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Missing woman, boyfriend had physical altercation days before she vanished, police say

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 3:16 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2021 at 9:59 AM EDT
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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WWSB) - Police in Utah say North Port resident Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, had a physical altercation several days before the 22-year-old woman was reported missing.

A news conference is scheduled for noon Thursday where North Port Police and the FBI are expected to release new information.

Petito, a 22-year-old Long Island, New York native, disappeared last month, after being last seen in Wyoming. The couple had been documenting their trip with frequent posts on social media when the posts abruptly stopped Aug. 20.

Police were called to the Moonflower Co-op in Moab on Aug. 12 after a witness said he saw Petito strike Laundrie during an argument.

According to an incident report from the Moab City Police Department, a witness told officers the couple was arguing when Petito began slapping Laundrie. Laundrie appeared to try to lock her out of their Ford Transit camper but she managed to get inside. They drove off before police arrived.

Police searching the area spotted the van speeding and driving erratically. A traffic stop was made; when officers approached, Petito was crying uncontrollably, the report noted.

Officers said both Petito and Laundrie said she suffers from serious anxiety; that months living together in a small van created an emotional strain between them.

Laundrie told police Petito had gone into a “manic state” and thought he was going to leave her in Utah without a ride. Officers also noticed several small scratches on Laundrie’s face and arm.

Officers determined that the situation did not rise to the level of domestic assault but suggested they separate for the night. Officers contacted a local family crisis center which arranged a hotel for Laundrie. Police took him to the hotel; Petito stayed with the van, the report said. Both said they were in love and expressed a desire to stay together, officers noted.

Petito was last believed to have been in Grand Teton National Park. Her family says she stopped communicating with them in late August. They filed a missing person report with police in Suffolk County, New York.

Laundrie returned to North Port, without Petito, on Sept. 1, North Port Police said. He has since refused to cooperate with investigators.

The FBI has set up a national hotline to receive tips. 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324). That is now the our primary tip line. So far, North Port police say, investigators have received hundreds of tips which are being vetted through multiple agencies.

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