Search is on for Florida woman missing from cross-country trip

Mysteries

This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. The couple was pulled over while they were having an emotional fight. Petito was reported missing by her family a month later and is now the subject of a nationwide search. (The Moab Police Department via AP)

MYSTERY WIRE — Police video shows a Florida woman who disappeared during a cross-country journey in a converted camper van had an emotional fight with her boyfriend in a Utah tourist town before she vanished.

The video released by the Moab Police Department shows that an officer pulled over the van on Aug. 12 after it was seen speeding and hit a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park.

Inside was Brian Laundrie and his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, who was reported missing by her family a month later and is now the subject of a nationwide search joined by the FBI.

Police in North Port, Florida, where the couple lived, say Laundrie is a “person of interest” in her case. He’s not been charged, but he’s also not cooperating.

North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison publicly vented his frustration over his lack of help on Wednesday, pleading for Laundrie’s lawyer to arrange a conversation.

“Two people left on a trip and one person returned!” the chief’s tweet said.

The body camera video shows Petito visibly upset when an officer approached them.

“We’ve just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues,” she tells him, adding that she suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects her behavior.

NORTH PORT, FL – SEPTEMBER 16: Joe Petito (L) pleas for help during a news conference to help finding his missing daughter Gabby Petito while City of North Port Chief of Police Todd Garrison stands with him at the podium on September 16, 2021 in North Port, Florida. Gabby Petito went missing while on a cross country trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie and has not been seen or heard from since late August. Police said no criminality is suspected at this time but her fiance, Brian Laundrie, has refused to speak with law enforcement. Laundrie has be identified as a person of interest but investigators are solely focused on finding Petito. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

“Yeah, I don’t know, it’s just some days, I have really bad OCD, and I was just cleaning and straightening up and I was apologizing to him saying that I’m so mean because sometimes I have OCD and get frustrated,” she said.

Laundrie says on the video the couple got into a minor scuffle that began when he climbed into the van with dirty feet, and said he didn’t want to pursue a domestic violence charge against Petito, who officers decided was the aggressor.

“I’m not going to pursue anything because she is my fiancée and I love her. It was just a squabble. Sorry it had to get so public,” Laundrie says.

This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. The couple was pulled over while they were having an emotional fight. Petito was reported missing by her family a month later and is now the subject of a nationwide search. (The Moab Police Department via AP)

Ultimately Moab police decided not file any charges and instead separated the couple for the night, with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the converted sleeper van.

“He’s going to a hotel. I’m giving you the keys to the van. I’m giving him a ride to the hotel. Everything will be okay,” the officer says.

Petito, 22, and the 23-year-old Laundrie started their drive across the U.S. in July from New York’s Long Island, where both grew up. They intended to reach Oregon by Halloween according to their social media accounts, but Petito vanished after her last known contact with family in late August from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, authorities said.

Laundrie drove the Ford Transit van back to Florida on Sept. 1 alone, police said. Petito’s family filed a missing persons report last Saturday with police in Suffolk County, New York.

Laundrie’s attorney, Steven Bertolino, said the Laundrie family is hoping for Petito’s safe return, but he’s asked them not to speak with investigators.

Garrison said at a news conference Thursday that the investigation remains a missing persons case, not a murder probe, and that no intensive searches have begun because it’s unclear exactly where authorities might look.

The missing woman’s father, Joe Petito, also appeared at the news conference to urge anyone with knowledge about his daughter to come forward.

Petito and Laundrie were childhood sweethearts on Long Island before moving from Blue Point, New York, in 2019 to live with his parents in North Port, about 34 miles (54 kilometers) south of Sarasota.

An eight-minute YouTube video titled “Van Life: Beginning our Van Life Journey” features happy and romantic scenes from the couple’s trip.

Petito is white, 5-foot-5 (1.6 meters) and about 110 pounds (50 kilograms), with blonde hair and blue eyes, police said. She has several tattoos including one on a forearm that reads, “let it be.”

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