Bodycam Video Shows Tense Aftermath of Van-Life Couple’s Fight Before Her Disappearance

·6 min read
Moab City PD
Moab City PD

Utah police on Thursday released bodycam footage taken during the aftermath of a physical altercation between “van-lifer” Gabrielle Petito and her fiancé about two weeks before he inexplicably returned to Florida from a months-long road trip without her.

Brian Laundrie, 23, was named by authorities this week as a person of interest in Petito’s bizarre disappearance. The two embarked on a cross-country trek in early July, leaving from the North Port, Florida, home they shared with Laundrie’s parents and slowly making their way to several national parks out west. Petito’s mother said she last spoke to her daughter on Aug. 25, while Petito and Laundrie were visiting the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming after traveling through Utah.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to Florida—alone. Petito’s parents reported her missing 10 days later. Laundrie has so far refused to speak to investigators, and his lawyer says he plans to stay silent.

The newly-released bodycam video accompanies a partially redacted police report the police department in Moab City, Utah, released on Wednesday. The Daily Beast obtained a copy of the document, which reveals tensions between the couple had been festering from living together in a converted 2012 Ford Transit Connect van for months on end, despite the couple’s cheerful online postings.

“On 08/12/21, MCPD officers were dispatched to a report of a domestic problem that had taken place near the Moonflower Co-op,” the report states. “It appeared that a male and female had left the scene traveling north on Main in a white Ford Transit van with a black ladder on the rear after the male and female had engaged in some sort of altercation.”

Van-Life Couple Got Into Physical Fight Days Before 22-Year-Old Vanished, Police Docs Reveal

At first, cops mistakenly thought Laundrie had assaulted Petito. They then came to believe that Petito was aggressive first, although neither party was seriously injured. One witness told police that Laundrie had locked Gabby out of the van, and that she responded by striking him in the arm and trying to climb through the driver’s-side window. The dispute apparently began over a phone, according to the report.

In the bodycam video, which is more than an hour-and-a-quarter long, officers can be seen pulling over the pair’s van. Petito tells the officer that the two had been arguing over “personal issues,” and Laundrie apologizes as the cop asks him to turn off the ignition and hand over the keys.

“I have really bad OCD, and I was just cleaning and straightening up the van before and apologizing to him and saying, ‘I’m sorry that I’m so mean,’ because sometimes I have OCD and sometimes I just get really frustrated,” Petito tells one of the officers. “I guess my vibe is like, I’ve really been in a bad mood.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Brian Laundrie</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Moab City PD</div>

Brian Laundrie

Moab City PD

The cop asks Petito what she does for a living, and she says she is a nutritionist by training and most recently worked at an organic juice bar but that she quit to travel with Laundrie and is “trying to start a blog” and “building my website.” However, Petito said, gesturing to the van where Laundrie is sitting, “He doesn’t really believe I can do any of it.”

Laundrie, said Petito, “really stresses me out.”

The cop then puts Petito in the back of his car so he can speak privately with Laundrie, who has a few mild scratches on his face. Laundrie tells the officer that Petito “gets worked up sometimes,” and that when this happens, he tries to “distance myself from her.”

Neither Petito nor Laundrie wanted the other to be charged with a crime, explaining that they were in love and engaged to be married. According to the incident report, Petito was scared that Laundrie would leave her behind in Moab. The two both suffer from severe anxiety, they told police, who in the end determined that the incident was in fact more of a “mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault,” states the report.

In the bodycam video, the cop dealing with Petito can be seen telling her that he has “decided not to cite you for domestic violence battery.”

“It was only going to be a Class-B misdemeanor, however the domestic violence portion of it enhances it—makes life a major pain in the butt, especially, you’re 22, right?” he says.

“I am separating you tonight,” the officer tells Petito. “I want you guys both to be tonight, away from each other, relax, breathe… I understand that this can feel like it’s a nightmare, but you’re coming out as the golden flower on top of it all.”

Since Petito legally owns the van the two were using, the vehicle was released to her. Meanwhile, the officer tells Petito that he will get Laundrie “lined up with a hotel room.” Petito asks the cop to tell Laundrie that she loves him and not to forget his phone charger. Cops directed Petito to a facility where she could take a shower for “four or five bucks,” an officer tells Laundrie as he is driving him to a local motel to stay the night.

“I told her to go take a shower… cause she seems a lot like my wife,” the officer says. “And things that really work for my wife is when she gets stressed out, to take a long hot shower.”

The footage concludes with the officer checking Laundrie into a local motel and shaking his hand as he says goodbye.

Eerily, a couple living out of their van in Moab happened to go missing the next day. After telling friends about a “weirdo” who had set up camp right near them, Kylen Schulte and Crystal Beck disappeared on Aug. 13. Schulte worked at the Moonflower Co-op, where Gabby and Laundrie were seen fighting. The two were found dead a few days later. No arrests have been made in the case.

Laundrie has not been willing to sit down with investigators to tell them what he knows. In an appearance Thursday on Good Morning America, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said cops don’t plan on getting a search warrant for Laundrie’s parents’ home.

“We don't have a crime in this,” Garrison said. “We are investigating a missing person… Two people went on a trip and one person returned. And that person is not talking to us.”

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Laundrie’s lawyer, Steven Bertolino, said, “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. 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 made 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.”

Laundrie’s stonewalling has enraged Petito’s father, Joe, who moved to Florida over the summer so he could be closer to his daughter.

“Get out of the house, get into the FBI offices, and start answering some questions,” Petito told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “Do your job as a fiancé, as most would do.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here

Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!

Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.