3:21 PM PDT, September 21, 2021
The Utah park ranger who was there when Gabby Petito was pulled over on Aug. 12 privately told her to reconsider what she perceived to be a “toxic” relationship with Brian Laundrie, according to a published report.
Melissa Hull told Deseret News she spoke woman-to-woman with Petito in the backseat of a police cruiser during the traffic stop near Arches National Park. Police had responded to a 911 call from a witness who reported seeing the couple fighting outside a grocery store.
“I was…asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life,” Hull reportedly said.
But Petito told Hull she wanted to stay with Laundrie.
“She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him,” Hull told Deseret News.
Some are questioning the way police handled their response to the incident after audio of the 911 call was released.
In it, the witness at the grocery store tells the dispatcher he clearly saw Laundrie “slapping” Petito. Police on the scene seemed to perceive Petito as the aggressor due to scratch marks on Laundrie’s face, according to body camera footage.
No charges were filed, although police told the couple to spend the night apart to cool down.
“We thought we were making the right decision when we left them,” Hull said. “It’s hard not to second-guess myself and wish I said more, or wish I had found the right words to make her believe that she deserved more.”
Domestic violence expert Mindy Murphy spoke to Inside Edition about the traffic stop.
“She’s distraught, she’s anxious, she’s fearful. And he’s calm and collected, which is often what you see in a batterer — batterers using power and control, and the victim is left kind of scared, disheveled, uncertain,” Murphy said.
Remains believed to be that of the missing 22-year-old travel blogger were discovered in Wyoming on Sunday night. After an autopsy, the FBI confirmed Tuesday that the body found was Petito and that she died by homicide.
The Petito family said Tuesday they will be making a statement “when Gabby is home.”
Meanwhile, the search continues for Laundrie, a person of interest in the case, near his family home in Sarasota County, Florida.