been explicitly connected to Petito's death. Still, a federal warrant for his arrest accuses him of illegally using another person's debit card and PIN number on August 30 and September 1.
The incident in Moab, Utah, came about two weeks before Petito last communicated with her family. Laundrie returned to his parents' home in Florida without her on September 1, and her family reported her missing 10 days later.
The police interaction began with a call from a witness who told dispatch he wanted to report a domestic dispute involving a couple who drove away in a white van, according to 911 audio provided by the Grand County Sheriff's Office.
"We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl," the caller said. "Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off."
Police located the van and pulled the couple over after the vehicle exceeded the speed limit, abruptly left its lane and struck a curb, according to a police report from Moab officer Eric Pratt. The officer walked up to the passenger side of the vehicle, where a crying Petito told him, "We've just been fighting this morning. Personal issues," according to the body camera footage.
Video shows more of the conversation between Petito and police
The newly obtained footage provides more details of the interactions between Moab police officers, Petito, and Laundrie after the stop.
The video from Pratt's body camera is more than 52 minutes long and includes Pratt telling Petito that two people claimed they saw Laundrie hit her. Petito responded that while Laundrie had hit her, she hit him first.
"You slapped him first? And just on his face?" Pratt can be heard asking Petito. "Well, he kept telling me to shut up," Petito responds.
"Did he hit you, though? I mean, it's OK if you're saying you hit him, and then I understand if he hit you, but we want to know the truth if he actually hit you, because you know...," Pratt says.
"I guess, I guess, yeah, but I hit him first," Petito responds. The officer then asks her where he hit her, encouraging her to be honest.
"Well, he like grabbed my face, like, I guess. ... He didn't like, hit me in the face. He didn't, like, punch me in the face or anything," Petito tells him.
"Did he slap your face or what?" Pratt asks.
"Well he, like, grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that's why it looks... definitely I was cut right here [points to cheek] because I can feel it. When I touch it, it burns," Petito says.
At one point, Petito asks the responding officers not to separate her from Laundrie, saying "like we're a team, please. It's going to give me so much anxiety. Can we just have, like, a driving ticket?"
"The very best thing I can do is call my supervisor and see if I'm missing something here," the officer tells her.
Petito, sobbing, offers to pay any ticket instead of involving charges. Pratt tells her to try to calm down, offering to call his supervisor to "see if the supervisor can tell me something I'm missing to make this not happen."
Laundrie had minor visible scratches on his face and right arm, but "had no fear for his safety" and "did not exhibit any indicators that he may be a victim of 'battered boyfriend syndrome,'" the Moab police report said. "He was assessed to be at low risk of danger or harm as a result of his proximity to his fiance."
The video also provides additional audio of a witness account of the dispute, provided over a cell phone to police. "What I noticed was, it seemed like they were sort of squabbling over a phone. I want to say that he was trying to grab her phone, and I'm not sure exactly why," the witness tells the officer.
"And then it seems like he had sort of walked to one side of the van and sort of wasn't letting her in, and then the male was stepping into the driver's seat and she was trying to get into the van, and he said something about, 'Why are you being so mean?' something like that. I remember she sort of hit him a few times. And it wasn't, like, slugs in the face, but just kind of like two kids fighting," the witness says.
No charges were filed, and at officers' suggestion, the couple separated for the night, with Laundrie staying at a hotel and Petito taking the van.
The city of Moab said in a statement last week that it has launched an investigation into the interaction between the couple and police.
"We understand that individuals can view the same situation in very different ways, and we recognize how the death of Ms. Petito more than two weeks later in Wyoming might lead to speculation, in hindsight, about actions taken during the incident in Moab. The purpose of the City's formal investigation is to gather the underlying facts and evidence necessary to make a thorough, informed evaluation of such actions," according to the city.
"At this time, the City of Moab is unaware of any breach of Police Department policy during this incident. However, the City will conduct a formal investigation and, based on the results, will take any next steps that may be appropriate."
Camping reservation changed before Laundrie returned home, records show
As more is learned about the couple's interactions in August, other information has been gathered regarding Laundrie's family in September.
Prior to his disappearance -- before Petito was reported as missing -- Laundrie went camping with his family at a campground dozens of miles from their home, officials said.
Newly-obtained documents by CNN from Pinellas County show that Brian Laundrie's mother had made a camping reservation at Fort De Soto Park for the first weekend of September, only to change it to a later date and add another person.
The original dates reserved at the park were for September 1-3, for two people, according to the documents. That reservation was made on August 24, but then canceled on August 31. The documents do not say why the camping reservation beginning September 1 was canceled.
The records from Pinellas County show that a new reservation was made by Roberta Laundrie on September 3, two days after her son returned home. This reservation was set to begin on September 6 for three people at Fort De Soto Park, which is located about 75 miles away from the family's home.
Steven Bertolino, attorney for Laundrie's family, confirmed to CNN that the family went camping at that time, adding that the family left the park together.
Asked about the Laundries changing their reservation date at the campground, Bertolino said he did not "have details on Desoto Park reservations other than the family did not go on [September] 1-3 but went on 6-7 instead."
In addition, on September 4, Laundrie purchased a cell phone at an AT&T store in North Port, Bertolino told CNN. The attorney said the phone was not a "burner phone" and that it required the opening of an account, adding Laundrie left that phone at home "the day he went for a hike in the preserve on September 14, 2021 and the FBI now has that phone." It is unclear what happened to Laundrie's previous phone.
On September 14, three days after Petito's family reported her missing, Laundrie's parents said they last saw him leaving their home with a backpack and that he said he was going to a nearby nature reserve, according to police.
The parents told police this on September 17, three days after he allegedly left, police said.
Petito's remains are found two days later in Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest. A coroner later made an initial ruling that her death was a homicide.