SAN DIEGO — Two weeks before Gabby Petito was last seen alive, police in Utah investigated her and fiancé Brian Laundrie to determine if there was domestic violence in their relationship. Brian had scratches and Gabby took the blame, but a San Diego family and marriage therapist said one moment in a relationship doesn't necessarily tell you what's really going on.
As of Monday, Laundrie had been missing for days since he returned home from a cross-country road trip without Petito. Authorities on Sunday confirmed a body found in the section of Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest matches the description of the 22-year-old missing woman.
The incident in Utah happened on Aug. 12. A concerned citizen saw Gabby and Brian fighting and called the police. When officers pulled the couple’s van over, they found Gabby in tears and noticed signs of violence on Brian.
“You want to tell me about those scratches on your face?” an officer says to Brian in an exchange captured on the officer’s body camera.
Brian responds, “She had a cellphone in her hand and I was pushing her away.”
The full body cam footage can be seen below:
Police determined that Gabby was the aggressor and considered citing her for domestic violence, but in the end, they got Brian a hotel room and told the couple to spend the night apart, without contacting each other so they could have some time to cool off.
“My impressions of Gabby and her behavior are very in-line with somebody in an unhealthy relationship,” said Allison Johnson.
Johnson is a Clinical Services Manager with the Center for Community Solutions which, among other things, provides emergency domestic violence shelters.
She said knowing what happened to Gabby makes this hindsight, but the anxiety she shows in the video is a troubling sign.
“Being a clinician that works with relationship violence, I see that fear of 'what's going to happen next? What's going to happen when this is over? How might I be punished for this?' I see a little bit of that," Johnson said.
Brian stayed calm with police and even made a few jokes. Johnson believes what he's trying to do there is get the police to go away as quickly as possible and not investigate their situation any further.
“There is some, that instinct for me doing the work I've done for so long, of how come he is portraying this really calm demeanor when clearly there's been altercations between the two of them. Clearly, they've been in distress," said Johnson.
She also took note of the interaction officers had with each other and appreciated their objectivity. On the video, you can hear one officer say to the other,
“Unfortunately for her, we cannot treat, just because he's bigger and stronger and even if he's not willing to press charges, we can't treat this differently than if it was a male on female violence"
“I am very impressed with the officers being able to remove gender bias from their conversation,” Johnson said. “You don't see that very often.”
If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence relationship, help is available. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or contact the Center for Community Solutions.
The 911 call reporting the incident in Utah can be heard below. The caller tells Grand County Sheriff's Office he witnessed the male slapping the female. He says the couple then "ran up and down the sidewalk" and "he proceeded to hit her."