Woman and fiancé had dispute weeks before her disappearance

·3 min read

Police in Utah responded to an altercation between Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito and her fiancé just weeks before she was reported missing, according to a police report released Wednesday. Petito, 22, was on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.

On August 12, officers with the Moab City Police Department responded to the scene near Arches National Park. A responding officer wrote that Petito, Laundrie and a witness all gave similar stories — Petito began slapping Laundrie after an unspecified argument and Laundrie then "grabbed her face and pushed her back."

The officer wrote the couple said they loved each other and did not want to press charges. There were no significant injuries and the couple agreed that the incident was more of a mental "break" instead of a domestic assault. A second officer decided to separate the couple for the night, taking Laundrie to a hotel, while Petito left in her van.

Laundrie, 23, told police the couple had been traveling on the road for four to five months, which created an "emotional strain" and led to increasing arguments. The officer said Petito was in a "confused and emotional" state throughout her interview with officers. The department released video of the officers responding to the scene on Thursday. 

An attorney for Petito's family sent CBS News the following statement regarding the Utah incident: "Gabby's family was instructed by law enforcement to not discuss the details of Gabby and Brian's relationship." Laundrie's family has not yet responded.

Earlier Wednesday, police in North Port, Florida, identified Laundrie as a person of interest in the disappearance and said he has not "made himself available to be interviewed by investigators," nor has he provided details that could be helpful to their search.

Petito is last believed to have been in Grand Teton, Wyoming, after visiting Utah. Police said the couple traveled in her white 2012 Ford Transit van, which Laundrie drove back home without her on September 1 — 10 days before Petito was reported missing.

Her mother, Nicole Schmidt, said she last video chatted with Petito on August 23 or 24. She received a final text from her daughter's phone on August 30 but has said she was uncertain if the message was actually from her daughter.

"As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby's family is going through. We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks," Chief Todd Garrison of North Port said in a statement Wednesday.

"The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance."

Late Tuesday, Laundrie's family issued a statement, calling Petito's disappearance an "extremely difficult time" for both families. "On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family," the statement said. "On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment."

Petito's family issued a response Tuesday: "Brian is refusing to tell Gabby's family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida. These are critical questions that require immediate answers."

The North Port Police Department is leading the investigation, and the FBI is assisting the search. The bureau started a tip line and said it received hundreds of tips that are being vetted.

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